Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sadness, Silence & C.K.

Weird that I'm finally digging into Susan Cain's book Quiet the same week Louis CK goes viral talking about how so many of us can't be alone and quiet. The thing I love most about him is how he takes a profound point and wraps it in funny.

The riff is more then just social commentary it is also a big red flag pointing us to a huge issue that affects everything from our health- both mental and physical- to the breakdown of our families. Rushing around, constant stimulation, screens vs faces is the new smoking. Distracted living and not being able to be quiet and process our lives is not only bad for us but is horrendous for our kids. I remember when I was growing up playing too much Pong was considered bad now look how kids need hyper color, motion, noise coming at them all the time. Seriously, when was the last time you actually saw a teen or even a 30 year old having a real undistracted conversation; no, everyone is looking down at or into a screen, even when they are sitting next to someone they love.

Quiet talks a lot about relentless outside stimulus being too much for most introverts but I think all of us are overstimulated and are numb to the effects it is having. And if we're not getting quiet we're definitely not letting ourselves feel what our minds and bodies are processing either. People would be surprised how quiet my life is most of the time. I am very outgoing and extroverted in social settings because I enjoy the interaction but most of my days are quiet. I love silence and never have a radio or tv on when I'm reading, writing, or working on a project. Actually too much motion, noise, or stimulus gives me a headache and makes me a bit nauseous.

What about you? When was the last time you thought about how your environment and habits are affecting you?

Engagement in life now vs even 20 years ago is remarkably different and I don't think for the better. We busy and distract ourselves to the point of numbing our minds and bodies to everyday thinking and feeling. Sadness is not a bad thing if we can sit with it, process, and then utilize what our feelings enlighten us to. But if we are constantly distracting ourselves how will we ever get to feel and be in touch with ourselves and our joy let alone really be there for and with others?

I don't want to move to Walden Pond or poo-poo technology and all that it brings into our lives but I think we need to text less, call more or even better yet see each other in person with no phones in sight. Turn down the noise and tune into our emotions and build some quiet time into our days. Everyone will have a different ratio of silence that works for them but I think we could all benefit from taking the prescription from a comedian and get more silence, sadness and Springsteen into our lives*.

Side notes: Met Susan Cain at an event I attended last January at 37singals (which is a beautiful space btw). She is lovely- if you ever get a chance to hear her speak you should go. 

*My favorite sad Springsteen songs: Streets of PhiladelphiaInto The Fire

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cutting The Cord(less)

When I worked for Sony years ago and wanted to buy my parents a cordless phone for Christmas they rebuffed the offer: why would we need a cordless phone when it just takes a few seconds to walk to the one in the kitchen? I remember trying to explain how convenient and modern it was to not be tied to a phone on the wall.

Fast forward to last week when I finally decided, mostly for cost reasons ($60/mo.), to stop home service on a phone I barely use. Going mobile only means giving up the number I've had for 2 decades- Wah, waah! I could not believe how traumatic it was for me to finally release the comfort of having a phone I've probably spent as much time forwarding to my cell as I did actually talking on.

I've thought about it and think I know why: there is just something about the thought of cutting out the main way people reached me that chokes me up. Chris, my old boyfriend, would occasionally say no matter what distance came between us he always knew how to get in touch when he needed me. He has since passed away yet I still think of my home line as the way any former connections could reach out. Keeping an open line to the past was what the phone, cordless or not, meant to me.

My parents have gone on to be mobile users and both read on Kindles and now look back at their tech fears amused- this, while still keeping their home line. Best of both worlds I would say. But for me in my second half, part of what I want is to streamline my life and that means in every area. So even though it physically hurt and I spent an excessive amount of time weighing the options- I cut the cord and let my line go and am now fully mobile.

The possible lost connections is what caused me to fear going cold turkey and now I'm clear that tethering ourselves to our past and leaving open reconnection are two different things. I am clearly reachable through multiple social media platforms and there is no one who wanted to that couldn't connect with me. So, ahhhh... one less bill, one less voicemail to check, one less thing weighing me down from getting to my life's work.

What cord is keeping you tethered? What cut to your past needs to be made?

Do it, you'll feel better- even if it takes a day or two and a good cry. Life is for living forward, not for pulling us back to the past.

Happy cord cutting to you :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Butler Who Inspired Our Nation

Symbolism is the subtle beacon that lights our unpaved way. To go from picking cotton in the fields with no rights at all, to serving in the White House, to then being able to cast a vote for the first black President- few would have guessed it was possible. And that is why one person's journey can have a profound impact on all that follow, even if they take a different path.  

Not everyone can lead a revolution like Martin Luther King Jr. but who knows if one dignified server actually did as much to change the hearts and minds of those in power and therefore our nation. The movie, which is based on the life of Eugene Allen and an article written about him and his wife Helene, is magnificent. Not only is it a great story but it is a history lesson that walks us through the many layers of race relations at that time in our country. 

The election of Barack Obama meant something to me but I didn't ever doubt it would happen someday; I can't imagine what it must have meant to those who were not able to fathom it. And that is why movies like this are themselves change agents. It enlightens those who did not live through it with a sense of what folks before us went through and documents what change is possible in one's lifetime. Danny Strong did an amazing job weaving the experiences of one family, 8 Presidents, and our nation into a very compelling story-- as did the magnificent acting of all involved. Lee Daniels created a masterpiece of a film that will serve as one of those movies people will want to watch decades from now as a symbol of what is possible in America. 

I think of how proud Eugene would have been to see his story touching so many others, and Helene to be portrayed brilliantly by Oprah. Their struggles and their contributions (even with the embellishments done in telling it) will inspire another generation and they will inspire another with the way they carry themselves in the work that is left to be done in our nation. I doubt Wil Haygood, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the article that lead to Danny's screenplay, knew at the time he was writing this piece he would inspire one of the great stories put on film. Rarely do we know all the lives we'll touch when we are simply living ours. 

We need the big dreamers like MLK, the big personalities like Oprah, the big talents like Forest Whitaker, Danny, and Lee, but it is often those who live in quiet dignity and work hard on their own dream that change the world. One butler would eventually move the first black President to tears and remind us all how far we've come and what is possible when we live a dream for ourselves and take our unique path where it leads us.  

Please go see this movie and then ask yourself: What dream is possible in my lifetime? And then get to living your story so you inspire yourself... and maybe, just maybe others along the way :)

The Real Butler Who Inspired the Movie Lee Daniels' The Butler