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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Procrastination Station: Part I – Priortities, Productivity, and Eating Crow

For those of you that have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in about 6 weeks or so. I can’t really explain why, I haven’t exactly unpacked that thoroughly yet; but I can tell you that starting up again has been a quintessential Achilles heel and my own personal form of torture.

It’s easy for writers to have ideas, it’s difficult to actually make them into real words that flow together in a succinct piece. Honestly, I truly believe that the hardest thing for writers to do is write. See, an idea is perfect before we ever mess it up by trying to flesh it out with words – words that might not be as right or as perfect as our ideas seem to be. As soon as you start to put words to an idea, you are committing to a direction, narrowing down how it comes out, making choices with every key stroke, hoping that they are the right ones. Speaking of making choices, this brings us full circle back around to my very first post on perfection paralysis, and a very specific tool of paralysis that I would like to explore: procrastination.

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Procrastination is the opposite of productivity. Or more to the point, procrastination is a lack of productivity towards what matters. I specify “what matters” because I think it’s important to highlight the fact that one can be very productive, without actually working at all towards the goals that we have laid out for ourselves. Do you know how many times I have cleaned the house and done the laundry just to get out of opening my laptop to write?

Everyone has struggled with procrastination at one point or another and has suffered the effects of this self-made toxic swamp. Our train pulls into Procrastination Station, which seems to be this really awesome and attractive party town, and before we know it, we’ve been roofied by Netflix, robbed of all our time and energy, and left with no fuel to get out. As if this isn’t bad enough, the effects of procrastination usually turn us into the worst version of ourselves.

I would like to take a moment here and point out that I believe that the effect of procrastination on us is directly related to our level of maturity. I will elaborate: we didn’t care about procrastination as kids because back then we believed that our time was limitless – ergo, priorities are not something that are understood until later on in life.

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You remember when you were a teenager and you had absolutely no issues whatsoever spending an entire day in your pj’s marathoning America’s Next Top Model? Those days were great. We ate whatever we wanted and couldn’t for the life of us understand why on earth our parents – who, in the all-wonderful privilege of adulthood, had no one telling them what to do – insisted on getting up and, ya know, doing things. Why would anyone choose to run errands, garden, or clean the garage when you had the option of staying in bed?

What ever happened to those carefree days?

You grew up, that’s what happened. Congratulations, you’re an adult. When we are young, we see time as this infinite, slowly moving thing that’s only there to torture us with how slow summer vacation can come. But somewhere between our last precious summers as adolescents and the first time we realized that we actually need to schedule hang out time with our family members and friends weeks ahead in our calendars, we grew up. See, maturity comes with recognition of our own mortality, and thus, knowing that you have a limited amount of time to do the things you want to do. Growing up means that you realize that even if you live to be a hundred years old, you can’t do it all.

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There are so many things that I would love to be, careers that I would love to have. If it were up to me, I would be the wandering artist and the tenured professor; I would be the at-home mom that’s there for everything and the kick-ass business woman who works 29 hours a day and still has time to go to the gym; I would live a lifetime as a city mouse and a lifetime as a country bumpkin. But alas, having a limited amount of time on earth inherently comes with the inevitable truth that we have to make choices. Choices means prioritizing. Often times we get confused and caught up by our multiple desires, and we think we must be crazy because we do want it all, and everyone else that’s content must know something that we don’t or they must have less that they want out of life. The truth is, having priorities doesn’t mean that we don’t want multiple things, the very definition of picking priorities means doing the adult task of deciding what we want most.

But back to the main question: Why does a lack of productivity have such a negative effect on us as humans? The truth is, when we are not productive, it holds up a mirror to our own mortality; it reminds us that our time is limited, and thus lowers our self-esteem by instilling in ourselves a disappointment for not having utilized our time to the fullest. So what do we do? We metaphorically kick the dog, or realistically, yell at our spouses.

Procrastination doesn’t just have a negative effect on our overall goals, it affects the people we love. I picked a fight with my husband yesterday simply because I had wasted my entire day watching Sex and the City reruns. Was laying in bed all day in my pajamas listening to Sarah Jessica Parker wax poetic on her glamorous yet imperfect love life in Manhattan glorious? YES. Did it help me get any closer to my writing goals? Any closer to publishing a post? No. Did I feel like a miserable blob when I rolled over and realized that the sun had gone down and the entire day was practically gone and I had accomplished nothing. Yes. Obviously I did the healthiest thing I could think of and I blamed my husband…if he had not been busy watching football we could have gone to the store much earlier together.

TAKE NOTE MEN: We watch smutty TV all day because you watch Football!!! It’s YOUR fault I haven’t showered, or gotten dressed or done my weekend laundry!!!

Am I right ladies?! I mean how dare he sit on his own couch in his own house watching football on the one day he has off after working an 80-hour week?!!

That’s right, I completely decided to ignore the fact that his own activities had no bearing on the truth that I was a total waste of space and oxygen and human existence yesterday.

Real love and real friendship is someone telling you the truth. Sometimes we can love and hate people for the same thing. Yesterday, my husband saw right through my smoke and mirrors and called me out on the fact that I wasn’t really angry at him, I was angry at myself. Sometimes I hate that he’s as smart as I am. On top of that, I was even angrier at myself because I couldn’t even argue that I was taking in new story material…I was watching reruns! Writing this all out makes me realize that I probably still owe him big for my ridiculousness yesterday. However, that’s relationships and forgiveness.

My new friend Parita, owner of the blog myinnershakti.com, and someone I look up to, recently wrote a piece about making the best of your time here. In her article, she challenges her readers to ask yourself: is what you are doing with your time right now really how you want to be spending your day? We can apply this question here and ask, when your head hits the pillow that night, will you be happy with what you accomplished?

Recapping: maturity is what helps us to understand the need for, and identify, priorities, but procrastination breeds self-loathing for lack of working towards those priorities; this in turn, turns us into useless, dog-kicking, swamp monsters.

The question is, how can we get the train to move on from swampy Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille? Since we’ve discussed the reality and effects of procrastination, in the following post I will unpack some specifics on what I am learning about fighting procrastination and share a few key truths that will help fuel the train out of town. Stay tuned!