Screen/No Screen: My Commitment to the Uncomfortable

There was a moment at the airport where I was watching two people on their iPads. One was an older woman, the other was a small child. They happened to be sitting next to each other with a seat in between.

I knew I as inspired, but didn’t know why. Then it became clear.

There is a game I play now called “Screen/No Screen.” Here are the rules:

  • Randomly notice throughout the day whether you are looking at a screen or not at a screen.
  • Regardless of which it is, yell it joyfully in your head. (Screen! or, No Screen!)
  • Soak in the details of whichever it happens to be.

This game is proving to be quite fun. Sometimes I’m doing the dishes and I yell silently, “No Screen!” I proceed to notice all the possible details that I can about the moment that make it not-a-screen. The three dimensions. The colors of the soap bubbles. The way they smell. The temperature and texture of the water. The sounds around me. The bigness of the world; it’s independence from my fingers.

Then other times I say “Screen!” and I notice the flatness, the control, the comfortable sterility. I notice the relaxed feeling I have at the complete absence of social pressure. I take a second to look at the space between the back of the computer and the wall, or the space between my face and the screen. The space around us, the space above me. All of it.

Why Play Screen/No Screen?

There is one thing I’ve noticed about certain potently scary and dismal interpretations of where mankind is headed. Take Wall-E, for example. I love that freaking movie. Also, take Farenheit 451. Look at the worst parts of those potential futures.

The biggest problem is not the technology or evilness of people. It is that the people don’t quite have perspective. The ones that do maintain perspective and a willingness to be uncomfortable are the ones that make it. They are the ones that still dare to walk in the rain. The ones that can talk to each other without an electric medium. The ones that can see what is happening rather than being a mindless part of it for the sake of not feeling awkward.

For me, the willingness to be uncomfortable is the primary difference between just looking around at the world and being glued to a screen.

Understanding The Allure

There are a lot of reasons to have a screen, especially for those of us that are socially awkward or shy. For instance:

  • It gives you full control.
  • It doesn’t get emotionally hurt by anything you do.
  • It can’t judge you.
  • It is bright and shiny.
  • It is easily replaceable.

All of these things make it seem like a great choice in the moment-to-moment. But making that choice every time anything is awkward is what can lead to problems.

That is, after all, how I got addicted to cigarettes. They became the solution to any possible feeling of awkwardness, joy, sadness, anything.

Why would I want my cell phone or computer to do the same thing? Should I make a happy status update every time something good happens, check Facebook any time I feel awkward in a coffee shop, look at my email as soon as we are high enough above the clouds so that the in-flight WiFi works?

Or could I talk to a stranger, look out at the TOPS OF CLOUDS, make a new friend at the coffee place, feeling awkward or scared sometimes but doing it anyway?

Just Notice

No matter how much fun the screens are, no matter how much we need them for our jobs or social plans, we can always remember to note that sometimes we are looking at them, and sometimes we are not. No judgement; just noticing.

Instead of making a commitment to my health or happiness or joy or talent, I am going to make a commitment now to not fear being uncomfortable. When that feeling arises, as it undoubtedly will, it is simply a sign that I am not fully absorbed in an emotionally sterile future, and that I am still alive. There is no reason to intentionally use fewer screens because I can play Screen/No Screen and trust that I will not forget the difference.

How do you feel about screens, technology, tablets, phones, computers? Are they all-good or all-bad or somewhere in between? Do they affect your levels of inspiration in any way?

Do you think humanity is bound to rely on these things more and more for social interactions, or do you think there will always be people who have a sense of perspective on the whole scene?

I love to hear what you think!

Magic Words for Moving Things

We live in a funny world. Many people, myself included, use things more than is necessary. White sugar, caffeine, hand sanitizer, and words.

We are taught that practicing affirmations is beneficial and that we can influence the future by the power of attraction as long as we clearly say what we want in word form.

These things are great.

But how often are we taking the time to truly feel the words we speak?

 

 

I think about gratitude a whole lot. I think about the things I am grateful for before I go to bed and I wake up thinking about being grateful. The word itself is like my mind’s coziest sweater in its little repertoire of favorite outfits.  But the other day, I took a whole few minutes and just closed my eyes and tried to feel grateful. 

I learned quickly that there is a difference between feeling the gratitude that hits me after a near-miss car accident and the gratitude I feel as I go to sleep each night while saying the words in a semi-rush as dreams rush in. I don’t always feel the words I speak, even when I think I do.

This matters. This matters a lot.

Why Meanings Matter

How can I manifest my reality if I’m using words without meanings? How can I write about some aspect of life when I am habitually and unconsciously feeling a shadow of it?

