Have you noticed a decline in social etiquette?

This week I have been preoccupied by what appears, to me, to be an increasing lack of social etiquette, manifesting in an absence of true connection and communication. This prolific detachment from each other has played on my mind; it has gnawed away at me until I could no longer keep it to myself. I have been wondering if this phenomenon I am witnessing has anything to do with the advent of social media; the fast pace of modern life or a gradual decline in basic human interactions.

Has anyone else noticed how very lazy we have become? Scrolling through a social media site I realised we have become depersonalised. We have come to accept that by clicking a little icon and giving the thumbs up we believe we have adequately communicated with our ‘friends’ virtual or otherwise. I wonder if this sloppy means of communication has led us to forget social conventions when confronted with actual social engagement with others.

Has this lack of thoughtful communication led to the discourtesy evident in many aspects of life? Years ago, before we had mobile phones, Twitter, Facebook and the like I rarely witnessed the instances of road rage apparent today and the general lack of care and concern for others I see on a daily basis. The absence of manners I observe still boggles my mind. What has happened to the basics – thank you, excuse me and please?
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It saddens me when out walking that people will, on approach, avert their eyes, look down, turn away so as to avoid simple pleasantries. Several times I have been ignored after wishing someone a cheerful “Good morning”. Thinking perhaps my squashed still pillow lined face was sending an unwelcome message to approaching walkers I engaged in some people watching to ascertain if people were responding to me alone in a negative way or if the behaviour was more widely spread. My research revealed this behaviour is not due simply to my own off putting facial expressions but is, sadly, a common occurrence.

This lack of communication and common courtesy extends further. Indicators in cars were once considered a necessary condition of driving. Today, however, I find we are required to utilise our powers of telepathy as more and more motorists fail to use the small communication lever designed to demonstrate their intent to turn or to change lanes. What happened to the friendly wave we once gave when someone let us merge into their lane? I miss these little niceties.

Back to the possible ‘root of all evil’ – social media. I have noted the use of the iconic upright thumb being used in confusing ways. A friend recently posted about his grief after the loss of a dearly loved grandparent and shared his great sadness. Trying to take a brave stance at this difficult time my friend also relayed he was going to remember the good times spent with his grandparent. Several other ‘friends’ responded by clicking the little upright thumb icon. Now, this is where my concern and confusion arises. Did they ‘like’ his loss? Were they indicating they liked his current state of grief? Or were they responding to the positive outlook of my friend and his intention to focus on happy memories??? Surely, in this instance, it would have been more appropriate to formulate an entire sentence to communicate condolences. Now I know people often feel awkward responding to grief but another situation arose just this week that caused me to question our communication skills and intent. A friend reported they had endured a very difficult few weeks, was depleted and exhausted and was taking time out to rejuvenate in the bush. Again, several thumbs up. Again, I wondered – what do you like? Do you like; that this wonderful person has been through the wringer? That this caring woman is feeling wrung out, limp, drained? Or were these responses, these ‘likes’, supporting her strategy to get away from it all to regain her sparkle?

Similarly, I have read thought provoking blogs that much time and effort have been poured into by the writer to observe several ‘likes’ and only one or two comments. Do we disregard each other so much that we cannot say what we liked, pass on our appreciation for the author’s thoughts? Can we not take time even to question some of the ideas within said writing? Are we really so busy that we must hastily scroll through messages and smack our approval tag on items that catch our attention for several nanoseconds before moving on with our very important, very busy lives. Have we lost our voices?

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Do I have it all wrong? Am I out of line? This behaviour certainly appears to be perfectly acceptable to a large majority. While this sounds like a big rant, I do realise that many modern inventions make our lives easier. I appreciate too that the lovely little upright thumb is a handy and convenient means of registering our agreement, our having checked in, our approval and liking of certain material. I use it myself. Surely though, there is a time to employ small social conventions and extended discourse to communicate and demonstrate our true interest in each other. Perhaps I’m out of touch but to me this current, prolific superficiality seems askew in a day and age where more people are craving deeper connections, more meaningful interactions and relationships.

As always, when something like this piques my interest, gnaws away or bugs me I know it is a mirror reflecting areas in my life I should endeavour to improve. With the words of Ghandi ringing in my ears –

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

I set an intention for the remainder of this month and next (start small) to create better connections with those around me – in the real world and the virtual world by communicating more fully and more regularly by sharing of myself and taking time to acknowledge and value the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. I invite you to join me on this quest to reclaim our voices, to reconnect, to communicate, to converse, to contribute in meaningful ways with each other.

