not back

February 28th, 2017

I did something a few weeks ago that I hadn’t done in awhile. I took a post from this blog and put it on Facebook. I deactivated my Facebook account on November 24 as soon as a woman I don’t know got fed up with me and wrote, “Why don’t you delete this account?” So I did. Sometimes a remark can strike out of nowhere like a clap of thunder, and you know it’s time to get out of the storm.

The new post that went up, in my typical roundabout way, seemed to be about my ancestors but was really about immigration. I put it on Facebook so that people would see it, because not many people come to my blog any other way. Nowadays a lot of people never see anything that’s not on Facebook. That’s OK, as far as it goes, but it’s also not OK. Specifically, I wanted people to see themselves in the story, to see the larger, human need to belong that makes people leave everything behind and travel a vast and terrifying distance. These days, Facebook seems to fulfill that feeling of belonging without having to do anything at all. There are nearly 2 billion active users of Facebook, nearly a quarter of the world’s population and close to half of all Americans. Nearly 70 percent of all the time spent on Facebook is via a mobile device. I’m gonna guess that’s because the mobile device is simply never out of reach and Facebook is the only “place” there is to go on it.

Pretty soon folks began to say things on Facebook like “You’re back!” and “I’ve missed you so much.” Those messages are really nice and a lot nicer than some of the other things people put on Facebook but still they seem mistaken to me. I’m not back from anywhere because I didn’t go anywhere because there really is no place that is Facebook, other than the screen of your mobile device, and the fact that people see it as a place where real live people do real live things is what scared me off of it in the first place. We have to do a better job of seeing reality than that. We have to do a better job of living in the real world and taking responsibility for it.

Just to reiterate, the place where real, live stuff is happening is not on Facebook.

I guess it’s hard to imagine that there is a way other than Facebook to reach a person with a public website and an email and a street address and a mailbox and a telephone. I started to notice this a few years back when publishers began sending me messages through Facebook and I would think to myself, “You’re a publisher for heaven’s sake,” but people always explained it by saying “I didn’t know the best way to reach you.”

We used to know the best way to reach people. I don’t know when it got to be so confusing. When I was in sixth grade I was assigned to do a report on New York State and so I looked up the address and wrote to the information people in New York State and they sent me a big envelope full of everything anyone could ever want to know about New York State and I did a fine report and put it in a blue report cover decorated with photos I’d cut out from the brochures they had sent. Obviously, in 50 years I’ve never forgotten how easy that was. How straightforward and yet, miraculous. The whole world used to be like that, and maybe when you come right back to it, it still is.

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Photo by Kevin Klima Photo on Etsy



  1. This is almost spooky, but in a good way!
    I just now finished writing you an actual letter.
    I will mail it tomorrow. 🙂
    Love you.

    Comment by Marcea — February 28, 2017 @ 8:15 am

  2. I think we’ve gotten very lazy since Facebook became THE way to communicate. It’s so much easier to respond to a post or a comment than it is to respond to an email and log on to a website. Or at least it seems that way… I know I’ve fallen into that trap. And yet the types of comments on any given Facebook post so often reflect anger or perceived insult, rather than being a thoughtful response to what was written. I was happy to see your recent Facebook posts, but I respect and understand your reasons for dropping that medium. It has gotten far more toxic over the years I’ve been using it. I do read your emails, although I don’t send a response. (This being the obvious exception!). However you choose to reach out, your words are appreciated, Maezen. Namaste…

    Comment by Sharle kinnear — February 28, 2017 @ 8:24 am

  3. Dear Maezen,
    Just felt the need to say and send “I love you,” and how deeply I appreciate the words you write, what you evoke, how tenderly you remind me what and where is real.

    We have never met in person – only from the written pages of your books, a magazine interview that prompted me to buy Hand Wash Cold, and now your blog. And while I imagine sitting with you someday, I realize I do, whenever I read your words. And that is real.

    Thank you, with metta – Katharine

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — February 28, 2017 @ 8:27 am

  4. Thank you. I know why we don’t know the “best” way any more. There are too many choices. Which can be good, but mostly not. I too am over FB, except like you, that is where the most people link to my blog posts. Why don’t they just follow it? It feels like lack of commitment. As does spending hours trolling FB because it takes too long to write a letter.

    I am reading “Hand Wash Cold,” and don’t know how I missed it before. Maybe it wasn’t on FB. 🙂

    And may I say, the third sentence of your post is nuts. I love you and every word you write, which I know about because I FOLLOW YOU! To the moon and back.


    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — February 28, 2017 @ 8:51 am

  5. Karen you are so right on as to it use to easy to communicate with people. I called my niece on her cell phone and left a message. It was not something I was expecting a response back but I kind of thought she would call back since we don’t communicate all that much. Six weeks later she emailed me and apologized for not responding sooner as she rarely checks her cellphone voicemail. We have too many devices. It is difficult to know what the best way to reach someone. Perhaps go through a list of age, relationship and try to figure it out from there. Or maybe not. Thanks for all your very relevant posts.

    Comment by Lee — February 28, 2017 @ 1:04 pm

  6. I live to focus on “multiplicity”. We used to have A phone, AN address and no email. Now, we have multiple phone numbers, multiple email addresses and multiple other things. I don’t know what is the best way to contact you and you might not realize which is “best” (most often checked for incoming) either.

    Comment by Bill — February 28, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

  7. I found you because of actual letter writing! A friend I met over 50 years ago, and had not heard from in awhile, wrote me letter this past year. I wrote her back, we connected and decided we would start writing to one another, using paper, pen, envelope and a stamp! What a novel and charming idea! It has given to me bright, delightful moments whenever this clever person communicates and the amazing words that you share! Thank you!

