Fleeting Thoughts Friday 10.28.2016 – A Blast From The Past

I think in life we have certain versions of ourselves that we wish we could be. I used to truly believe I was a spontaneous person. I associated spontaneity with an adventurous and fun free spirit. Alas, anyone close to me can vouch for the fact that I am probably the least spontaneous person there is. I do have one fun college memory of skinny dipping in the ocean in the middle of the night on a whim with some girlfriends…but those experiences for me only happen once in a blue moon – or in this case, once in an unnaturally cold, and sleep-deprived December night during senior year finals week. It’s not that there are not many opportunities to be spontaneous, but rather that my mood rarely matches up with them, it’s just not how I’m wired.

On a similar note, another example of this disconnect between who we would like to be and who we actually are is in the fact that I am not in any way, shape, or form what you would call an ‘early adopter.’ This might have something to do with the fact that my husband accuses me of actually being an eighty-year-old woman trapped in millennial’s body (I do thoroughly believe that it’s highly likely I had a very active life back in the forties, but that’s another post for another time). I would love to be the person that is cool enough to try all the newest apps and be the one introducing my friends to the latest channel where you order your green-bought underwear, but these last few weeks have really made me realize that’s just not me.

What brought on these realizations? A collection of new items recently brought into my purview:

  1. How awesome my new favorite show is: Thanks to Netflix’ ability to regurgitate material from yesteryear, I can now catch up on a show that I never would have been exposed to, and I love it. If you’ve never seen West Wing, GET ON IT! Setting aside the rumors of his massive ego, Aaron Sorkin is a genius. But I will also caveat that by saying that no one in Hollywood is an island and I am sure that by now he has teams and scores of brilliant writers developing each of his projects. Sorkin has several trademarks but he is widely known for the walk-and-talk-style fast and witty banter he made famous in West Wing. This show is largely based on his 1995 film, The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Benning,  along with Martin Sheen and one of my all-time favorites, Michael J. Fox. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing either of these masterpieces, I’m jealous because you get to experience them for the first time.
  2. I’m apparently the last person discovering podcasts, but the important part is that I’ve discovered them. I know that the concept of podcasts has been around for years, but they just seemed so newfangled to me. Not quite radio, not quite TV, where do they come from? How are they made? I couldn’t be bothered. Until now. What can I say? Sometimes we’re not ready for something until we’re ready for it. I think my continued exposure to NPR (National Public Radio) in the car has helped. There are a lot of great segments played on NPR that have turned out to be podcast series. If, like me, you had no previous exposure to podcasts and are still wondering what they are, a podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Here’s More Info. So I recently took the leap and clicked on a little purple app on my iPhone and I am now subscribed to a handful of podcast series that have been highly enriching because there is literally a podcast for anything that you could possibly be interested in. It’s really awesome because you can listen while working out, or doing chores, driving or whatever, so it’s really easy to take in loads of content that is meaningful to you. A few of my favorites include: The Hidden Brain, Freakonomics Radio, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert, Write Now with Sarah Werner and RadioLab. Of course, there are a million more awesome series, so figure out what you like and jump in!
  3. This new bold world of audio information has also opened me up to other forms of listening. I’ve recently started borrowing downloadable audiobooks from the Chicago Public Library, and I am loving it. Yes, I still borrow books on a regular basis from the library – I live down the street from the Harold Washington Library Center which is the CPL’s main library, it’s huge and gorgeous and exists just to serve the community, full of stories just waiting to be consumed. OK, I won’t break out into song, but I love libraries and what they offer. CPL’s incorporation of digital content platforms like OneDrive and Hoopla have made borrowing free ebooks and audiobooks an easy and convenient way to ingest more literature, and I am taking full advantage of it. Currently, I’m finishing up David Sedaris’ When You’re Engulfed in Flames on and just started Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (which is CPL’s 2016 One Book, One Chicago pick!) both on audiobook.

Conversely, (setting aside the fact that I’m clearly a decade behind technologically) while technology has given us so many wonderful new tools and capabilities, I sometimes wonder at the cost of these conveniences. While so many positive arguments can be made for the fact that there are myriad new ways for us to instantly connect with loved ones and to obtain a plethora of information at the click of a browser icon, I would venture to say that the same tools which provide these conveniences might be rewriting our levels of connection, or even the value of our relationships.