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I also invite you to respond to this blog. I am interested in knowing if you too have noticed changes in the way we communicate and if it is at odds with the way you think and would like to interact. Do you disagree, have I missed something, do I need a little nudge to look more broadly at the issue?

Great blessings to you this week,

Shannyn

Prising open personal padlocks

“We are chained by our own control. Life is nothing more than finding the key that unlocks every part of our soul.” 

― Shannon L. Alder

From a young age we become accustomed to shutting doors and locking things away to protect and keep them safe. We lock houses and cars and we lock away precious possessions. But that is not all we learn to lock away. As a reflex to social pressure and negative feedback we lock away precious parts of ourselves thus limiting our enjoyment and interaction with life.

I know I have dumbed myself down and hidden away my intelligence because those around me were uncomfortable and confronted by it. Similarly, having gained a position of responsibility in my work; a position that required me to make difficult decisions, lead a large staff, a position that was emotionally fatiguing; I slowly locked away my feminine essence so I could cope in this arena and project a self that was firm and strong, not weak and emotional. Several years later I am desperately trying to reconnect with that side of myself. Where is the key? Which door did I lock that part of myself up behind?

Even when we remember where we left the key and behind which door or into which box we safely locked away our true selves when we reach for those elements of us and try them back on they don’t feel quite right, they don’t fit well. The reunion can be difficult and awkward.

Finding myself at this turning point a myriad of questions flood my mind:

• Is there a safe ground between protecting ourselves and locking our true selves away?
• Are we even aware of the sacred part of ourselves we shut away to protect, hide and keep safe?
• Can we, as a society, save our children, our young men and women from this plight?
• Did I fail my son in this?
• Have I, through my actions, encouraged other young women to project more strongly “socially acceptable” traits over their own personal strengths, talents and gifts?

Witnessing the rising number of workshops, courses and programs designed to help men and women sacredly reconnect with their masculine and feminine essences; I realise I am not alone in my concern. Others too have noticed our modern lifestyle can lead us to develop patterns that contribute to the creation of false identities; that we are whittling away our true essence to cope, manage and perform in an increasingly demanding world of work, business, economics and relationships.

My prayer and hope for our children is that we learn to encourage their inner expansion. That we learn to support them in being their true selves, that we teach them to celebrate their individuality and creativity, their intellect.

My hope and prayer for us is that we begin to unlock the doors, throw open the storage containers and welcome our true essence back into the light. I pray that we learn how to ‘wear’ these parts of ourselves again and enjoy the fullness of who we are; that we take pride in, give voice and a new depth to who we are, that we model for our children how we can be true to ourselves and participate meaningfully in the world.

What precious gems have you hidden away for safe keeping? Are you prepared to bring them back into the light, to reconnect and be more whole, more you?

 

How a pair of ballet slippers inspired me to write.

This year is my year to write. Writing has long been a passion of mine, one I’ve rarely found time for. Oh, I write everyday, as do most of us for work, for social interaction and business matters. I want to write for pleasure and so, one of my intentions for the year is to set aside time to do just that. “Why didn’t you just do it?” I hear you asking. The problem is, I’ve been so overwhelmed, my brain so full and devoted to occupational writing I have been stuck for inspiration, despite having great passion. I was inspired when I discovered the Queensland Writers Centre housed in the vibrant precinct of the State Library of Queensland. They offer a wide range of programs and workshops for budding and experienced writers. I was particularly attracted to their once a month writing club beautifully titled “What’s the Story Morning Glory?” I committed to attending the early morning sessions held on the first Friday of each month.

With great anticipation I rolled up for my first morning of writing last month where, surrounded by other enthusiastic writers, I selected a writing prompt (a photo with a sentence or two to encourage thinking and the creativity) and wrote to my heart’s content for an hour. This simple process began to fill a deep and empty well within me, it addressed a craving I’d had for years. This month I took my son, Blair, another keen but repressed writer, and that’s where the ballet slippers come in. In a rare moment of clarity several ideas solidified.

Okay, they aren't exactly ballet slippers but they're the closest I have.

Okay, they aren’t exactly ballet slippers but they’re the closest I have.

My prompt this month was a photograph of a pair of ballet slippers hung from a hook, by the ribbons, against the backdrop of a grey wall. The written component was:

Hemingway wrote this six word story: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

My task was to write six six word stories of my own.

