This is a story about a girl named Amy. Amy was an active soul. She filled her life with performance and achievements. She had degrees, publications, and merits. When there was no movement in her life, she felt stagnant. Stagnation brought with it, thoughts of worthlessness and feelings of self-doubt. No achievements meant no advancement in life.
One day after a long stretch at work, calculating her next advancement for a book she was writing, Amy sat on a bench at the park. She watched as ducks swam in the nearby pond, while mothers pushed strollers, and while an old man with a cane walked slowly along the walkway. As she sat and watched she listened to the chatter in her head, “get up and do something, don’t just sit there.” Her mind wandered with the consciousness she had created. Her inner voice was using the very measurements that she had constructed it to use. If she did not measure up to her expectations, she was not good enough. Amy was exhausted. She began to feel a tear roll down her cheek. The old man with the cane had quietly sat next to her on the bench.
“My dear,” he said, “Why do you cry?”
“Look,” said Amy, “The ducks have their friends and fun. The mothers have their love and commitment to another being. And I, I have nothing. My work does not bring me joy. My hope for the future is gone.”
“Goodness,” said the old man, in a quiet, sullen tone. He sat next to Amy with a calm smile on his face and watched as the mothers pushed their strollers and the ducks swam in the pond.
“Well,” said Amy, in frustration, “Don’t you have anything to say? I mean, I am sitting next to you crying, and you sat next to me! So you must have wanted to say something to the lonely girl on the bench.”
The old man maintained his posture simply looking up at Amy for a moment then back at the pond. She continued to talk. He remained calm and consistent. He gave her eye contact when she talked and looked toward the pond with wonder when she didn’t. (He recognized that if Amy measured herself on performance, it was how she measured others as well. He wasn’t much of a performer.) His breaths were tempered and consistent. He sat a long while with her.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Amy,” said the old man as he used his cane for momentum to stand up.
“What?” Amy said in anger, “You sit next to me and let me go on this whole time. But you give me nothing, no advice, no wisdom, and no reflection?”
“Amy, my dear,” said the old man, “Did you ever consider that each part of life or each relationship is not what you take from it, but what you give to it.”
Amy looked perplexed and walked off in confusion.
The old man slowly got back on the walkway and felt peace in his heart.
You see, on the other side of the pond away from the people walking, the ducks swimming, and Amy performing was a quiet place called: letting go. Right next to the place called : letting go is a place called: just being. These two places are not places we regularly visit in today’s busy society. It is a part of life that we never fully grasp. We walk away in confusion and frustration when we can not understanding something. In its very nature, just being, is not something that can be understood.
The concept of just being was foreign to Amy. She had lived a life filled with performance. She had difficulty sitting still and ran quite functionally on anxiety. She lacked acceptance in the pausing of life.
For some of us, the pauses in life makes us cringe. Not doing, or moving, or growing means that we are lacking. We don’t hesitate to take on the weight of the world as our own and to gain love of ourself only when we have performed. We blame others for not helping us. We worry about what still has to be done. We look at relationships for what we can take, not for what we can give to them.
The strange thing is, just being is not something that you can perform. The very nature of it exudes that. It is also not something that you can reduce or pull apart or intellectualize. You can not collect it, teach it, hide it, or even commit to it. It just is.
The coffee shop rocks some stellar music this morning. 1901 by Phoenix blasts through the speakers as I sit in the back corner watching the locals swing through and converse around the shop. The Sit and Stay Café houses a bookshelf where patrons can exchange reading material. There are piles of old books and ironic literature. “Tears of the Giraffe” stands out as I turn to the lady next to me and she calls out, “Excuse me?” She asks me if I know which coffee is the best? I look up from The Orange County Register and lean slightly forward to suggest the one on the far right. After she fills her mug, she swings back to her seat and we begin to engage in conversation. She is a delightful older woman with a southern accent and bright blue eyes. She tells me that she is from Texas and visiting her daughter and son-in-law here in sunny California. She talks about seeing her grandchildren and how excited she is to spend time with them. I smile back, ask questions, and express admiration for the exchange that took place. I get back to my breakfast sandwich and black coffee as I sift through the newspaper. I watch as two young girls take a photo and discuss uploading it to Instagram. This leads me to immediately think of hashtags, which leads me to think of texting. Then, I am reminded of a time when passing notes was cool. In school when you wanted to elicit the attention of a friend or chat, you had to pass a note. I recall intricate folding and the rush of passing it so the teacher wouldn’t see. A thrill in its own right.
