A Love Hate Diary of Dates with a Smartphone… (part 1)

Woman tossing into the air a leather diary and Smartphone

Love may have been in the air this weekend but not necessarily between me and my android Smartphone. Yes, I’ve been shoved into the noisy techno world of oncoming traffic, reluctantly but necessarily if I want to be able to function in this world.

My motto of “Don’t jump in if you don’t want to jump out,” safeguarded me for awhile. Doing what everyone else does “because that’s what everyone else is doing” is not me. Such reasoning conjures up images of Guyana Kool-Aid, the Hale-Bopp Comet deaths, and sheep blindly following sheep…to the slaughter house rather than sweet dreams. Years of friends chuckling at my dinosaur flip phone mattered little to me. I didn’t have a monthly cell bill, and my landline and answering machine worked just fine. Yes, I did say, “answering machine.” Digital at least. Not cassette…

But now, now I’ve re-entered the Smartphone arena that feels like bulls charging me from all sides. I say “re-entered” because I had my first date with a Smartphone nine months ago. I needed a phone I could use while traveling in Scotland. TracFone couldn’t do that so I invested in a Mobal phone with 30-day risk-free UK plan to give it a go. Here’s how it went:

May 23, 2019 – First Date, First Impressions

“This is going to make your trip so awesome,” friends said.

I nodded my head in agreement while silently hiding my suspicion.

Downloading, typing, typing, typing.

 “If you have a few minutes, could you show me how to….?”

“There’s no standardization. All phones are different.”

“Oh.”

Researching how to this, how to that, how to, how to…

Downloading, specifying, protecting, not understanding, flashing

ads

all the time.

No wonder so many are on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant meds. My blood pressure is up a good 10 points.

Downloading, warning, memory low on resources, black

frozen screen.

Now what do I do?

Worrying, fretting, exhausted. Too much to lose.

I always thought why would I trust a device to hold ALL of my vitals?

Tech support (via landline).

Deleting, deleting, uninstalling, removing. “Is it safe?”

Oh, this has not been a pleasant first experience.

Is it really going to get better after this?

Day 2 or is it the second week…or how long have I had this thing?

This intrusive device had to be silenced so I could get some sleep.

Do I really need this?

I haven’t even taken this to Scotland or put it to real use. Already I need to clear my head.

Outside.

Person walking on leaf-strewn path in the forest
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Birds sing.

An owl hoots in the distance. Or, is he echoing from this end?

I hear whinnying like a horse. I walk closer to see if I can see it, otherwise, I’ll have to ask Google

The magnificent hawk glides through the sun rays of this happy blue sky.

I feel free.

I feel in the moment.

There is no tension in my being

just the push and pull as I stride up the hill

and delight

to be OUTSIDE.

June 5, 2019 – We’re Not Getting Along

I call a Scotland Lyft. No availability.

I pick up the landline. A Black Cab arrives.

Getting off the train platform in Stirling, which way to go?

The font is tiny. I cannot read the directions.

Thank goodness for my printed copies of Mapquest

and the helpful elderly woman who guides me to a local breakfast joint.

e-mail arrives. The sitter reports my beloved dog Bess is walking around the pond, playing, eating, doing okay.

June 6, 2019 – Ceased and Deceased

5-hour European time delays. No communication.

11PM e-mail arrives. My dog is dead. She’s been euthanized.

Trying to make contact, the Mobal phone is also dead.

Did I forget to charge it?

Returning home, the phone goes back in the box. Service ceased.

And so has my involvement with a Smartphone. I think.

How Do You Do?

In gearing up for the National Day of Unplugging, which may soon become my favorite holiday, I’m reflecting on my Smartphone transition thus far. Being a gardener and feeling alive when outdoors and in nature, I’ve resisted using a device particularly when observing how vastly it is changing our lives, our vocabulary, our thoughts, communication, lifestyle and even human physical attributes (think eyesight, thumbs, memory, and prefrontal cortex).

Green leaves and handwritten sentiment "How we live is what makes us real"
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This concerns me. And while I’ve resisted, it grows increasingly difficult to operate without a device. Do you “consciously” think about Smartphone use  — for yourself and the world at large? How do you spend your time, are you more at ease, more productive with it? Have you found the benefits (aka “conveniences”) outweigh the intrusion? I’d love to know how you manage your device, or if it controls you.