    Comment by Carolee — February 28, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

  8. i am grateful for your sanity and your long memory. i, too, remember doing school papers that way, and writing to people (by hand!) to request information, and getting wonderful things back in the mail. may it be so.

    deep bow.

    Comment by Maria Duerr — March 1, 2017 @ 7:35 am

  9. It’s interesting to consider the internet and Facebook to be non places. There are addresses, mail, places to leave items, packets, and other indications of physical “reality.” Perhaps it seems even more of a physical reality for those of us who came of age in a time where the internet existed and was becoming widely available? It’s almost difficult for me to picture the internet as ephemeral, the cloud seems more real than many concepts from my childhood (heaven, the North Pole populated by elves, etc.) I’m going to have to ponder the non-reality/physicality of the internet this week… there is no spoon.

    Comment by Amanda — March 1, 2017 @ 7:36 am

  10. No concept is real, Amanda. But what’s real is not a concept.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 1, 2017 @ 7:49 am

  11. p.s. ha, that’s funny! looks like my ‘real’ name got plugged in… Maria, instead of Maia. I need to change that legally this year : )

    Comment by Maia Duerr — March 1, 2017 @ 7:36 am

  12. My blog automatically posts to Facebook, so I’m “on Facebook” even when I’m not “on Facebook.” But yes, one of the (unfortunate) changes that has happened since I started blogging eons ago is the scattering of comments. Some people comment on-blog and others on Facebook or Twitter, so commenters don’t necessarily “see” everyone else who is commenting.

    Similar to you with your New York report, when I was a kid, I got a bunch of Arabian horse swag (including a gorgeous poster) simply because I wrote a fan letter to an Arabian horse club. You never know what goodness a simple letter can glean.

    (I’m here through Facebook, and I’m typing on my phone.)

    Comment by Lorianne — March 1, 2017 @ 7:59 am

  13. After the inauguration I found a political action group on Facebook, and it currently exists (as an organization of people) only on FB. Before sesshin, it subsumed me. Special groups for topics, planning in-person meetings, locating physical meeting spaces, organizing marches, discussion of whether to become a non-profit organization. We do meet in person, but 90% of the involvement is FB. I felt a belonging, and the energy of a shared purpose motivated me. It felt like doing something constructive. After sesshin I was so far behind in communication that I un-enrolled in most of it. When I attempt to check in my eyes glaze. I want less involvement with FB, not more.

    Comment by Kathryn — March 1, 2017 @ 12:03 pm

  14. Dearest Maezen,
    This is so apropos! I just said to my husband over lunch (yes, we still eat together, seated at a table, enjoying meals made from scratch!, “How is it that people are so easily led to believe that Facebook is an actual ‘place’?” Can’t wait to see you in person this July in Ohio!

    Comment by Melissa — March 1, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

  15. I am absolutely 100% with you. Thank you for seeing the truth and being our straight arrow. I love you.

    Comment by Kirsten — March 1, 2017 @ 3:42 pm

  16. I’m just a few years shy of 50, didn’t have a computer until my early 30s (and then only for grad school), have never had a Facebook account and yet I struggle to remember how we went about organizing prior to e-mail and the internet–whether large scale marches or community meetings. How did we get information out? Build lists? Telephone trees! Postcards! Broadsides! Go back to the suffrage movement and they did it without telephones or so much as a mimeograph machine. It was all about connecting. Human connection.

    Comment by Laura — March 1, 2017 @ 6:08 pm

  17. There is nothing in this world so wonderful as a letter. I have written hundreds in the last ten years. Fewer and fewer people are really committed to this beautiful exchange and it’s just the tiniest bit heartbreaking. It feels so personal, like such a loving act. Grateful to have been steered in your direction. Like others, I find Facebook tedious at times, but I am so in love with the notion of connecting with people that I will take IT over nothing.

    Personally, I love everything about letters. The paper, the pens and don’t even get me started on stamps … ? Letters contain a piece of me that can’t be shared in any other way and I give them the time and care they deserve. Thank you for your blog and your letters ♡

    Comment by Bonnie Nygren — March 1, 2017 @ 7:40 pm

  18. I had mixed feelings about seeing your return to Facebook. I absolutely understood why you wanted to share that particular blog post there, and I’m glad it was able to be read by more people than would have otherwise seen it. I am happy to read your writing wherever you choose to share it. But, I really prefer connecting with you, and reading your words, here in this space. (Here I feel like I’m sitting with you.) And I have to make a point to come here and find your wisdom instead of having it just pop up like magic in my newsfeed. I’ve signed up for the emails, but I love the ritual and purpose of checking in here every few days to see if there’s something new.

    Will you continue posting on Facebook? I’m trying to find a way to break my own FB habit. (But it’s not easy since my businesses are all online.) Whatever you decide, I’ll keep coming here to your blog. And I will continue to be thankful for any writing you want to share.

    Comment by Shawne — March 2, 2017 @ 6:16 pm

  19. I really appreciate your sentiments, Shawne. I won’t share everything on FB because some of what I write upsets folks and there is no point in that. But I have several retreats coming up and FB remains the best way to get that information in front of people. Although they may not realize it, I am always taking a hammer to the screen. But I will be mindful to share only what is useful and keep the dialogue out of it.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — March 2, 2017 @ 6:34 pm

  20. Just………thank you…..

    Comment by Penny — March 2, 2017 @ 7:43 pm

  21. I’ve never liked facebook – it just seems to be a great big, meme site.

    Comment by Linda — March 3, 2017 @ 9:40 am

  22. I love reading your blog and have read all of your books. I come back here every few days to see if there is anything new. Your words give me a sense of peace that is very welcome. Keep writing about everything that moves you to do so.

    Comment by Allison — March 7, 2017 @ 11:59 am

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