A friend and I reminisced about dial-up the other day. She recalled her parents having to get two phone lines because you could not use the internet and be on the phone at the same time. There was a time when we still had to be patient. The lady in the coffee shop was in her 60s, nearly 30 years older than me and these girls were probably around 15, so about half the age gap. I feel slightly removed from social engagement via app. What happen to conversing in the coffee shop or asking a stranger a question or engaging in a conversation? I will tell you what happen. #facebook #instagram #snapchap #socialmedia. All of this seems to be causing something more than just a lack of communication. It causes a lack of thrill, a lack of adrenaline, and a lack of excitement. We are tagging photos and selfies everywhere we go. We want to project happiness without truly understanding what it takes to grasp it. There is no grace for messes. We are gaining more control and causing more anxiety in a world where letting go and learning how to handle change are very important. We online date as a result of the downfall of present and personal communication. We become neurotic. We become impatient. The lyrics of 1901 still play. “Watch them build up a material tower. Think it’s not going to stay anyway. Think it’s overrated.” The dynamics of human relationships have not changed much in those 45 years from the teens I see to the older woman I speak with, but so much has changed in our means of communication.
I am proposing that ten years ago, we knew how to balance lack of control in life and bounce back from change. Are we creating a generation so in control that the slightest change will cause fear? We used to have to wait for a boy or girl to write back or tell the friend if they liked us back; rejection built character. Now we swipe to the left and the fear of rejection is gone. Lack of fear or other human emotions causes us to gain more control. The more control we think we have, the less we actually do. Anxieties and fears have to be dealt with. In order to be dealt with, they have to be created.
As a relationship blogger I’ve come to realize the masses of material around me. I sit in a coffee shop that I frequent to get a bite to eat before work and most of what I overhear from the wait staff has to do with relationships. One was a blossoming romance that included a child from a previous marriage, and yet another was about who would take the kids for the weekend. I had an unfortunate heavy heart that most of the chatter included breakdowns and break-ups. It included devastation and divorce. I wondered how we could all get back to a place where relationships and partnerships provided us with the sense of support and strength they were meant for. Where we grew together and genuinely appreciated one another, even if we get pissed off from time to time.
Not to offend, but it’s my personal opinion that no one is in the mood to work really hard for anything anymore. When I sit and read about dating and relationships it appears apparent why we have shifted into a culture of divorce rather than long unions. Article after article on what you are doing wrong with your new relationship and tips or “how-tos” on anything from keeping him guessing to 12 ways to have a happy marriage. But is it really that simple? And if it were that simple why are we in an epic fail? We learn Why Men Love Bitches or how to Get Married This Year, 365 Days to I Do or how to Get the Guy, but we forget that this mainstream culture of self-help and fast fixes just sheds light on the problem. These are just outlines to a very long syllabus. Relationships take work, dedication, and lots of commitment through the years.
I am not suggesting that every divorce should be stopped. There are several reasons divorce takes place and the hurt and pain can not be overcome. Sadness or unhappiness can sometimes be a reason to split. However, all I am suggesting is that when you take the vow to commit to someone for the rest of your life, that you remember just how much work, patience, perseverance, work, humor, work, respect, and did I mention- work, that it is going to take. Get angry with me, get really angry with me and explain yourself to death about why your divorce was reasonable. Many times over I am going to disagree with you. You get to choose who you marry. That’s right, it’s a choice. You get to choose who you will be able to run the business of marriage with for the rest of your life.