There are no magic words for moving things. In order to make any word magic, you have to feel it. You have to close your eyes and give it a whole minute of your time. Or find another way that works for you.

Some feelings happen on their own. You bump your head and feel angry, you see a familiar face and feel joy. You almost get sideswiped in your car and you feel grateful. But choosing to feel joy or choosing to feel grateful or choosing even to feel angry is something that is a little harder. It’s more than a word.

What Things Can Words Move?

Maybe words can be used to move objects.  But I think that they are far more effective at moving mindstuffs. At moving feelings and thoughts; mental states and situations. By choosing to actually feel some of my words, maybe I’ll stand a greater chance at shifting a nasty mood or climbing out of a depressed state. Instead of convincing myself that I’ll be calm in a few hours, I can imagine the feeling of calmness now; cultivate it, allow it, embody it.

There is a really, really big difference between saying I feel happy and thinking about what those words mean. Maybe it’s not happy; maybe it’s elated, excited, jittery, confused. Maybe it’s even sad; I may feel happy because I’m sad that I have to leave.

Having an awareness of what we do actually feel can be great, and learning to make it go the other way around also seems useful. Choosing to feel grateful, gentle, generous, content. Choosing to feel your mental-state-of-choice for a few moments. Just not happy because really, what does that even mean.

What About Bad Feelings?

While I was flying from Austin to Connecticut a few days ago, something pretty cool happened. I was terribly scared. It had been years since I’d flown, and the idea of being thousands of feet in the air was rather terrifying. But the more I tried to push it away and feel “calm,” the more scared I got.

So I tried something new. I tried to feel as scared as I could. I invited the feeling in like an old and somewhat awkward or annoying friend. As I invited it, I looked at it from all angles; like glancing in that friend’s bag to see if they were bringing too many samurai swords or something. I let the feeling in, and in return, it stopped banging down my windows. It ceased to ring the doorbell and yell to make itself seem bigger than it was. It just came in, had some tea, and chilled out.

Letting the real feeling happen made me realize that the words of “ohmygodwearegoingtocrash” and “oh no oh no oh no oh no” really were just words. They weren’t real, and the situation wasn’t scary. In fact, once I really just got curious, that fear turned into elation and excitement that I was zooming thousands of feet in the air, staring at clouds and cities, living in the future that someone long ago would have only dreamed of.

The magic words for moving things weren’t just the words that were freaking me out, they were the words I told myself to remind myself that it was only words freaking me out, not any real thing. Confused yet? Welcome to my world.

Finding The Stuckness

Habits are sometimes pretty stifling. We get in physical and mental habits all the time. They turn into patterns of stuckness, which can be quite physical, as any massage therapist will tell you.

Maybe it would be fun to move objects with words, but maybe it would be even more fun to spot the mental objects and move those. The familiar sight of the sentence “I am not a good artist,” for instance. Maybe I can put it next to the curb with the power of words like a shabby couch that has ceased to serve a purpose. The big dresser of “Nobody will ever love me” sitting in the corner, rotting and stinking up the place. It’s time for it to go, I’d say. The repetitive thoughts or feelings that stick with us are just as in the way as an old item that is no longer useful or needed.

Do you have things that you would like to move with magic words? Are there magic words that you use already, such as affirmations or the power of attraction?

Do you think that it matters how long you feel the power of a word, such as gratitude or love? Do you think that you mean every word you say or write, and perhaps it’s only a select few people that say words without always meaning them, unintentionally?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Also, I have been on a rather internetless trip for the past week, it will continue a bit longer, and I look forward to seeing what you all have been writing once I return!

How Not to Leave A Comment

There is one comment I feel bad about leaving. I haven’t thought about it in some time. Now I realize that tucked into the guilt of that experience is a lesson.

The comment I left was on a post about a personal sort of declaration. It was fun to read and quite inspiring. Subjectively, I felt that if it was my declaration, I would have added one more thing, so I of course left a comment about it.

I failed to mention If it was me writing this for myself, I would add.. and instead, started the comment with I would add… and really, that gave a whole different impression.

I saw a few potential responses that the person made before they deleted them and the comment. It was clear that what I had done was unintentionally sound like exactly the kind of person I don’t want to be.

So why did it happen?

Short answer: I wasn’t thinking.

Longer answer: I wasn’t taking the time to empathize and imagine myself reading those words from the point of view of the blogger.

Some posts invite input or advice; others do not. It is too easy to just dribble out my first thoughts; it was bound to lead to trouble at some point.

There are many benefits to thinking through a comment. Some of them include:

  • You might make that blogger’s day.
  • You might help another reader see something cool that they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
  • You might entice people to find your blog to guzzle up more of your unique knowledge or sparkling wit.
  • You might learn something because you are taking the time to think, rather than just verbal-diarrheaing on that person’s comment space.

