Life’s Measurable Moments

For I have known them all already, known them all—

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

–“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” T.S. Eliot

 

What do you measure out your life with? Plastic, hotel cups? Office party cocktails? Empty juice cartons? Soured, baby bottles?

J. Alfred Prufrock, the voice and subject of the poem, always cuts me to my core with this stanza. If you want to create an existential crisis for yourself, consider how you measure your life, I mean, how you really measure your life. Not what you idealize, or fantasize about measuring.

On a bad day, I measure my life with shallow breaths and rapid pen clicks.

What is it that I want to measure my life with? Now, that’s a different question altogether. I could wax eloquent on that, but my ability to actually measure is predicated upon pulling myself out of the grip of the mundane.

The mundane can be all-consuming. We measure our lives in the trappings of the daily routine. If we let it, the mundane becomes the yard stick to quantify our experience—the metaphor for the unexamined life.

The more we measure our lives in routine, the less we see of the other dimensions around us. The longer this goes on, the faster time flits by as we walk listlessly through a robotic existence. Next thing we know, we’ve traced another pencil line on the door—another birthday passed, another child grown taller.

It takes something ardent to pull me from the grip of ennui. What’s needed is an awakening—a flash, a jolt, a soulful experience to startle me back into living: vibrant living.

It takes vibrant community—an impassioned plea in the form of a caring word, or a loving look. It’s a powerful sleepiness that can overcome me and threaten to keep that community at bay.

On a good day, I measure my life with brightened eyes and belly laughs; with humble words and grateful looks. On a good day, I measure my life with redemption.

What do you measure your life with? I mean, what do you really measure your life with? Beware, if you choose to answer, a crisis may be right around the corner…

 

Your fellow, sleepy traveler,

 

Amy

 

Socially Overwhelmed: The Creation or Consumption of Digital Culture

I had hoped to post the podcast of ”Socially Overwhelmed” the radio program from July, along with some notes earlier this month.  However, due to technical difficulties, I’ll be unable to share the podcast.   Luckily, I have the photo to prove it happened!   Below is my attempt to outline the important details of the conversation.  Thanks to all of you who were interested in listening.  I’m sorry I couldn’t provide the audio.

The radio show aired on July 6th on WomanTalk Live and was a follow up to the program from a few months ago regarding the dark side of social media (see post for April 19th).  Here are some Q & A-style thoughts:

Q. What tension do you see related to social media and how people are trying to keep up?

It’s very difficult to cut through the noise.  We’re inundated with information and sometimes poorly equipped to differentiate music from static.  The way social media is structured draws us in to a culture of digital consumption.  It can become like an addiction, for some.  It’s even called a news feed, highlighting the cultural appetite, with app designs that are moving towards a model that favors consumption over output.  There’s a tsunami of voices vying for our attention, and if everything is a high priority, nothing is a high priority.

Q. Amy, in our conversation leading up to the show, you mentioned a book called “The Failure of Nerve”.  Share how this book reflects managing the overwhelming nature of social media.

“The Failure of Nerve” is a very insightful book on leadership written by family therapist, Edwin Friedman.  There’s a chapter in the book that discusses “data junkyards”.  Friedman describes these junkyards as the places where we get stuck frenetically absorbing information to offset a multitude of anxieties, resulting in the opposite of the intended outcome.  We often graft onto the motto that the more we know the better off we’ll be.  Friedman challenges this by posturing that when we’re stuck in these junkyards, we’re more likely to get flooded with information that has little value or ability to answer the fundamental questions.  The unfiltered consumption of information leads to more anxiety and less wisdom.  When we absorb ideas without an intentional approach, we end up in the limiting pursuit of certainty rather than curiosity.

Q. I’ve recently heard the term “FOMO” (fear of missing out) regarding social media.  How do we manage the overwhelming nature of social media and FOMO?

This fear extends far beyond social media to all areas of life.  The idea that we might be missing out on something can inspire the emergence of an anxiety-driven fear of isolation.  It’s okay to miss out.  Missing out on one facet of experience may mean that we’re open and receptive to another area of our lives.  What if in missing out on digital consumption, you become better attuned to your analog world?  One way to cut through the noise is by considering the culture of digital media that you’re creating.  Being intentional and value-driven about your consumption will help you decide what’s actually important to experience.  In so doing, the fear of missing out is diminished or rendered unimportant.    If you’re not shaping the culture, it will shape you.

Q. What are a few tips you have for the audience for managing the overwhelming nature of social media?

  1. Be Intentional:  Change your perspective from being a passive consumer to an active participant.  It may require a paradigm shift, but you are what you follow.  Make intentional decisions about how many times a day you’ll tune in to social media; pick 5 or so top sources that you want to learn from, and focus on those; choose which social media outlets  attempt to answer your fundamental questions (or meta-questions).
  2. Be Value-Driven: “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” (Mumford and Sons)  Decide, ahead of time, what you want your digital culture to look like and craft it accordingly.  Ask questions like: “What am I intending to learn?” “What sources will enhance my desired growth?” and “Who aligns with my espoused ideals?”
  3. Get Unplugged: Taking time to unplug clears the cobwebs and helps shape perspective.  The social media gurus all encourage digital sabbaticals.  Take at least a couple hours, weekly, to unplug and connect with your analog world.  Use that time to discover how you see life in 2D rather than 3D when you’re anxiously plugged in.  Are there ways your digital culture limits your creativity and curiosity?

Social media, like anything else, requires a mindful approach if it’s to be useful and enriching.  It has become an entrenched part of daily living for so many of us, but it has also seductively burrowed into our daily routines.  There’s a missing link of evaluative thought.  If we’re more intentional about what toothpaste we buy than who we choose for digital mentors, there’s a systemic problem.  I speak to myself as readily as anyone else.  The quest for mindful living begins with what consumes us.  How do you want to invest your love and life?  If it’s not intentionally invested, your allegiance will be chosen for you.