We are misdiagnosing a huge problem in our WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic <-- I learned this acronym from my favorite thing that I've EVER read on the internet EVER - ha! Did I say that already? You can read it here: A Thousand Rivers. Be prepared to be blown away. Also, I LOVE the WEIRD acronym, and I plan to use it a lot.) Where was I? Did I lose you in that long aside? (I think I may overuse parentheses. Oh well.)
Anyway. Where was I?
Oh yeah - We are misdiagnosing a HUGE problem in our WEIRD culture. We, as a culture, as parents, as "educators", tend to think that "WE" have a problem with overusing technology, whether it is the internet, social media, or smartphones.
The truth is that the internet and our iPhones are not the problem - they are a scapegoat. The problem is DISconnection, and it will not be solved by simply limiting and controlling technology use in ourselves and our children. Two huge reasons that limiting will not work are:
1) Technology is awesome! It's fun! It can do cool things! It makes life easier. It helps us connect to loved ones who are FAR away and whom we can't connect to in our every day lives. The problem with LIMITING, therefore, is that we are labeling it BAD, when in fact it is NOT bad. It's awesome! Even if you think that you aren't labeling it bad - that you are just saying "too much of a good thing isn't good for you" or "all things in moderation" - the message that is being sent to your subconscious and your children by the action of limiting is that it is BAD.
So what happens? If you are trying to cut back on internet use yourself, when you are drawn to it and break your "resolution", you feel BAD. You feel ashamed. You feel like you aren't strong enough to do something that is supposedly good for you. Shame never has the power to create true and lasting change in our behaviors. Because people who feel bad about themselves have a hard time changing. It's a vicious cycle.
If you are limiting your child something different will happen. You see, your kid(s) recognize(s) technology for what it is - AWESOME! So if you try to artificially limit their use, they are not going to be happy with you. It doesn't take a scientific study to prove this - it is happening in homes across America every day. So in effect, by trying to limit them you are driving a wedge between you and your kids, making the REAL problem worse - disconnection. Also, by limiting them you are creating a more intense desire in them for what they cannot have. (Read this wonderful piece by Pam Sorooshian called, "The Economics of Restricting TV Watching of Children").
2) It is human nature to resist being controlled. (And if we get really honest with ourselves, there is really very little we control in life anyway.) This is why RESOLUTIONS rarely last - because they are an attempt to control OURSELVES in areas that we don't really want or are not ready to change in. And although it may appear that we can control our kids for a while (while they live with us or until they get "older" <-- whatever that means) - eventually they will be the ones in control of THEIR choices.
The problem is that parents tend to reason this way: if I give my small child good habits by controlling them now, then when they are old enough and wise enough to make decisions on their own they will have a good "foundation" for doing so. This logic is serious flawed. Why? Because children need EXPERIENCE to learn how to make good decisions and by controlling and forcing them to do it OUR way we are depriving them of that. But using this logic allows parents to feel good about themselves because they think they are doing the "right thing" and that when the child gets older if they choose the "wrong thing" then that will be the child's (or adult's, by that time) problem. In actuality, many unhealthy habits (including food choices, moving or not moving - known by most as exercise, technology use etc.) are created in people by CONTROLLING THEM when they are young.
The misdiagnosis of the true problem is what makes it possible for videos like Prince Ea's "Can we Auto-Correct Humanity?"(you can view below) and Rachel Macy Stafford's piece "How to Miss A Childhood" go VIRAL. The fact that the messages from these wonderfully well-intentioned, creative people are spread through technology, social media and are being watched by hundreds of thousands of people on smartphones is the ultimate irony and shows how disconnected we are from the true problem. Don't misunderstand me - there is TRUTH in their messages. There is love. There is honesty and conviction. At the core both of these people recognize that our real problem is with lack of connection.
The problem with videos and blog posts like theirs is that people use them as validation that we NEED to control our children and we MUST limit their use of technology.