The percentage of divorce gets higher with the number of divorces you have. So you have a 40-50 percent chance of getting divorced the first time and a 70 percent chance of divorcing again. The common denominator of that statistic is you.
I first heard of conscious uncoupling when Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow announced their split, as I am sure, most of us did. Thank goodness the Wall Street Journal took the time to write an article on what was meant by conscious uncoupling. According to the article the term could, “be new language that could frame the end of a marriage or relationship in my positive light.” I was happy to hear that definition because basically what we are saying is that we are going to put a pretty frame on a shitty picture. Break-ups and divorces suck. Make no mistake about it that they leave people jaded and discouraged. Society has become a mecca of pretty frames on all sorts of false pictures (Facebook facades). Now we sit in a society that is ready to approach the hurtful parts of life by being consciously fanciful and politically incorrect. Distorting the truth doesn’t make it any easier. Conscious uncoupling is a sham.
Isn’t dating suppose to be a way for us to test the efficacy of marriage? But if we are a break-up culture, is the desired effect to separate or to sustain the marriage? And we are a break up culture. A culture that wants more, faster and easier. What it took for our grandparents and parents to sustain a marriage, we are just not interested in putting in that kind of effort. A recent article in Shape magazine discussed that treating your relationship like your job could have positive effects on the happiness and teamwork in your relationship. The article simply suggests that if we put in as much effort for our relationships as we do in our jobs, we would be in a better position with a better attitude. I mean when was the last time you neglected your job or just walked in late? You make an attentive effort to be on time, to dress accordingly, to follow the employee handbook. Maybe you can establish a relationship handbook and overcome the complacency and inflexibility you seem to have in regards to your relationship. Sorry Gwen, but remarking on your divorce as conscious uncoupling is bullshit. Talk is cheap. Cheesy wording is even cheaper.
We all remember the year that Britney Spears made the video Hit Me Baby One More Time. We remember because she went from being an innocent singer to a provocative pop princess. She emerged from her young years on The Mickey Mouse Club. It shook our view of young women singers. We remember her because she showed … her midriff and society went crazy for it. Whether it was backlash from angry parents or cheers from supportive fans, there was reaction. And I don’t blame her. It put her on the map. She was popular with the younger crowd and encompassed a genre of fun and fearless; much like Madonna transformed tunes in the 80’s with her breast cones and seductive song and dance.
As Britney grew up she needed to obtain a new crowd’s popularity to keep herself on the map, she had to up the ante. I thought she did it considerably well. Now less is always more, but the marketing was strategic to shift from innocent to dangerous. And you know what, it worked.
Welcome 2014, and Miss Miley Cyrus. Now it’s not her problem that to get the same societal attention that Britney did she had to keep with the times. Midriffs were a thing of the past and in came twerking. She was aging out of Hannah Montana so her choices became leaving stardom and collecting from the Hannah monument or to continue a career. In a society that is saturating itself with bigger, better, stronger, faster…. we are eating ourselves.
Even in the days when Britney and Christina Aguilera were pop queens their lyrics still brought in sexual expression subtly and power to women’s voices in creative ways. Christina was a Genie in a Bottle and you had to rub her the right way. Take it the way you like, but wanting one last chance (hit me baby) and genies in bottles discretely sang messages. Lyrics about popping molly and Lady Gaga‘s Do What You Want with my body scream messages that make me wonder: have we lost (pardon me) our fucking minds. We are spoiling America. We are doing a very specific job of spoiling the women in America. Justin Timberlake emerged from the same early TV show as Britney and Christina. His popularity began in the boy band NSync and still continues today, but when was the last time he had to show his midriff let alone twerk to get our attention? Let me answer that for you, never.
