People threaten to leave Facebook and after last years security breach, many have. And people use Facebook for different things, politics, food and dog pics, memes jokes, etc. Writer Kevin Sessums curated his page to include all those things, plus insightful posts that were followed by thousands, including myself.
Yesterday, Kevin announced (after hints the previous day) that he was leaving Facebook for good ,with this final post. It’s not out of anger or to be dramatic, but to survive in a new way.
“I’m not even sure exactly why. I only know when I “hear the voice,” as I call it, I listen to it. And I knew in my bones – and in my soul, in my body – that I had to depart Facebook as part of the solution of saving my life on so many levels…”
I just got tired of having social media acreage eaten up by rabbit holes and toxic arguments and attacks. I got tired of creating opportunities for those rabbit holes. I was sort of put off by participating in a construct that depends on “blocking” people so often. It’s just not a way I want to live my life right now.
It’s long, but the whole thing is worth a read. So is his online subscription magazine, sessumsMagazine.com.
THE APPALLING GRACE OF SAN FRANCISCO AND FACEBOOK: A FINAL POST
“I had not really processed my five years in San Francisco until my return visit there this past week. All the walking I did was spent meditating on my time there, as well as my life this last year and a half since I moved back east to Hudson, New York. When I was in London in March all the walking there was spent in a state of hope and engagement and contentment and, yes, happiness. But those walks in San Francisco consisted of a different kind of contemplation.
When I moved to San Francisco almost 7 years ago, it was after a year of recovery and sobriety when my life had to be rebuilt further from that initial year of rebuilding. So I moved to San Francisco in an attempt to continue to rebuild it. Moving to San Francisco was a hopeful action. It was a gift. It was an attempt at discovering grace.
I created a magazine FourTwoNine as its founding Editor in Chief with a small young staff on whom I depended and felt too l as if I were their mentor. It was a heady time – but also a gentle and busy and lovely one until it was not so heady and gentle and lovely and I realized what the reality of the place was. I wasn’t in recovery not to live an honorable life and if I stayed in that situation it would be to be complicit in things with which I did not want to be complicit. I left without another job lined up but trusted that somehow things would work out.
They did for a time. I got a job I loved at the Curran Theatre as Editor at Large and did onstage interviews that I booked and created the printed programs for its first season and helped to launch its website.
But then a month or two shy of five years sober, I took my will back, as we say in recovery, and I used for a couple of days. It was not pretty. But it is now a part of my recovery story – and my San Francisco one. Because of my body being no longer accustomed to what I did to it in that abusive moment, I almost died in San Francisco. I won’t go into the details, but I ended up in the hospital after having shown up earlier in the week in a compromised state at work for a couple of hours. My kidneys had failed. Uremia had set in. My body was shutting down and my brain was following it into a kind of darkened stupor. I now know what it feels like to be cognizant of not being cognizant as one is dying in real time. I was put into the hospital. And I was fired from the Curran by email that first night in my hospital bed in which I shit myself and had to lay there humbled and humiliated as a deeply kind nurse’s aid cleaned me and softly comforted me as I cried and cried in that darkened room. Black Widow starring Ginger Rogers and Van Heflin and Gene Tierney and George Raft flickered on the television hanging from the wall, the murmurings of 1950s movie stars laced with the comforting whispers of the Hispanic nurse’s aid. I will never forget that night – my physical pain, my utter fear and shame, the tubes and the catheter attached to me, the smell of my shit on my sheets, my sobs, the gentle whispers of that gentle nurse, and Ginger Rogers’ miscast role in it all. After four days, I was discharged from the hospital, but I needed that catheter and urine bag for six more weeks. After they were removed, I had an operation on my prostate. I write all that – I am not even going into even more details, and there were many – to point out that two years ago around this time was a very trying time. In fact, a crucible. And yet once again, I survived and somehow found a way forward.
