It’s March Already: Taking Stock.

We are in March already. Sometimes I want to just press pause for a moment, but no matter how    hard we try the cyclone of life collects us up in its frenzied twister and dumps us into the new month. The arrival of March signals a change in seasons, cooler autumnal weather, which ultimately signals winter. While we can’t complain too much in this southern tip of Australia with warm sunny days every day this week and the same for next week, the mornings are decidedly cooler.

My daughter observed on a day last week when the temperature tipped 36 º, that in Summer she longs for the Winter, and in Winter she misses the warmth of the Summer. I completely understand this, and often find the same. Although the benefit of adulthood is that I can remind myself not to wish life away. The cooler weather will come, all longing aside. It will come anyway. And then we will curse how cold it has got, and will the Winter days to pass so we can glimpse the Spring.

As most of you who read regularly will know, I took all of December off Facebook. It was quite a    revelation. If you’ve ever given up sugar or caffeine, I liken the experience to this. Withdrawal headaches in the first week, shadowy voices calling you back with temptation. December was a hard month to step away, with parties and lots of goodwill – and perhaps a toned down version of the internet outrage. There were a few times in that first week where I did feel that I was missing out.

Then I started being mindful and taking stock of what I was doing in the time where I would otherwise be staring into that lonely blue computer screen. I found time for art, reading – both books and magazines. I found an embroidery, buried in a box, that I started more than 20 years ago. It was a gift from my Mother-in-law when we still lived in the UK. I haven’t done a lot of work on it, but it has been lovely to be able to pick up, do a little then put it down again.

First corner completed (most of it was done 20 years ago!)

 

Making progress on the second corner!

It is only when we stop and take stock that the important things come back into focus. My  daughter is giving up the iPad for Lent, so I decided to pick up her lead and give up evenings on Facebook. I find the evening is when it becomes so insidious – it’s my down time from the busyness of the day, the kids are in bed. Facebook is easy, it’s so mindless that before I know it an hour has passed and I’m fast losing my evening to something I don’t much care for. The happy result thus far, is that I’ll have a quick look during the day but my separation from has highlighted just how inane it can be.

While I have made some lovely connections on there, and been able to keep in touch with friends and family who are not in my immediate orbit, there is a lot to wade through for these benefits. But enough Facebook bashing, this post is about taking stock.

So this is where I am at on this day in early March.

Making : time for the things that I love doing (well, trying to anyway)

Cooking : Jamie’s Fiery Dan Dan Noodles from the Jamie’s America cook book. It’s a good way to use bok choi, which I’m really not keen on, but it comes in my organic box and I hate the waste!

Drinking : right now it’s tea, but over the weekend it was home brewed beer, and some bubbles.

Reading: I just finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith, and tonight I start The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman.

Wanting: a little something to nibble with my cuppa

Looking: at a gorgeous rose I just picked from my garden. (See above right). The bush is old and gnarly, and the roses are covered in thick thorns but it never fails to produce velvety bright orange roses. This one is still in bud. I love the anticipation of what it will become, and the smell is just heavenly.

Playing: with my four-year old daughter (well, in a minute. We are going to the park just as soon as I finish my cuppa.)

Deciding: How to spend the long weekend in Melbourne. We are contemplating a camping trip but I am also keen on a slow weekend pottering around the house, mornings in pjs and pots of tea in bed.

Wishing: that this weather would last forever. It is my perfect climate, sunny and warm, but cooler at night so sleeping is easy.

Enjoying: being back into reading, and making time in the evening for reading.

Waiting: for my second round of home grown strawberries to ripen

Liking: growing my own strawberries. There has not been an abundance, perhaps one or two a day, but we split them five ways and all enjoy a slither. I feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, the sweetness…

Wondering: what 2017 has in store

Loving: getting to know our new chooks – we have four of them. And they are funny little things.

Pondering: how I can get more organised, why siblings fight so much and how I can tune out from that.

Considering: going for an after dinner walk. The sun is shining till late in the evening at the moment and it’s an opportunity to claim half an hour for myself.

Buying: not too much but considering a new couch. Our current couch is 15 years old and was bought pre-kids, but now that there are five of us, we don’t all fit on it.

Watching: The Crown – just so good.

Hoping: to spend more time in our art room – maybe over the long weekend.

Marvelling: at how my eight year old son can continue to talk non-stop without drawing breath.

Cringing: at my Kath & Kim dancing on Saturday night. Fun at the time though…

Needing: a nana nap. And a slower pace of life.

Questioning: our way of life, we seem to chase our tails working, earning, spending…

Smelling: my gorgeous home-grown rose.

Wearing: shorts and a t-shirt, it’s 28C and sunny.

Following: lots of England-based people on Instagram, which is making me pine for the mother-land…

Noticing: how tired I feel right now.

Knowing: that we are all doing the best we can.

Thinking: that kindness costs nothing and it can make the world of difference.

Admiring: lots of artists on Instagram

Sorting: dinner out – the kids are excited about the fiery Dan Dan noodles

Getting: excited about planning our trip to Vietnam in July (recommendations please!).

Bookmarking: not much actually, it’s amazing how much less online reading I do since disengaging from Facebook.

Coveting: not much, but maybe that new couch

Disliking: all the running around and chasing of our tails

Opening: a new book tonight – excited!

Giggling: at my funny little chooks.

Feeling: thankful for the day I’ve had.

Snacking: hmmm, perhaps some cheese and crackers, or some nuts. I didn’t realise I was so hungry!

Helping: my son with his home work – this is his first year of homework and it’s been a bit overwhelming.

Hearing: my kids chatter (and not fight!)

What’s been happening for you? 

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

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(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

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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’?

 

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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

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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?