The Art of Storytelling: The Old Fashioned vs. The Modern

IMG_1264

This photo was taken outside the NSW State Library – Storytelling is having a resurgence and there is evidence of it everywhere.

There’s been quite a bit of interesting on-line discussion lately about the story telling, and whether or not it is a lost art. There are some jaded people out in the blogosphere. These are people like me, who started blogging for the love of writing and telling a yarn, but commodification and commercialisation has soured the experience for them. But true story telling, oral history, is having resurgence and The Moth is one way to be part of it.

As part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival I was lucky enough to go to the Melbourne debut of the The Moth. For those of you who don’t know what The Moth is, it’s a forum for story telling; true stories told live, is how it’s described on the The Moth website. It really appealed to me because I tend to agree that the art of storytelling has been diluted by our digital age.

[Read more…]

Four things to consider when engaged in introspection

As I’ve reached middle age, my life is lived through an altered lens. I think anyone who has lost someone will have some recognition of this. I seek to live a better life. Not in the sense that I’m chasing the unattainable, but in the sense that I try to recognise those things that aren’t making me happy, or enriching life’s over all experience.

One of the most common things I’ve noticed, due to my altered perspective, is how many people watch life, rather than live it, and indeed I was one of these people (sometimes I still am).

It’s useful to check in with yourself every now and then, to make sure you’re actually living life, not just witnessing it from the sidelines.

Here are some thoughts to help you consider if you’re satisfied with how you’re you living your life:

Social Media – I’ve written about social media before, you can the article here. This one is a double-edged sword. It can provide amazing communal support, a means for meeting like-minded people, provide opportunities for learning and research. It can connect people who feel unconnected, which is a great thing.

But it is also a connection with great limitations. What us humans actually seek are real and meaningful connections – not virtual connections.

It is a constant flow of information that can be like a vortex that you can’t escape from. And sadly, sometime’s people aren’t honest.

If you can’t wait to get online and see what all your ‘friends’ are up to, you probably need to recalibrate. Work out how much time you spend looking at other people’s photos and commit to actually seeing these friends in real life for that same amount of time. It’s a sure fire way to guarantee you’re actually living life, not watching it. 

Television – Is your TV on for most of the day? Do you plan your life around the box set release of the latest drama series? Are you addicted to a television program and forget that the characters are just that? (Errrrm, Patrick from Offspring anyone?)

Ask yourself why you have so much invested in these ‘people’? I’ll admit, I felt real remorse when Patrick died, but it was also my aha moment. When ‘Patrick’ died, Offspring and I broke up. It was liberating. Try it.

Video games – so when the Wii first came out, everyone was enthralled. It’s amazing, you can play tennis, do yoga, go bowling, play soccer…the list is endless. And all in the privacy of your own lounge room.

The one flaw with this is, well, it’s all in the privacy of your own lounge room. If you want to play tennis, call a friend, go with your partner or your child. Same goes for yoga, go to a class, you might meet a real person, who you actually like! You get my drift.

As for Candy Crush. Just go to bed, get some sleep and stop sending me invitations to play it with you. If you really want to connect with me, let’s have a coffee.

Magazines – ok, I confess, I am a total mag junkie, but I also have the legitimate excuse that it’s part of my work. But nonetheless, I have wasted (and will probably continue to waste) hours of time reading magazines. I especially like the aspirational home and lifestyle magazines, so yes, this advice is directed 100% to myself.

There are so many more interesting things to spend my time on, than looking at photos of other peoples homes. And I am well aware, when these photos are taken there is an army of stylists on standby to pick up after the children, sweep up after the dog, touch up the lady of the house’s make up. It’s not real, but it is addictive.

The biggest issue with all this voyeurism is that it generates comparison. Even though in our conscious minds we know the characters aren’t real, nor the scenes that have been created, or the impression someone is trying to make on Facebook with their montage of photos.

None of it is real. But it does generate real thoughts. Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ We make assumptions about others’ greatness and compare it to the worst parts of ourselves.

Try not to. Life is passing you by when you do this.

Forget about looking outwards. Look inwards, you’re much more interesting.