The reason why so many of us can sit watching or reading and nodding our heads as we access the information through our computers and iPhones, is because we sense that there are things that need to change. We also see the irony. Yet most of us will not change our own habits.
How can we do this?
Well another part of the problem is our desire for a quick fix. In our fear, we reach out to grab whatever seems easiest. While connection with our loved ones is a constant work in progress, something that waxes and wanes, changing from moment to moment - an essential part of our lives that must be attended to every day - we long to "fix" the "problem" and be done with it. We want the solution to be neat and tidy, we want to put it in a box and close the lid on it and then we want to wrap that box up with a shiny bow and double knot it. We think that the answer to what ails us is to LIMIT - screen time, Facebook, smart phones. It's why articles claiming that all handheld devices should be banned (BANNED!) for children under 12 (12!! That's years not months!) are popular. But our neat solution actually causes more problems because (again!) - we don't like to be controlled. There's that vicious cycle again. So to reiterate and really drive the point home, this misdiagnosis and simplistic solution actually causes problems for at least 3 reasons:
1) We are misunderstanding what the true problem is. I mean all you need to do is look at that picture at the top of this post to realized that we've always found ways to ignore each other - whether we are surrounded by strangers or loved ones.
2) When we limit technology we create a NEED for MORE and we create resentment which feeds the bigger problem of disconnection in our relationships.
3) When we limit ourselves or our children we deny ourselves and our children the opportunity to make choices freely.
What if there is a different cycle? One full of joy and REAL connection, and the freedom to choose? What if every day, each moment, we started to ask, "what do I want to do right now," or "what does my loved one need right now?" It isn't easy, no, it is a lifetime of practicing and making mistakes and trying again. It is messy. It can't be contained in a box or defined by a set of rules. But with practice we will get better!
With practice we learn to stop what we're doing and turn towards each other.
It sounds too simple to be true.
Instead of limiting, EXPAND. Add things into your life. DO things together - both things that involve technology and things that don't. Because the truth is that LIFE is not "either/or", technology OR no technology. It is not easy to change our regular patterns and habits in life. Adding things in is often a slow process which can feel excruciating when we want change NOW. But adding things in is a positive mindset that will serve us in all aspects of life. Instead of focusing on the thing that we are so worried about, we start seeing all of the things that make our life so beautiful. And when we feel impatient we can remind ourselves that:
Three years ago I started this blog. Two and half years ago I was high on life (and blogging!) I wrote a lot. It felt great! How did I manage to do that with a 5 and 2 year old? Well, I'm sure sometimes I wasn't paying a lot of attention to them (even though I was writing ABOUT them!) One of my favorite lines from a blog about unschooling said, "Seek balance. Sometimes, you find balance by experiencing extremes." I believe that we are so stuck on the idea of IMPOSING balance on ourselves and others that we aren't allowing ourselves experience the extremes. Kids have always been on the "cutting edge" and parents have always been worried. But we don't have to worry. Worrying, limiting, and controlling are choices. So are trusting, engaging, and loving.
I choose love. And my plan is to keep having fun as much as I can. By myself and with my kids. With my husband and other friends and loved ones. Sure, I may be scared sometimes, but I will not let fear dictate my choices or determine my relationships.
PS If you need more reading - A book I plan to read in the near future that addresses this idea is called Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun. (Thanks for the recommendation Sandra Dodd!)
In the past I've picked a word, identified my core desire feelings, and even committed to doing 13 things a month (what the heck! I was motivated that year... Also, yeah - No, I don't think it lasted!)
The past two years I've been a bit more chill. I've picked words and reflected on things but I'm not all, "ON FIRE!" This year I have a couple of things in mind to guide me into 2015.
The word that I've chosen (or more accurately, the word that has chosen me...) is Breathe. I'm focusing on my breath this year. Every day. And especially in the harder moments. Just breathing. And being. And waiting. Knowing that each moment will always pass and new ones will come.