Surely, I’m not the only one getting into the tech game at this late stage. I wonder, did you have a similar experience to mine, or did you jump right in and swim? (I can float but water over my head is not relaxing and probably tied to my HSP tendencies.) Was there ever a time in your life when you didn’t have a Smartphone and can you recall what that felt like? Are you a Digital Diva, growing up with a Smartphone in your hand…or like me, from the mountainous countryside where life is quiet, simple, and maybe 10 years behind the times?


Here’s a worthy alert for your phone on March 6, 2020. Beginning at sundown on the first Friday in March, the annual National Day of Unplugging will run 24 hours until sundown on March 7th. Try it. See how you feel… Truly, I’d love to hear if it makes a difference in your being.


 

 

Feature photo by Jason Tharsiman on Unsplash

 

Life’s Bookshelf

Four helpful books in understanding death and living life

Incomprehensible.  Sixteen deaths in 2019, with six of them very close to me — friends, co-workers, family, and my beloved border collie Bess vanished in a six-month tsunami of clearing relationships from my life.

In weathering this heavy-hearted summer, a healing practitioner recommended The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Ripoche. Filled with foreign concepts, it hasn’t been an easy read. Often, I’m in between two or even three books so I picked up an oldie by Alan Cohen — I Had it All the Time.  While insightful, the ACIM thread doesn’t completely resonate with me. Still, I get what I need like the passage explaining that when our life is clearing out it is simply preparing us for the new. That message eased some discomfort. Because in all honesty, I’ve felt stuck. For awhile. Well, maybe a year or two…or more.

While preparing for my Turks & Caicos bucket list trip, I thought the quiet solitude and healing waters would elicit the ruminations my HSP self sought…that this sojourn would make sense of 2019’s rapidly falling dominoes of change.

I packed two other recommended books with my journal:  The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and The Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski. Much easier reads thus far, their varying perspectives underscore that “life changes in an instant,” and the importance of “forgiving,” “accepting life on life’s terms,” and “loving as is.”

I’m beginning to comprehend all of life — not just death — is a transformation. Like the ocean, there is no end. There is no beginning. It is simply a continuation from one moment to another. Change is not my enemy but a life giving force to move me along like a leaf in a stream, it burgeons my understanding of this journey called “life.”

Once again my island adventure transformed. The first day, the ocean and gale force winds kept everyone out of the water. Totally unexpected but accepted. Each day progressively calmed as the tide washed away the past and swept in fresh awareness. Shifting from fear and grief toward accepting life’s flow is freeing. Trusting that all is well and working out exactly as it’s meant to be releases the anxiety of not knowing. Having faith (and moving my feet) is all I can do. Then see where life takes me.

After a few days of reading, walking, swimming, exploring and resting, tinges of guilt crept in. Why are you avoiding dealing with this? Are you trying to elude those downcast feelings and well of tears? Why are you putting off what you thought you needed to more freely move on? Are your unwritten journal pages diminishing what loved ones meant to you? Why are you procrastinating?

My surprising response was that I was living in the moment. Observing and engaging in the present rather than rehashing the past elicited tiny but powerful connections to the here and now. I was in fact living in the flow…rather than returning to what was and is gone. By the last day of solitude I realized that my lost loved ones would rather see me happy than engulfed in sorrow. My journal entries were not about loss and death but messages teaching me to live and love fully in the now.

Smiley face balloon was a sign from deceased brother of his continued presence
When asking my recently deceased brother for a sign of his continued presence, this smiley face balloon appeared riding high in the sky over that magical turquoise water.

It Just so Happens…All Roads Lead to Home

Glass ball sitting on a rock in the ocean being splashed while reflecting sky and sea with mountain in the background

The Elements as Allies — hmm, I wondered what I was getting into this week when serendipitously participating in this formal discussion. Uncertain where this topic would lead, my curiosity surfed the wave of energy surging through my life lately. Opening commentary — how critical Mother Nature’s elements are to our life force. Earth, fire, water, air — are our life force. I was on board. ‘Sounds like a simple natural law but sadly forsaken. (To be continued…perhaps on Earth Day.)

We meditated on merging with water. I could see an all-encompassing bluest of blue sea, feel its massaging push and pull, and the color, that exquisitely pure turquoise that mesmerizes my eyes and pierces my soul. Quickly, I felt its far reaching capacity had no beginning or end, that each body of water — oceans, seas, bays, rivers, streams merge with each other until its vastness becomes   one. There is no end. It is no different in humanity (or life). Each may appear different or separate but whether warmed in daylight sun or glistening in dazzling moonlight, both are beautiful. Both are one.