Had I stopped to actually think about where that blogger was mentally when writing the post, I would have probably realized that my little subjective thought wasn’t useful to anyone but me. Sometimes, it is best to keep things to ourselves.

Other times, it is best to share them. You might have something useful to add, or the blogger is asking for your reflections and reactions. In that case, here are some tips that can make your comment useful, or at least, un-hurtful, in my humble beginner’s opinion:

  • Mention something from the post that you enjoyed so that the blogger ends up knowing what they did right; especially if they are a writer.
  • Answer whatever questions or prompts they left you with.
  • Take about 60 seconds to actually reflect on the post if it was a potent one for you. Let your body feel how it impacted you. Write sincerely.
  • Perhaps read the comment when you are done and see if it makes sense.

I’m not in any way saying that every comment should be some work of literary genius, although that would be nice. If you are like me, the feeling that you perhaps caused a negative reaction in someone is a bit unpleasant bordering on painful. You didn’t want to do that. You just wanted to help.

I’m as guilty as the next person of scrolling through the blogs I follow, reading the posts that catch my attention and writing out a quick comment to tell the person that I liked it. But maybe, at least sometimes, I can do more than that. That is my intention.

What about you, how do you feel about the comments you give and receive? I feel as if my blog has attracted people who are masters at leaving comments, and I always love what you guys have to say.

Have you ever left a comment you regretted, like me? Or is it one of those Jen-thinks-too-much kind of situations?

If You Don’t Want to Be A Zombie, Wake Up!

Have you ever been talking on the phone with a good friend and they start laughing for no reason, then get very focused on something else, and then their voice trails off mid-sentence…and it all seems to have nothing to do with what you are saying?  You suddenly aren’t sure if you are crazy or if maybe they are.

Your Friend is Not, In Fact, A Zombie.

You find that they are actually playing a video game, watching a show, looking online at videos, or texting someone. It dawns on you that you could have better spent your time talking to the dog, because at least he would be paying attention. You feel silly for having been talking at all; duped out of some of your precious minutes on this planet talking to a zombie that temporarily took over your friend.

Our ability as humans to multitask is rather phenomenal. But I fear it can get out of control. Have you seen the movie Wall-E? In it, people are riding around on hovering chairs, talking on the phone to each other even if they are a foot away. Food gets served automatically, and their feet never touch the ground. They don’t have to use their muscles, and they are doing everything all at once.

Have you ever texted someone just because they were downstairs and you didn’t want to get up? I have. It starts there, and only gets worse.

I was talking to my sister about making this very post, and as I was talking to her I was also writing a zip code on an envelope; my voice trailed off and the taste of hypocrisy rushed in. She hardly noticed of course, because she was playing a game on her new iPhone and listening to some horrible music. Zombies talking to zombies.

What to Do?

My goal is to start to become more aware of when I am multitasking and when I am not so that a choice can be made.

Maybe I’m fully capable of talking to someone while checking my WordPress stats and also looking at Facebook and researching something for my job. But what about just talking to my sister, what about just looking at Facebook, what about tasting the feeling of one thing at a time? I can choose to do this more often than not if and only if I am aware of the difference. But why is this effort even necessary; why not just live in a multitasking frenzy?

Writers Need To Experience Things

The best writing, to me, is in tune with reality. Whether it is fictional, fantasy or non-fiction, it is using elements of reality to evoke a response.

Details are going to come through in my writing more successfully when I witness them fully. I want to be aware of how it feels to speak to my sister, to hear the nuances in her voice, to listen to what she is saying and how her voice rises and falls depending on the topic. I want to feel my own heart beat faster as we start laughing about something, to feel the edges of my face lift in a true smile as she tells me about one of her accomplishments. These are things I cannot notice if I am half-listening to her and half-checking to see how many people are clicking on my blog’s fancy new Facebook page (hint, hint).

Let’s Look Out For Each Other, Shall We?

This can be a community effort, on some level. Your friends don’t want to disrespect you. They don’t want you to hang up the phone feeling awkward and misled. But you need to tell them how this makes you feel; we need to stick together so that we don’t end up as a bunch of osteoporosis-riddled people on hovercrafts with no ability to look each other in the eye.

In order to be a good writer, you need to be willing to live, to listen, to experience. Otherwise, all you have to go off of is hearsay. And that is boring; even a zombie could do better. Let’s not let that happen.

Do you prefer to multitask and get lots of things done at once?  Does that somehow help you improve your skills as a writer, blogger, mother, artist, or any other talent?

Do you think that you have a good ability to do one thing at a time?

Do you think it really matters, or am I just bonkers?