I've been thinking a lot about Change lately. I believe we NEED change. Without change in our lives we stagnate. Yet we also resist change. We think we hate change and that we don't want it. But I know that sometimes I feel most alive and happy and whole when I'm reveling in some new change in my life. So I'm going to focus on consciously creating changes in my life that make me and my loved ones feel good.
I have been getting newsletters from Parallax Press since I downloaded a free book from Thich Nhat Hanh and here is a bit from it that includes a quote from him:
“There can’t be a new year if there isn’t also a new you.” If we do not have the intention to water the seeds of transformation within us, he elaborated, the so-called new year will continue to be very much like the old, not only for us, but also the world.
Wow. I continue to be astounded by the synchronicities that life offers when we are open to seeing them. It is amazing.
But although I believe we need change I also believe we need to be patient and loving with ourselves and others always. I've seen how change in myself doesn't often happen overnight but instead over long stretches of time. So I'm not focusing on huge, grand, sweeping change - I'm focusing on taking Baby Steps.
I found Core Desire Feelings (ala Danielle LaPorte) to be really helpful - when we know how we want to feel we often make better choices to help us achieve those feelings. I've picked 3 feelings to focus on and they are: Engaged, Energized, and Effective. (I think that 3 is a powerful number of words. And I like alliteration. It is one of those dorky things about me that I embrace.)
Finally, while I was walking Yoshi right around the New Year I was thinking about resolutions and how I don't really like the idea of them. But one resolution jumped into my head and that was: I resolve not to get depressed this winter. I've noticed the past few years that I often get in the rut after the holidays, and even when I know it's happening it's still difficult to get out of. I told my mom that I was optimistic about being able to keep this resolution; but, within 48 hours of making it, I was challenged. (Isn't that the way of it?? I think this is why resolutions seem to futile sometimes! But then again, perhaps that is also the point. If it was easy, we wouldn't need to make the resolution in the first place.) I've felt quite angry and sad already this year. But my resolution is helping. I'm making choices that are keeping me focused on what is important and I'm not staying down long.
So far the biggest change I've made is taking a break from a Facebook. It's been a week and I can honestly say it has been wonderful. In a way I did it "cold turkey" - but in a way I had been building up to it (Baby steps!) by taking small breaks and posting/scrolling less. I feel more engaged with my family, more energized to take on more throughout the day, and effective at making change in myself and around me.
I have a lot more time to fill now that I'm not on Facebook. So I've decided to learn to play guitar again. (Actually this is one reason I decided to take a break - I've been thinking about doing this for a while, but just wasn't DOING it. I needed to clear out some time.) I started once before Marisol was born, but then got sidetracked. So far my strategy is to watch some Youtube videos, pick out some tunes - which is fun and helping me build up some calluses on my fingers, and practice a bit each day. My goal is to be able to play some of my favorite songs so I can sing along.
Here are some videos of my baby steps in learning guitar for your viewing pleasure.
Happy New Year!! I hope that you have found some ideas, words, and inspiration for your 2015. It's going to be a great year - I know because 15 is my favorite number.
Looking Back on 2014
I can't complain about 2014. It was a good year for me and my family. It's kinda mind blowing to look back over a full year - I mean the time flies by and yet at the same time the early months seem so long ago.
In 2014 we brought our newest family member, Yoshi, home. We moved to our present home and settled in as quickly as we've ever settled anywhere. I started going to Yoga on a weekly basis. We traveled, had great visits with family, and generally had a great time.
I just took the whole month of December off from blogging. It is the first time I have skipped a whole month since I started Together Walking over 3 years ago. It was not a conscious decision. I often follow my instincts and feelings on things and my body, mind, and spirit were telling me to slow down and take a break.
As I reflected on this past year I realized how many defining moments and realizations I've had lately. Here are a few of my favorite things that I've discovered this year:
1) My favorite thing that I've ever read on the internet: A Thousand Rivers, What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning
2) My favorite group to listen to during emotional times - The Wailin' Jennys.