A Digital Detox? Spare Me! I Have Bigger Plans Than That…

e1b247c0b4ed85652e379c10c27811fb

(Image via Pinterest)

It’s about half way through the 21 Day Meditation Experience. Today is Day 10, I’m on Day 8.Yes, that is a confession – I missed last Thursday and Friday. But I had already made the decision not to be hard on myself if I did miss a day, as that defeats the purpose of meditating in the first place. So I’ve just picked up where I left off and it was so much easier to continue on when I didn’t have his negative self-talk going on.

But missing two days got me thinking. Last Thursday and Friday I did manage to check my emails. I also managed to look at Facebook (more than once, on both days), I think I also managed a glimpse at Instagram, so why did I not find the time to meditate?

Arianna Huffington, in Thrive, talks about a study done by James Roberts and Stephen Pirog on technological addiction. According to this study we check our phones 150 times a day, which averaged out to checking it every six minutes. Now I don’t think I’m as bad as all that, but it was a statistic that left me reeling. I immediately thought ‘so if we are so distracted by our phones, what other projects, hobbies, people, are suffering because of this lack of complete engagement?’

Light bulb moment! Ahhhh, that would be my meditation practice – for one. There is also a pile of new novels sitting by my bed (they’ve been there for more than a year), so yes, reading for pleasure is another. More importantly, I confess, shamefacedly, my children have suffered because of this. (Don’t judge me, please!) It is not uncommon for my poor children to have to repeat what they have said to me two, sometimes three times before I comprehend because I’m distracted by my iPad. Linda Stone  coined the term ‘continuous partial attention’, the concept both shocked and resonated with me.

But the battle is not a personal one. I’m not a disengaged person – in fact, the opposite, I’d describe myself as an extrovert. I feed off the company of others, I love conversation, but we are fighting a global battle against the rather crude FOMO! For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a Fear Of Missing Out. But our fabulously modern age perpetuates this – there is an undercurrent of fear that something might happen and you won’t witness it. It is completely irrational, but nonetheless, it is there.

But worse than that, oh the pain… when you realise you have missed something! Because there it is, on Facebook, unfolding before your very eyes, and you are stuck at home!!

The FOMO in all of us, realise it or not, has left us in a permanently elevated state of anxiety – hence the compulsive checking of social media and use of technology. Arianna Huffington explains that technology ‘crowds out the time and energy we have for real human connection’. It is affecting our ability to connect with real people and have real and meaningful interactions.

The downside to continuous partial attention is myriad and worthy of an entire separate post, but I am just considering a fraction of its negatives and I am going to attempt to do something about it.

I hate the term ‘digital detox’ because it suggests that just taking a break from technology will fix things. And then you can switch everything back on and ‘retox’. It suggests that we live in desperate deprivation of our technology, only to be counting the days till we can switch back on. But I’d like to reset my patten of engaging with technology.

I’ve read suggestions to check social media for just one hour a day, but applying these limitations only makes me edgier in my hour ‘on’, then more desperate to get back on for a sneaky ‘Facebook binge’ in the evening.

So I am switching off everyday, at 6pm, for a month. The plan is that it will reset my neural pathways and then if I want to look at social media after 6pm (after my month of retraining), I can do it without angst or guilt. I’m hoping I won’t be that interested; I’ll be too busy meditating.

Have you retrained your neural pathways regarding your use of technology? I’ll report back in a month and let you know how things changed for me.

#100happydays fatigue

Image

Image via Pinterest

As many of you know, I’ve been taking part in the #100happydays, which is meant to foster mindfulness and a greater awareness of the small things in your life that make a positive difference.

 

On Friday I read an article called ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’. It was my lightbulb moment. To say it is making me miserable is probably a little extreme, but it’s fair to say, it was starting to become a chore.

 

Part of my efforts to become more mindful and more present, was a decision to disengage somewhat from social media. The problem was I’d just about be ready for bed and I’d remember that I hadn’t done my 100happydays post, so I’d have to get on Facebook again.

 

Then I’d curse inwardly because I wasn’t quick enough with my camera phone and had missed the perfect moment earlier in the day. But I wasn’t quick enough because I probably had the baby in one arm, and a basket of washing in the other, and food on the stove that needed to be turned off just before it caught on fire. But the point is, I was cursing myself. Surely that goes against what 100happydays is trying to do?

 

So then I’d quickly try and find something to post – I think the ‘love heart log’ takes the cake here. It was kind of cute, and it DID make me happy, but only because it meant I didn’t miss my post that day. Seriously, a ‘love heart log’?

