A few weeks ago, at our team dinner, the kids attempted to school Richie in # v. @ and other twitter niceties. Fair warning: The following could be construed as a grumpy old person post. #grumpyoldperson
Sometimes, when I’m sitting in bed in the morning, drinking my cup of tea and I cast my mental net #thinkinrealhard out into the social media web, I can sort of understand it #notquiteclueless. I see that it is a community of sorts: someone types something out on their little device #widescreentviphone6 and it is instantly seen by everyone following #lemmingstothesea that person. You get to know what that person is thinking right then, as if you were there! #butyou’renotsodon’tkidyourself.
So I get that part—it’s communication—which is probably where the word community comes from #toolazytogoogleit and it is all about connecting via communication. But wait: What are we actually communicating?
I’m a polymath #lookitup and so I like to connect at a deep and real level #D&R#sosanctimonious about lots of different things and this trend of more and more sprightly communication leaves me shaking my head, just as the tortoise must have shaken its head as the hare sprinted past, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. #aparableyouareprobablytooyoungtoknowabout #andprobablyhaslostitsrelavenceanyway
I suppose it’s an age thing #grumpyoldperson and if you’ve grown up communicating by actually talking to someone #actuallytalkingtosomeone or by writing a letter on a piece of paper and mailing it, #whatsthiswhitethingwithmarksonit then the instant and brief communication offered by certain aspects of social media isn’t going to resonate, because the need has not been created in your psyche.
Ha! #lightbulb#!!! Since I, as middle-aged person, have not spent my formative years in a world filled by social media #alternateuniverse my communication needs #darkages have been filled with what I’ve already got. #whatsthiswhitethingwithmarksonit #actuallytalkingtosomeone
Good. That’s solved. #alrightythen Now onto other conundrums of modern living #passwordmanagerpasswordiswhat?#whydon’tihaveanyfollowers?
Tomorrow’s forecasted snow is number five? Six? I can’t remember. At any rate, there’s already plenty, thank you very much, of snow on the ground. I walked in my snowshoes thirty yards or so to check the culvert and it wore me out, the snow was so deep (although to be fair to myself, I was coming down with a cold).
In the food department, I find myself leaning toward making dinners that are heavy on the carbs—no surprise there, since we spend huge amount of calories outdoors just shoveling and hauling wood and whatnot. So last week, I decided to make baked beans in the oven for dinner and as I was assembling the ingredients—maple syrup that was a gift from a friend’s farm, onions and garlic from the garden, bacon from the farm a half-mile away—I dug out the molasses and realized two things: one, molasses really is slow in January (or February) and two, I had just enough for the recipe. I wondered, had I not had enough, what I would do, since driving to the nearest store, even when it’s not snowing, is still almost an hour’s commitment of time. Then I thought, well, of course, I would ask my neighbors up the road if they had any.
Way back when, when stores weren’t close or transportation so readily available, neighbors really did borrow a cup of sugar or a few tablespoons of molasses to finish up a recipe if they found themselves short. And they supplied to their neighbors as well, when it came to it. So that old saying about borrowing a cup of sugar is based on an agrarian truth, like so many of our adages. It reveals the heart of a community, underscored in a rough winter. Asking for a hand: It’s what people do when they have to and it’s what people give, when they’re asked.
P.S. For a passionate, poetic view of life in the country, in the winter, see Ben Hewitt’s blog.
“When I was a child, people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist-deep in tidings and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.”
E. B. White, the essayist and author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and other classic children’s books wrote the above in 1930. He was talking about the newly emerging technology of television. And if he thought there was too much information out there in 1930, I shudder to think what he would think of today.
Is ignorance bliss—or are we burying ourselves in tidings? We have reality TV (why?) and memoirs up the wazoo, blogging and then of course there is tweeting. Tidings everywhere. Lots of clamor and few places to reflect.
But reflection and its relationship to self-knowledge is exactly what are missing from our over-stimulated lives. I’m not sure where all this information sharing is going—whether it is good or bad—but it is.
In the old days, we set out on our hero’s journey to find our empowerment. Then, once found, we carried ourselves, in our newfound power back to our communities to share and to complete the circle. But what do we have now? Is there a Hero’s Journey? Is there a circle of power?
Or is there only a clamor of rootless voices, desperate to be heard?
At first I felt Facebook was a way to unproductively clutter up my life. Later, when I started this blog, I thought it was a way to let people know when I’ve posted. Then, for a brief heady moment, I felt it was a community.
Now, I have to admit, I feel like it is a competition. Honestly, I never feel better after reading my FB news feed. I feel inadequate. Why am I not on vacation in the Lesser Antilles? An old college friend has a big house and a vacation house? Everyone seems to be having much more fun than I am.
These are not supportive-of-my-friends thoughts. These are envious thoughts. I don’t feel like I’m staying in touch when I read these posts; I feel like I’m missing out.
After I browse through FB, invariably I feel I must defend my life to myself, quiet as it is. This is what I do: I work in my garden, I write every morning. I swim when it’s hot out. I run errands, I make dinner, I read and do crafts. That’s about it. I don’t have a stressful job, I love my husband, I don’t go out to dinner much. I don’t even go on vacation usually. But reading my FB feed makes me feel bad about this.
I want to be wanted. I think most people do. So out of insecurity, we tend to accentuate the positive and FB as a platform exploits that. No one ever posts about the non-glam side of existence: “Plucked out chin hair number ten—why am I growing a beard after menopause?”
FB puts a lot of pressure on us to “have a great time all the time.” To heck with that, I say. For the record, I’m not happy all the time—far from it—and I’m wicked out of shape right now, and I do have chin hairs until I pluck them out (this may be news to my husband—sorry, sweetie!) But I’m also kind and smart and lucky—oh so lucky—and so yes, worth filling up space. Maybe even Facebook space.
This is my last week of graduate school. After this weekend, when I present my final thesis and final Mentorship presentation, I am done. I am graduated.
I started grad school at age fifty-three. It felt like the right thing to do. I was in classes with twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings—I could have been their mother. We had some deep belly laughs as we tried to hash out the rules and ethics of writing for children. (Me: “Excuse me, the middle aged white person wants to know what a ‘straight-edge’ is.”)
At any rate, I’ve loved it. Except for the first half of the first semester when I broke out in hives (first time ever) from stress, and dissolved into tears during a phone call with my advisor. But once I realized that this commitment wasn’t going to be the twenty hours a week I thought, more like fifty to sixty hours, I gritted my teeth and rearranged my schedule.
I’ve had many sleepless nights, read too many grim Young Adult novels, and climbed up a steep learning curve with the Internet. (‘Track changes’ didn’t get on my radar until my second semester. God knows what my professors thought as I blithely ignored all their comments and continued turning in papers with antiquated punctuation.) And trying to access the Simmons Library via Internet…well, let’s just say I needed the help of a very patient Reference Librarian. But I persisted against the resistance created by my inexperience.
Persistence is trust at some deep level. It is the trust that the choice we’ve made and the path we’re following is the choice and the path we need to be on at this time in our life. We continue steadfastly because we trust. And this trust, in its turn, reveals to us to the larger consciousness and the intimation that that our individual lives are a vital and valuable part within it.
Persistence, it seems to me, is like a seed. Watered by trust, the sprout emerges, pushing first against the soil then the elements, to unfold its leaves and become its realized potential.