“There's another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary.” ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
I have this problem where I’m always placing expectations on people.
Assuming I know why they act the way they act.
Assuming I know how they should act.
Assuming I have any control over the way they act.
Assuming I can guide them towards a reaction I find more acceptable.
Assuming I know the best way for them to react at all.
And then adding buckets of negative weight to my yoke when they don't react in the specific way I prescribe.
I don’t think I’m alone. I see other people doing this all the time.
The simple fact is, all we know is ourselves and what other people choose to show us. Everyone else around us only knows themselves and what you choose to show them. They are going act in their own unique way, based on their own experience and perspective.
Even when we don’t like it, even when we take it as a personal affront, 9 times out of 10 it has absolutely nothing to do with us. They're just being themselves.
But we still let it get to us. We let it cause anger, scorn, and disrespect. We let it drive us to do and say regrettable things. We let it destroy relationships. We let it control us.
No one is ever going the act the way you would act. Remember we're all unique, with unique minds, unique perceptions, and unique opinions. Our uniqueness is what keeps life fresh.
When we place expectations on those we love, we’re hoping they care about us as much as we care about them. But maybe, even when they don't react as we'd prefer, they still care. Maybe they just care in their own way. Maybe that’s OK.
It’s time to let go of these lame expectations.
Stop pretending we know how they will react.
Stop pretending we know how they should react.
Stop pretending we have any control over their reaction.
Stop pretending to be an expert on their life.
Don't waste your life tormenting over expectations. Allow each person to be their unique self and Let. It. Go.
What a strange weekend it was to be in a remote wilderness and mostly away from all the terrible news from Paris. At first I felt out of the loop, not able to follow all that was going on. Sticking my head in the desert sand instead of reacting with everyone else. But then I saw some people tearing each other down instead of uniting in solidarity, and people responding to the vitriol with even more anger...petty arguments about profile pics or which deadly attack is worse.
Suddenly I preferred my place outside the loop. I took a deep breath, turned my phone off, and returned to the freedom of disconnection. Staying away from the news/opinion/anger on FB/NPR/CNN didn't mean I was ignorant, it just meant I was giving myself the space to have a solemnly personal response instead of the knee-jerk public reaction our social media demands.
Though I highly recommend it, you don't have to go to Joshua Tree to have a moment of peace amongst all the negativity. What if we each turned down the noise a bit? What if we all shut up for ten seconds to respond instead of react? What if it gets so quiet we start to actually hear ourselves again? This is mindfulness, and I think the world needs it now more than ever.
I'm changing my Facebook phone- relationship status to "it's complicated."
I both love and hate my this little pocket machine. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic tool for connecting with friends and family, educating ourselves, being prepared for the weather or traffic, becoming budding artists/photographers/writers, and overall allowing us to be more interested and aware people. On the other hand though, it distracts from the real world around us, encourages FOMO and jealousy, thrusts douchebaggery to the forefront, hides us behind an avatar curtain so we sometimes end up acting extra douchey ourselves, and the list goes on.
One reason I love hiking and camping is that, more often than not, there is no phone reception. It’s a trick I use to escape, decompress, and reconnect with myself and the world around me.
Recently though, I visited Death Valley National Park, and while the vast majority of the park is cell-phone-free, the small town where I camped still had a few bars of service. Cue the complicated mix of love/hate emotions:
I loved that I could text my mom and my man that I arrived safe. I loved the ability to text friends when I got bored. I loved that I could post to Instagram because photography gives me joy. I loved that I could Google lists of Death Valley hikes and sites instead of flying solo.
But... I hated that I wouldn’t be able to feel the freedom of disconnection. I hated that I wasn’t forced to be bored, and forced to be OK with it. I hated that after I had a little whisky I started checking Facebook to pass the time, instead of reading, writing, or just being. I hated that it all made me feel less mindful.
I’ve written before about how the distraction of our smartphone is a distraction of our own making. Quite simply, we can log off any apps that bother us or just put the phone down. But you you know as well as I, that’s way easier said than done.
We all have a complicated relationship with our smartphones. Sometimes we laugh the afternoon away texting with a friend and sometimes we thumb-type seriously stupid things in anger. Sometimes we snuggle with our phone in bed and sometimes we want to throw it across the room.
The trick for me, and with most things in life, is to find a balance. In order to be mindful we shouldn’t have to give up on all modern conveniences to live in a shack in the woods. I should be able to use all the great and worthy features of my smartphone but also be OK with setting it down for periods of time. There’s room in this life for both mindlessness and mindfulness.
I'm about to head to Joshua Tree National Park with a small group of friends for a stargazing weekend. I stayed at this very campground last August so I know for sure that my phone won’t work. I’m looking forward to it, and getting out in nature is a great way for any of us to get a little more mindful.
But in two days I’ll be back in the city. The phone and my love/hate relationship with it will still exist. You can’t just run away from your problems, you have to face them head on.
So I’m going to make an effort to learn from my complicated relationship -- let the things I love about my smartphone help me use it more wisely, while letting the things I hate about it remind me to take a break once in awhile.
It’s a worthy endeavor, for all of us. Make a list of all the things you both love and hate about our modern technologies. Then use both the negative and the positive to inspire you toward balance.