And moving forward, I decided to launch sessumsMagazine.com – although the initial name was different, the change having to occur because of a business arrangement with a presumed friend not working out. I will leave it at that. I will only say that the launch was complicated and, in its way, heartbreaking because it was accompanied by the needed ending of that friendship. But launch it – and relaunch it – I did.
All that was happening while I had decided that I had to take another forward-motion action and move out of San Francisco for financial reasons. I just could not afford it any longer. I sold lots of my best art I had collected when I was able to collect art to enable myself to make the move and live this last year. I miss that art so much because many of the pieces served as talismans for other points in my life. If you live with art long enough, it begins to see you instead of your seeing it. I feel less seen without it around, less understood somehow. And yet I had been feeling less seen in other ways before I sold it all, so maybe that was as it should have been. It manifested the disappearance I was feeling in plain sight.
All of that is finally only background though. The two overarching narratives of my time in San Francisco were my dog Archie’s death in my arms in my apartment there atop Telegraph Hill and my meeting my friend Gerry, the woman whom I visited every morning for the last two years of my time there. If you have followed my postings here on Facebook, you know how those narratives affected me in profound ways. I thought of Archie so much during my trip to San Francisco last week and how he saved my life and, after it was saved, seemed to realize he could move on himself to wherever it was he moved on. I pray each morning that Archie exists in bliss and friskiness and health. I told him when he lay dying in my arms and I was making an amends to him for all that I had put him through when I was in the depths of my addiction and he was trying to herd me to my sober self that I would continue to try and be a better person each day in his memory. I have failed often but, when I fail, it is Archie I realize I am disappointing in my failure. Archie suffered so in the end. He was so sick. His dying in my arms in that apartment was the most intimate moment of my life. That was his gift in many ways to this solitary man: intimacy. He herded me toward that, too.
I visited Gerry a lot on this recent trip to San Francisco. Seeing her was the reason I went out there. Those two narratives – Archie’s and Gerry’s – began to conflate a bit in my mind while there because Gerry is less well than she was during my last two years with her. It’s hard to describe the bond I feel with this 84-year-old doyenne of Telegraph Hill. The, yes, intimacy of it all. It might have to do with having been raised by a grandmother and the affinity I feel for older ladies or it might have to do with having lost my mother when I was eight years old as the reason my grandmother raised me and the need for a maternal presence in my life, even if it were from a woman who had never had a child herself. In her own mysterious, magnificent, full-of-moxie fashion, Gerry raised me the last couple of years in the ways I still needed to be raised. I hope too that she found what she needed from me in our deep friendship that transcended friendship and found a realm of existence for the singular love we feel for each other. I found another sort of intimacy with Gerry.
When you spend each morning washing someone’s feet and legs and massaging them before helping her put on her needed compression stockings – Gerry has acute lymphedema as a side effect of her myriad cancers that riddle her body, the real riddle how she continues to live on long after her phalanx of doctors expected her to live – you have an instant intimacy that then deepens as you spend each day visiting and talking about so much of your lives. Gerry and I know each other, I think, in emotional ways that no one else knows either of us. So it was so deeply emotional on this trip to Sand Francisco to realize I might never see her again. It was hard. But I kept focusing on the blessing of her being in my life. Sometimes I think I moved to San Francisco not to start a magazine or work at the Curran or even almost to die, but for Archie himself to die in that beautiful garden apartment atop Telegraph Hill and for me to meet Gerry down that hill and help her live as she helped me to do the same.