Mother Nature and the Tao teach me “oneness” — as seasons merge from one into the other or taijitu depicts two opposing yet complementary halves not as two halves, but as one.

Learning the group’s discussion was based on Sandra Ingerman‘s work with  strong ties to hand drumming and reconnecting with nature, was no surprise her information found its way to me. There is no doubt in my mind that all paths I’ve traveled thus far led me here.

Likewise, the natural beauty of the Turks & Caicos has allured me for years.


When many people see photos of the beaches and lagoons of the Turks and Caicos, they believe that the water in the images must have been edited. In actuality the ocean is typically far more vivid when seen in person.

When finally making travel plans to this long-awaited destination, I hadn’t forecasted the trip would morph into a winter ebb, a spiritual retreat you could say. Since the bookend deaths of Bess and my brother I’ve longed for quiet solitude where I can more deeply process six months of profound change. Hopefully the magically soothing turquoise waters will fit the bill when I arrive today.

In the fascinating beauty of nature I feel the sacredness of oneness.  And as with the Tao, and as with the vast oceans and seas, there is no beginning and there is no end.

Globe sitting on the sand in front of the ocean reflecting the clouds and sand (upside down)
Original photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Feature photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels

Nature Teacher: Coexisting

Billions of snowflakes

grace the air

together.

Like fingerprints,

no two are alike.

Separate

characteristics, individual traits,

attributes

make each one

unique.

Original.

Yet they all share

one Source

and peacefully coexist.

One

is no better than the other.

Different, but equal,

is perfectly natural.

 

Full Service

Happy gas pump via human interaction

Friday was the kind of day beckoning a toasty hat, and if you left it behind your ears would wonder why. I’ll be honest. Climate change does concern me. But seeing more green grass than snow this winter was appeasing — and particularly when approaching the age where snow is more perilous than pleasant. The dry but blustery 10 degree cold made it the kind of day I didn’t want to pump my own gas yet the car cried empty.

I’m not suggesting I’m declining or even readying retirement but I am a “boomer.” I grew up when a full service gas station meant getting windows washed — front and back, and an oil check with a tank of gas. As a bonus, they might even check and fill the tires’ air pressure. Those almost forgotten services exist only in memory and especially on a frigid day.

When I pulled up to the fuel pump at the Gas & Food Express, the young guy gingerly attended my car and the one across the island. Whether he was a Young Millennial or Gen Y, I couldn’t tell nor how he could stand the cutting cold. Hopefully that tiny booth for the cash register blasted heat. His medium-weight jacket looked anemic to me knowing I shivered walking 40 feet from home to car.

Contemplating how he felt working a shift in the below freezing temps, I wished I had a hot drink to offer. Instead, I reached into my purse and handed him a few bucks with the signed credit card receipt. “Thank you for being so pleasant on a very cold day,” I said. “Please get yourself a hot drink.”

“Well, thank you. Thank you, miss,” he responded.

Internally echoing cheerful surprise, I wondered if he knew the gift he gave an aging gal.

I find common courtesies previously taken for granted are often passé. Little in-between gestures of human significance make all the difference in a high tech world of downcast eyes and empty idioms such as “Here you go” instead of “Thank you.” It may have been a 10-second interaction but I drove away fueled with appreciation for a new kind of full service.

 

The Cherokee Knew

Hand holding a crystal globe with upside down view of the world

A fellow blogger’s post reminded me of a pondering earlier this week.

While I am a spiritual person, I haven’t joined an organized religion for decades. Listening to others, some are dogmatically committed to one and only one belief system — declaring their way is right and the only way. It may be right for them, I agree, but it doesn’t mean it is right for me.


The Cherokee name is based on the meaning “people of different speech.” Could that include thought and opinion as well?


Hearing a close friend express her strong opinions (without knowing they opposed mine) stung. But, for one moment only. Because in valuing the qualities of our friendship more than opinions, I felt love for my friend, not anger or resentment.   

The same holds true when I hear discourse among various religious groups.

To me, the identic message is simply presented in varying ways and on varying paths all leading to a preferred destination — call it Heaven, enlightenment, living consciously, or a spiritual awakening per se’…even if it’s just a belief system or developing faith. Even if the path chosen changes tomorrow, the message is basically the same.


 Be inclusive. Find the shared good.


People connect with God, the Universe, Buddha, the Tao, or other powers greater than themselves. One size doesn’t fit all, and I find value in each. I hear the common themes yet also see invidious power and exclusivity when one is proclaimed as right or the better way…different somehow.