 

Image

 

 

Last week I wrote a post on my love/hate relationship with Facebook. My participation in 100happydays was actually fuelling the ‘hate’ part of that post, because when I was done with social media for the day, I’d then have to get back on so I didn’t miss a day.

 

But there was also the performative aspect of it that didn’t sit well with me. You can choose to email your pictures in for privacy, but I chose Facebook and after a week or so I tried to change it to email so I wouldn’t have to get on Facebook everyday, but there was no option to make changes, once you’d registered.

 

One day I posted a picture of baking cookings with my daughter. It was a lovely thing to do together, no question. Later a friend told me she had wondered how I was able to get everything done and still bake cookies. Chaos followed that evening, because I’d lost time that I would have used to make dinner, but of course I’m not doing a follow up post on the baby screaming at the dinner table because she’s so hungry, because I’m 45 minutes late with dinner! Not so happy days, yes?

 

Then after I read ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’ I saw the inaneness of it all. I was off the hook. Now, I know the stats say that 75 per cent of participants don’t finish their 100 days, maybe it’s because they all got happy days fatigue, like me.

 

That’s not to say it wasn’t a worthwhile venture, it was. Because in the first few weeks I really got a lot out of it. Without a doubt, it did what it was meant to do, and I definitely take more pleasure in the smaller things, than prior to the challenge.

 

If it was #30happydays I think the success rates would be much higher, as when the fatigue sets in, you’d only have a few days or a week to go, so it wouldn’t be such a chore to finish. But also, 30 days is enough time to change a habit, so doing the challenge would still achieve its objectives of encouraging mindfulness and gratitude.

 

So on the Happy Days theme, I’m just going to be cool with it all. Cool with not finishing, cool with not recording every happy moment, just cool. Like the Fonze.

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook

Image

Image via Pinterest (buzzfeed.com)

There are many people who have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the connectedness it gives me, but I hate the addictive nature of it. In fact, I feel like I need to vent, so here is my list of why I hate Facebook:

 

  • I hate that it draws you in without you even realising. The kids are finally asleep, you just have a quick look at Facebook before you read your book/write your emails/wash your hair. Lordy, it’s 10.30 already! How did that happen. Too tired to read/write/wash hair now. Another night lost to Facebook.

 

  • I hate the performative nature of it. We all post photos on Facebook, but they are only ever really photos of us having a great time. It promotes this un-reality. So yes, the picture is real and it happened but the collage of pictures posted creates a false impression. I’d like to say that my make up is always perfect and I am always ‘party ready’ and that my kids are always cute and loveable. And while we all know that what we see isn’t necessarily what is, it’s easy to believe the story in front of you.

 

  • I hate that I love it. I really do. Over summer I disengaged from Facebook for two weeks. It was great, and terrible. I kept feeling like I was missing out on something. But all I was really missing out on was people’s montages of an un-real life. Logically, I know that is true, but for some reason the reality versus and performed becomes indistinguishable.

 

  • I hate that Facebook doesn’t have a breathalyser! There absolutely should be. If you’re over .05, Facebook should be off limits. Because there isn’t an adult in the Facebook world who hasn’t got on Facebook after a few drinks and then wished they didn’t.

 

  • I hate that it’s now being used for advertising. This just shits me, plain and simple.

 

But it’s not all bad. Like I said, it’s a love/hate relationship. Here are a few reasons why I love it:

 

  • I love that I can keep in touch with people who are really far away. My husband is English and some of his siblings have never met our children. So Facebook is a gift for them, they can see almost ‘real time’ pictures of their nieces and nephew, and get a glimpse into the ‘every-day’ of their lives.

 

  • I love the connectedness it brings. We have a private family Facebook page where we post things that are only relevant to our family, that only we will ‘get’.

 

  • I love that you can let a lot of people know something important, quickly. I announced the birth of our third child on Facebook, it saved me a lot of time sending emails and text messages. I know a text message does the same thing, but there are lots of people on my ‘friends’ list that I don’t have mobile numbers for, but still want to share things with.

 

  • I love that I hate it. Because while I still hate it (but also love it), I will continually be reminded of why I hate it, so won’t take it so seriously after all.

 

How do you feel about Facebook? Does it rile you or make you happy?