I write of all of that because it was all that was not only on my mind, but had sort of settled into my body during this recent trip as I relived my five years in San Francisco during that week I was out there. I was steeped in it all one morning on Fillmore as I ate my oatmeal at Starbucks and thought to check my bank account and realized I had miscalculated the amount of money I had and barely have enough to make it through this next month, that a solution once again has to be found for my financial straits, once again survival mode had to kick in although I sort have lived in such a continual mode for the last couple of years. A panic attack set in and I never have them. I was that crazy person that rainy day wandering around Hayes Valley hidden under an umbrella crying and crying and crying. I felt completely defeated even though I have worked so hard this last year on my magazine and written two book proposals and applied for many, many jobs to no avail. I thought: I’ve lost, I give up, in this moment I stop fighting to survive in the present construct of my life. I was exhausted. I needed to approach life in a new yet-to-be-understood way. But first I had to wipe the slate clean of the constructs that weren’t working anymore.
One of those constructs is Facebook. In that moment, I decided that to move forward with my life and find a new way to survive that I had to end my presence on this social media platform. I’m not even sure exactly why. I only know when I “hear the voice,” as I call it, I listen to it. And I knew in my bones – and in my soul, in my body – that I had to depart Facebook as part of the solution of saving my life on so many levels. It was a first big decision to make. I debated it a bit and argued back and forth with myself. Was removing myself just a social media way of “pulling a geographic,” as we say in the lingo of recovery. I decided it wasn’t . It was instead doing the next right thing and taking the next right action.
I will always be grateful for this community we made here together. When I first started posting, it was about having a platform to write and having an audience and holding forth on politics and culture etc. My concept was that this page could be a meta-memoir, one written in real time. I think we succeeded in that. Thank you for being there and making me feel less alone in my personal struggles and the political struggle in which I will still be involved, just in different ways. But regarding the politics of it all, I just got tired of having social media acreage eaten up by rabbit holes and toxic arguments and attacks. I got tired of creating opportunities for those rabbit holes. I was sort of put off by participating in a construct that depends on “blocking” people so often. It’s just not a way I want to live my life right now.
I am not deleting my account because there is too much backlog of writing on it that I might want to dig around in and access for different reasons. I just won’t be posting. I have learned not to declare anything is forever. I might be back at some point. But, at this juncture, I don’t see it happening. God knows though I am often wrong. So who knows. I just don’t see it, however, from my perspective in this moment.
I am keeping up my sessumsMagazine.com page here on Facebook and on Instagram at sessumsMagazine in order to continue with that endeavor with even more concentration and focus, but I am also stopping my posting on Instagram on my personal page. Regarding sessumsMagazine.com, I might use it as a forum moving forward to have a daily aggregate of news stories and political thought. If you want to read my thoughts there, please subscribe and comment in that forum. I’m still thinking all that through.
Yesterday I was interviewing director Pam McKinnon for the next iteration of sessumsMagazine.com. Her production of Bruce Norris’s play Downstage at The National, which I saw during my recent sojourn in my now beloved London, was the highlight of my theatergoing there. It reminded me why I go to the theatre. McKinnon and her extraordinary cast found a kind of appalling grace in this play about a halfway house for sex offenders. I sat in my seat at the end of it with tears streaming down my face and whispering aloud as a kind of benediction,
“Shit …shiiiiiiiittt .. shiiiiiiiittt …”
I told Pam that yesterday. She is a tall, self-possessed, handsome woman. But I saw something flutter within her, soften her, and settle into her mind and body there before me.
“Was that at a preview?”
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘I heard you. I heard the reverence in your whispering that. The next day when I met with the cast, I told them about hearing someone whispering ‘shit’ with such reverence and how moving it was to hear the response for the play and for their work. That was you?’
And then something fluttered within me; it settled. I felt heard. I teared up there on the sofa with Pam in that rehearsal studio on 45th Street whereshe is busy building her next production. I am tearing up know typing these next words: thank you to all of you for hearing me and making me feel heard for these years I’ve been on here. But it is time to be heard in new ways.
There has been a kind of appalling grace I have found on this platform.
‘Shit …’ I write as a reverent benediction. ‘… shiiiiiiittt … shiiiiiiittt … shshshshshshsh ….’” –Kevin Sessums, 5/10/19–
There was actually one last entry after that. It read simply,