So where did this all come from? I rented the movie Don Jon last evening. I got more than I bargained for but I don’t offend easily. So my intrigue had me watch it. I believe Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s intention when he created the film was to explore sex and porn addiction. 40 days and 40 nights explored the same kind of addiction (although it did it subtly). He created a story line that breaks the main characters porn/sex addiction by reminding him that overindulgence is bad and pornography is not real sex anymore. The character had a better connection with porn then he did having sex with his girlfriend. Step in Julianne Moore‘s character who is an older woman with a sense of humor stemmed from a sad situation. (The movie was all over the place but that is besides the point.) She sets the tone for the change. Which brings up my next point: The problem with pornography. The same thing that happen when shifting from midriff to twerking took place in the porn industry. Missionary sex began with mixing it up with a new position or two. It was scandalous for the mail man to come over to a single woman’s house, enter the house, then enter the woman. Then …. literally all hell breaks loose. In comes the threesome. Because when did having sex with one person at a time not sexually satisfy us? I will tell you why. We live in a fantasy world of expectations that literally don’t exist and they are brought to you by: the media. But we all buy into them because we are an overindulged, unsatisfied, spoiled society. Woman may feel the need to submit to the ridiculous standards.
In a society that is saturating itself with bigger, better, stronger, faster…. we are eating ourselves. I just hope it saturates itself at some point. How are we going to teach our children to be conscious in a society that is so unconscious?
As I approach 30, I can’t help but feel more and more happiness. I am so excited about getting older that when people ask me how old I am, I keep telling them, “I am going to be 30.” (I even realized the other day that I find a way to work in the age conversation just so I can tell people).
So, I thought I would share some of my recent thoughts on this time in my life. Your 20’s are for being clumsy. I call it the 20’s learning curve. But cheers to my cohorts who are leaving that learning curve for what our parents, teachers, relatives, and elders always wanted to train us for…… Life.
What You Just Can’t Know Until Your 30’s:
you should …love then adore
moderate don’t binge
don’t get fixated on the newest fad (feng shui zumba hot (I mean super hot) backwards upside-down yoga)
fall for someone then enjoy security
fight but stay
date then marry
gossip but only in compliments
stop complaining and love: your body, your mind, your spirit, and yourself
listen then talk: no seriously, just listen for a long number of minutes, think, then talk
learn then live
hurt but don’t blame
when the grass looks greener on the other side, just stop looking at the other side
enjoy freedom, but not until you establish discipline
lose and let go
In a world filled with private options, why are we so public? Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea that I can easily see what a good friend is up to miles away in another state. I get to see parts of family members’ lives on a regular basis, and I can keep in touch with old friends. It’s a great way to get behind a cause or to promote a business. I am an advocate for discussing when people have an illness and getting large amounts of support by simply updating a page. So, please do not misunderstand my agenda. But haven’t we gotten a little carried away with Facebook Status Updates?
Our relationships are so public. Why do we feel the need to❤ on our partner’s wall if we can do so in a private message with one extra click or if we can send it over a text? Are we marking our territory by making it public? These are just questions I want you to consider the next time you reach for the smart phone, or laptop. Why are we telling the world what we had for dinner? Let’s start to evaluate in our own lives why we can’t tell a friend something privately and why we have to post it on a wall for their 983 friends to also have an opportunity to see. I tell people all the time that I can not image being in high school now and having a break up. What used to take place in a letter or by a locker in a hallway with 20 people has now moved to a public venue of discussion for the whole school. I can not have imagined what it would have been like to have a break up in high school via Facebook news feed and relationship updates. That is what it is for our kids today.
We have become too dependent on public information. But who is to blame? We make what we choose to make public.
What I learned on my Facebook home page today was: what someone ate for dinner, what someone wanted to cook for dinner, who recently played candy crush, and just how adorable your kid is.
