Tuesday, July 20, 2021

‘Porch light’ posts

All of us find ways to make it through our days, encountering and, hopefully, conquering challenges. When people share their strategies for meeting life’s challenges, they may call them “lifehacks”, even though they’re usually just quick shortcuts or helpful hints. Sometimes, though, they can be somewhat more hidden, as well as simpler. That doesn’t make it any less effective, though. My aunt taught me that.

My aunt—my father’s sister-in-law—moved into a retirement home after her husband (my father’s brother) died. She had her own physical challenges, and wanted to not worry about her health and safety, which I think is a reasonable thing for any older person.

She told me that one of the things the residents were required to do was to turn on the light outside their unit (house) at night, then turn it off in the morning, then repeating it in a cycle. That way, staff could tell there might be a problem: If the light wasn’t on at night, or wasn’t switched off in the morning, they knew to check to make sure resident was okay. I thought that was a clever way for staff to keep an eye on the welfare of residents without watching too closely or intruding too much into their privacy.

I forgot about that years ago, certainly by the time she died, but some months back I suddenly remembered it. It was all because of Facebook.

I’ve written several times that after Nigel died, I had fears that I might die, too. That fear subsided over time, but there was one thing that my mind stubbornly refused to let go of: What if I did die? I live alone with the dogs, and if I died it could take days—even a week or more—for anyone to realise something was wrong, or to find me.

I joked to a family member, in the crass, take-no-prisoners macabre way I often do, that if I did die, the dogs would’ve begun eating me before anyone found me. Just because I was joking, though, doesn’t mean there wasn’t truth in it.

However, sometime before that, another family member commented that they always knew I was alright because they’d see I posted stuff on Facebook. That, too, was said in a jocular way, but it, too, carried an element of truth: If I was posting stuff on Facebook, I must be doing okay (as in, “not dead yet”).

And then it hit me: Posting stuff on Facebook was the equivalent of my aunt’s porch light.

When I post stuff on Facebook, friends and family alike know that I’m still alive and kicking without having to ring/text/message me to find that out (nor do I have to ring/text/message them, for that matter). This suits all of us, to be honest, because we’re all busy in our own ways, and also because even though we love each other, we don’t want to live in each others’ pockets.

Since that realisation hit me, I’ve made a point of posting something to Facebook at least once a day. Sometimes I just share a Facebook Memory, other times I might share a sort of slice of life post, usually about something that’s not important (nor even necessarily very interesting…), like maybe a meal I cooked, or a photo of one for the dogs doing something cute. An example of such a post is the one I posted to Facebook one Monday a couple weeks ago, and then adapted for a blog post, “A good, cold, subdued day”, the following day.

What all of this means in practice is that I’m actually sending a “secret” message to friends and family when I post to Facebook, whether they know it or not: I’m metaphorically turning the porch light on and off. For them, just like the staff at my aunt’s retirement village, as long as I do “porch light posts” on Facebook, no one has to wonder if I’m okay (it’s not as straightforward with blog posts, because I can put them in a queue to publish without doing anything else; such posts won't be automatically shared to the AmeriNZ Facebook Page, though).

Much of what I’ve needed to do since Nigel died has revolved around me feeling secure being alone: No one is here to see that something’s wrong and to do something about it. Neither porch light posts nor any of the other measures I’ve taken make up even slightly for not having Nigel here, but they do help me feel a little better. Maybe the porch light posts help others worry a bit less, too.

I have no idea whether the insecure feeling I have, as if the earth itself has no form or mass, will ever go away, but at least I’m finding ways to cope with it. Porch light posts may seem like a small, even silly, solution, but I think that anything I can do to feel a bit more secure makes it more likely that I can continue to move forward.

Hopefully I’ll eventually find whatever my new life is to become, and if I do, even small measures like porch light posts will have helped me get there. They’re certainly a simple solution, and were probably a bit hidden (until I mentioned them), but they’re also effective. My aunt taught me that.

The photo above is my actual outside light—my own "porch light".


Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, hell, now I gotta start posting to Facebook. I suppose my wife would notice if I were dead. Maybe even my daughter...

Arthur Schenck said...

I take nothing for granted…