The other night, with the swift drop in temperature announcing that Fall was here in full swing, I suddenly had a hankering for chicken and dumplings. This is a simple dish that was served at my grandpa’s house and I haven’t had it in years. I had the urge to call my mom and ask her for the recipe. But instead, it occurred to me that I could just find something that sounded similar online and save myself searching for a pen and paper and so on. But as I was cooking, it dawned on me that I had just skipped an opportunity. I honestly felt like I had just robbed my mom of a parental right. And it got me to thinking, how many other times had I done this? How many opportunities have I missed to build my relationships with loved ones by running to the internet for all my answers? Not so long ago we got our information by asking each other, talking, real conversations with stories and explanations and memories attached. Young adults used to have to call their parents for advice on every subject under the sun. How long do I bake this for? Where do I get that? Is it supposed to be that color? Should I see a doctor? What would you do?

I’m not harping on technology. As I said, there are many wonderful things we’ve gained from the internet. But I am saying that I think there’s proof that technology is changing our relationships, the way we communicate, what we communicate about, and how often. We just need to be vigilant that they are good changes, lest we exchange real connection with each other for just mere connectivity.

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P.S. I wrote the title of this post not thinking about the film, however if you haven’t seen the film of the same name, A Blast From the Past, do yourself a favor and rent it immediately! Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, Brendan Frasier and Alicia Silverstone (I know right?!) at their best. I love when I see casting gone right. This comedy about the values of yesterday exposed to the cynicism of today is 1990’s gold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feeling Overwhelmed: How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Feeling overwhelmed…

Where to start? Where to begin? We’ve all been there. Staring into the eyes of a seemingly insurmountable feat. Maybe it’s applying to grad school, maybe it’s that immense beast of a project at work, maybe it’s the family laundry pile you’ve been ignoring in your basement because you just don’t even know where to jump in. Mountains, whatever their form, can be extremely overwhelming.

…what questions feed that feeling?

I wish I could say that by now I have mastered this monster, being overwhelmed, but the truth is I still get stuck more often than I would like to admit. One of my biggest challenges is that I still tend to see the mountain instead of the steps. In a dual-post last year, I wrote on how feeling overwhelmed can lead to some major procrastination. And it’s this question of not knowing where to start that’s the culprit of the stalemate. But if we really unpack this riddle of where to start for a moment, we will find that often this dilemma is anchored in other questions…is there a right place to start? How will I know?

Like I said, obviously this is not unfamiliar territory for me, I’ve written on similar dilemmas before–my very first blog post was about perfection paralysis, discussing how worrying whether you are doing something right can seriously stall you out. Feeling overwhelmed is such a motivation killer and can stop you in the muck if you let your mind run rampant with all the different avenues to pursue and continually questioning which one is right. This idea of endless avenues is pervasive. We find it in the dating world where there’s no shortage of dating sites to be on and apps to utilize. In the writing world there’s endless articles, Facebook groups, writer’s workshops, magazines to submit to and competitions to enter. I’ve experienced this most acutely in my recent job search. With so many avenues to pursue, it’s not any wonder that we end up with the questions, where do I start? Where do I end? And is it enough? In this light, being overwhelmed is really a crisis of definition, or rather, a lack of guidelines.

How do we overcome it?

When I get stuck in this cycle of more questions than answers, I again have to remind myself that when you don’t have any way of knowing if you’re doing enough or doing it right or where to start or when you’re finished, it’s best to just pick something and do what you can.

1 – Give yourself permission to narrow your focus or narrow your field. For me, this might look like choosing one or two favorite job boards and working on applications only through those channels. I know this sounds sacrilegious but in this day of endless job board channels with thousands of jobs posted on each, there’s no way to thoroughly search all of them and keep up with all of the opportunities that they produce; better to make a focused effort on a few channels than to allow all of it to overwhelm you at once.

2 – Setting your own finite goals about what you want to accomplish is key in combating this. Create your own definition, your own guideposts. This might look like setting a time frame to get done as much as possible in a set block of time, whether it’s an hour or four hours. Or perhaps giving yourself a unit goal would be helpful, like committing to complete three applications a day.  Committing to the approach, the habit, or the goal will go a long way in helping to make the endeavor manageable.

3 – Get comfortable in accepting the fact that there will always be multiple ways to proceed or more you ‘could’ do. As an idealist, I have an incredibly hard time with this concept. I like things to have a right way, to be defined, finite and neat. The truth is, only you can decide what’s “enough.” Make sure you are determining what you can handle. Break it down. Make it bite-sized. We know by now that so many things that overwhelm us don’t actually have right or wrong answers. The only wrong answer is not taking any action, not participating at all. Like Nike says, just do it!