If you look on your personal page and you see that it is common for you to post numerous times a day about how you feel, who you love, what you eat, or what you are doing, I challenge you to stop. Just try a little more privacy. Evaluate why you have to keep everyone posted about what is going on with you. A recent book I read called “Being Peace” said this about our time. “We have millions of ways to lose precious time, we turn on the tv, pick up the phone and start the car and go somewhere. We are not used to being with ourselves, and we act as if we don’t like ourselves and are trying to escape ourselves.” So maybe your constant need to status is just telling everyone that you have difficulty spending time alone.
As you begin the journey of not posting every day, you will understand why I am challenging you to stop. In the moments when you are trying to enjoy a cup a coffee and read, or play with your kid, or hang out with friends at a new restaurant, you will feel it. You will get the urge to tag friends, update where you are and what you are doing, or to take a picture of your coffee mug and say, “Just enjoying coffee and reading.” Honestly, that is great, whatever you are doing is wonderful. So try to just do that one thing and not status update about it. The first few times your initial reaction while doing one of these things will be “Oh, I need to post this.” Why? Why are we so impulsive to post? We are so busy reaching for the phone that we forget to enjoy the moment. This short video shows us just that:
Lenders for homes recently discussed how they might use Facebook pages to get a history of who you are and what you are doing. They can look back and see if you have posted about switching jobs and even make judgements on loans by the number of friends you have. How can this be? When you are searching for a job, employers scope out your page, and it has become a way for people to judge who you are by what you post. But the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree. It is likely that we can tell who someone is by their page. Do they cuss and have vulgar postings? or do they value what they say in public? Are their pictures filled with keg stands and party scenes? Or are their pictures filled with close friends and family?
So once again I ask you to consider: In a world filled with private options, why are we so public?
My morning began with reading “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. Then it brought me, here, to Starbucks where I pulled Daniel Amen’s “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” from the shelf of the accompanying Barnes and Nobel store. I was reading to prepare for a blog about positive psychology and how to overcome melancholy when the strangest thing happen.
A girl, no older than nine, stood in front of me in the Starbucks line with two other girls about the same age. I figured an adult was having the girls stand in line while running to the bathroom or such, but no adult ever showed. We stood in line for about five minutes as I watched the girls pick up three reusable cups from a basket that was market: “limited time $1”. The little blond girl set her reusable cup up on the counter as she ordered: “Grande Carmel Frappuccino”. The Starbucks barista asked a name and she kindly obliged and said “Bridgette- B-R-I-D-G-E-T-T-E.” Bridgette then pulled out a Starbucks gift card from her Hello Kitty clutch to finalize the translation.
All of this got me thinking. Not about dietary restrictions and how kiddos should not have that much caffeine or sugar in one drink (hey you have to watch them later, I don’t), but about life’s innocence and what we teach our kids. In a world where Bridgette probably knows more about my IPad than I do, I shouldn’t be surprised. But where does the line get drawn? At what point in childhood should we actually teach our children to adopt adult tendencies?
We are constant to quickly age our children and I am not against the learning that takes place. However, when you teach a kid to manage money you offer them an opportunity to take on anxieties or moods that come along with that. To be honest, as I watched Bridgette interact with her peers it was clear that she possibly adopted some negative tendencies from adults. She watched as her peer tried to put on the lid and spilled, but instead of offering assistance Bridgette said, “you are so bad at that,” while giggling and waiting for her Grande Carmel Frappuccino. It’s not Bridgette’s fault in a world that honors criticism rather than encouragement. Maybe if adults became more emotionally intelligent we could teach our future generations to lend a hand instead of laugh. I can’t help but be slightly melancholy about the current state of affairs making our children grow up faster than they need to.
In the years to come I might see a 20-year-old Bridgette selling stocks from her smart phone while in that same line, but her emotional intelligence will be in the same place. Her smiles will be curbed by her need to act impulsively and her situational intelligence to order Starbucks will not help her increase her self-control in a world that comes more and more self-absorbed. If I use my IPad to sync my IPhone to my ICloud, I will still live in a world full of I’s. Don’t let Starbucks eat your child. Expand the world for your kids, and do it intentionally, no one else will for you.