Especially One Voice and By Way of Sorrow and... ok just about anything they sing!
3) My favorite TEDx talk yet: Peace code in the human brain by Robin Grille
I'll probably write more about this in the future, but for now I'll just say that I started bawling after watching this talk. It was a mixture of feelings of validation, relief, and hope. It is totally awesome and you should watch too.
4) My favorite character ever: Thanks to Marisol we are reading the Harry Potter series together and I'm falling completely in love with Dumbledore again. He is just too amazing to put into words. His sense of humor ("Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thanks you!"), his sense of unwavering justice, fearlessness, kindness, intelligence, integrity, the way he treats Harry and the other students... well obviously I could just go on and on! Clearly I am in love. And I've found my role model for life. So what if he's fictitious.
There were a few themes in 2014 too: Death, Lice, and Gratitude being the Top 3. I know they don't sound very uplifting or glamorous overall, but they were (uplifting) and maybe life isn't meant to be glamorous.
I don't think I can elaborate on why I felt like Death was a theme here - it deserves a whole post (or more) on it's own. But I'll just say it's a topic that has been on my mind a LOT this year and I feel like I've learned a lot from delving into it, even though it's not always fun.
Lice is more like the theme of our fall and winter and again - not really fun or glamorous, but I strive more for honesty here, and HONESTLY we've been dealing with it! I've learned that trying to "take care" of Lice is more of a marathon (with some sprints thrown in) and I'm better at the sprint part. And when you don't get to the finish line you just make your marathon longer. Oh well. It's also a good attitude check. Life and Lice happen - now go make some lemonade. (<-- if this paragraph made sense to you - awesome! If not, don't worry about it.
Onward! As one of my favorite people - who I forgot to list above - Elizabeth Gilbert says all the time.)
In the late summer and early fall I fell into a very emotional state of being. I wasn't exactly depressed - as I "carried on" with life quite well. But I could feel my heart aching every day. Literally aching. My chest physically hurt just about every day and I felt incredibly raw and vulnerable - like my chest was open and heart exposed.
During that stretch I took to recording my Gratitudes frequently - for the first month or so I did it every day. After a couple of months of doing this I noticed my heart wasn't so achy and I felt much lighter in spirit. I'm tucking this away in my store of experiences to remember in the future when I need it.
I also discovered The Theme song for my life: Nothing More by The Alternate Routes. The chorus really sums it up for me:
We are love,
We are one,
We are how we treat each other when the day is done.
We are peace,
We are war,
We are how we treat each other and nothing more.
It is so true and it explains the vastness of the human (and other species) experience. We are capable of All Things - great things, loving things, terrible things, fearful things - all of it. In the end it comes down to our choices and how we treat each other.
Marisol, my mom and I sang this song at the Lockwood family reunion to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday this year which will be a cherished memory for us too.
But if I had to pick the two things that made 2014 an amazing year for me, myself, and I - it is easy to do. Those two things are Yoshi and Yoga.
Before we brought Yoshi home I taught a Hypnobabies series to four expecting couples - all four were dog owners! If that is not really cool, amazing, meaningful - maybe "meant to be"? jumps to mind - then I don't know what is. They were all thrilled for my family and one student mentioned that getting a dog is "life changing".
At the time I didn't completely understand. But now I do. I'm totally in love with my dog. She is just so wonderful and I can't imagine our family without her anymore. And I'm completely lucky to have her because her needs perfectly align with some of my needs that I was neglecting before we had her. I now regularly take walks, get outside (daily!) and get to talk with my new friends while she plays with hers. Thank you Yoshi, I love you!
And Yoga, ah Yoga. I put Yoga at the top of the list of best things I've ever done for myself. I'm that serious about it. I haven't missed a week since I started this summer (except when we traveled - and then I did make-ups!)
What were some defining moments for you in 2014? Some of your favorites? What did you discover about yourself? About others?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.