I grew up in an era of healthy debates. Where one could find mutual ground. Today I question “where do I wish to focus — on differences or commonalities? What feels better — emotionally, mentally, physically? If being inclusive and finding common good should feel better, why is mankind’s history peppered with discord? Does the world tip its scales in feeding one wolf more than the other? Do we choose to see thorns or roses? Is agreeing to disagree now passe’?”

Tilted astrological globe
Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

Feature Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Blankets of Snow

Snow falling on trees

The snow falls

heavily all night

like a snuggly warm comforter or blankets piled high,

thickly covering trees, shrubs, bushes, and grass.

Mother Nature says, “Close your eyes. Rest your weariness. Take time to gain your strength for spring.

“Hush now. It’s time to sleep.”

No wonder snow is so quiet.

Fertilizers for the Mind…

Colorful vegetables and fruits composting to nourish the garden

With the New Year beginning, I’m adding a new page called “Fertilizers for the mind & spirit.” Based on the miraculous results compost produces in the garden, I believe the same holds true for enriching our minds. Please feel free to add some of your own tidbits to that page for all of us to turnover, stir and nourish our perspectives…

 

The Vista of Time

Two men standing on barren ground, looking toward the New Year on the horizon

As 2020 approaches, time is in the forefront of my mind. Running deeper than lines on a clock face or flip of a calendar page (“swipe” for you digital divas), my concept of time morphed over the years and invisibly orchestrates my life.

On a grander scale, the new year transition symbolizes life itself — passing and birth, loss and gain, here and gone, doors closing and windows opening, full and empty, flowers dying back to bloom next season — transformations all illuminated by the paradoxical Tao. In the Tao, there is no beginning or end. It is simply a continuation of a force, an energy, the “flow.”

The Tao expanded my concepts of forever and eternal which were often intertwined but mistakenly so as in the nebulous differences between an eastern hemlock and a Tsuga Caroliniana, a sparrow and finch, or twilight and dusk. Mother Nature’s subtleties are far-reaching. So are we in humankind. So are my thoughts on time.

Photo of lengthy hallway seemingly extending to forever
Photo by v2osk on Unsplash

Like fraternal twins, eternal and forever share gossamer-like characteristics — forever indicating an endless or continual period of time; eternal meaning without beginning or end, always lasting. If something is eternal, it always is and always was. It exists outside of time.


If time is man made, why can’t we produce more of it?  Does staying in this exact moment freeze time — being neither in the past or future but always and only right now? Is “staying in the moment” the only way to make time stand still?

Perhaps in the trinity of time — past, present, and future, the only way to feel like we control it IS to stay in the present. Look not behind or ahead. If that is the case, then I have no reason to say “Happy New Year,” but perhaps [be] “Happy Now.”

 

 
Featured photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Locomotive Holidays and the Christmas Train

Santa Claus boarding a holiday decorated train

Loco Emotions

Have you noticed how emotions buildup steam around the holidays, emulating a runaway train? Far reaching stressors often halt the holiday joy ride — be it time with difficult personalities, over-spending, trying to mirror picture-perfect celebrations, too little rest, dashed hopes on a “Dear Santa List,” and of course alcohol consumption (usually in excess at this time of year). But those unscheduled stops don’t have to become your final holiday destination.  

Switching point of train tracks
Original photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Board the Observation Car

This may be a time of traditions but it can also be a time of breaking them. Are you the caboose chugging along well-worn tracks, or the engine choosing more fulfilling activities? Only you know how you feel around the family contrarian, when you over-indulge in special holiday treats, or struggle to pay bills. No matter when or how holiday difficulties appear, step back to see how to handle them differently, rather than traditionally.

 


Challenging opportunities can be unexpected sources of strength when initiating change to rise above them.


Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Using the Communication Cord

When approaching a disquieting juncture, try the unfamiliar. Respond instead of react. Shorten the visit at difficult family get togethers. Politely walk away from an argumentative platform to an affable track. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks on the schedule, and include self-care on the timetable. Ask yourself if overloading on those tempting holiday sweets is worth risking diabetes. Good old fashioned discipline still works. Set a budget for gift giving and stick to it. Better yet, offer a gift from the heart. Most of all, be kind. To yourself and others.

love trainProven Tracks

A few sayings I find helpful, and particularly at this time of year:

  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  • Let it begin with me.

May your holidays fill your heart with joy, peace and love.

Olive branch
Olive branch photo by Janine Joles on Unsplash