The enjoyment, the strain, the creativity this simple task required and seeing my son’s enjoyment at having devoted time to his passion; inspired me and set in motion two ideas. I left keen to create writing prompts for Blair who lives outside Brisbane and cannot take advantage of this wonderful once a month opportunity. I began my project immediately upon retuning home. I gathered photographs, pictures and various quotes. I wrote sentence prompts for the interesting, quirky photos and quotes I’d collected. I created a bank of tangible and electronic prompts that I will post or email to him each week so that he too has a stimulus to write for pleasure, as opposed to his everyday encounters with the written word.

The second light bulb moment was to write every week and not wait for the once a month opportunity at the Library. Yes, I know, seems self evident and I should have thought of it earlier but I realised, despite my keenness, if I didn’t leave the house I would fill my day up with chores; washing, shopping, mopping – all those fun things we do to keep busy. Sitting in the vibrant bubble of creativity and surrounded by other writers that crisp Friday morning I decided to create a routine for my writing. Each Friday I will leave the house early and settle down in an ambient coffee shop to write for a couple of hours. Today I headed back to the library precinct as its appeal for me is strong (thier tea is good too).

The inspiration for my weekly writing challenge will, for now, come from the Daily Post on WordPress (http://dailypost.wordpress.com) a fantastic initiative of fellow bloggers who publish a daily writing prompt. Participants can tap in daily or weekly as suits them. Not only have I now carved out this wonderful time on Friday morning to write, I also have inspiration.

Having set my intention I was delighted to find opportunities to write during the week as well.  On Tuesday I arrived for a meeting to learn my colleague was running late. Finding myself unceremoniously propped up in the drab waiting room, without anything to occupy my time, I flicked open my inbox and was delighted to spend an engaging half hour writing thanks to the Daily Prompt.

This month is phoneography month at the Daily Post.  Phoneography encourages participants to capture precious moments using their camera phone. The first challenge I’ve undertaken is to capture a photo of someone looking truly happy. Not “I’m-smiling-for-this-photo” happy, but really, deeply, twinkle-in-the-eyes happy. A photo of a genuine smile, where the subject’s whole face gets involved — their whole body. The challenge is to capture the light in the subject’s eyes and a lack of forced tension.

What a wonderful month of writing I’ve had and it’s only just begun. I encourage you to set your intention and identify time in your week to indulge your passion. These small moments of joy are priceless.

Below are some samples of the fun I’ve had. Just a word of warning though for those among you who are literary geniuses – I said I was a keen writer not necessarily a good or brilliant writer. But, hey, I’m enjoying myself and right now that’s all that matters to me.

Hemingway wrote this six word story: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Write six six word stories of your own.

Silent satin slippers seek sprightly sister.

Loneliness – a pervasive ache deep inside.

Pumps: small tokens of happier times.

Ballet slippers: reminders of wasted talent.

Hung out to dry – career over.

Impeccable word lore – soul soothing magic.

Daily Prompt Tuesday 5th March: Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

Nowhere immediately comes to mind. Is there a place I never want to go? Would I be limiting myself if I say never? Certainly there are places that are not high on my wish list but would I cross them off indefinitely? I’m not sure.

Safety and pleasure are two criteria of travel for me. Aesthetic appeal is important too. I know I could not spend a long time on the slopes of ice covered mountains. The blandness of the snow and ice eats away at my heart. I like the earth, green grass and trees. Desolate arctic regions don’t stir my soul as do lush rainforests, open rolling plains and bustling vibrant city centres.  Although I have enjoyed and found deep peace on the dirty streets of Kathmandu, in the quiet solitude of remote monasteries and empty, far reaching rocky plains of Nepal.

Is there a place I would never visit? No. I’d give anywhere a go once, albeit for a limited time. I’d never say never.

Phoneography challenge: Capture a photo of someone looking truly happy

Deb and me

I love this photo of my friend Debbie and I taken several years ago. We were catching up for dinner on a Friday evening after a busy week when I realised, that despite being friends for several years, I didn’t have a photo of the two of us. Having a trusty camera phone in my bag we were able to capture that evening and our friendship forever.

This single photo of the two of us is very precious to me. It beautifully captures our happiness and ease with each other. It’s almost as if the camera did not exist. It is the only photo I have that records our fifteen year friendship.

 

Thoughtless talk triggers turmoil

Recently a friend posted a photo of a churning ocean with a thought prompt about stepping out of the turmoil of our lives and viewing it from a different angle.

Sadly, that very week I saw her plunged into turmoil over a comment someone made to her. Was the intention to harm her and hurt her?; I doubt it but I saw my very generous, well-balanced, intelligent and remarkably talented friend doubt herself, question decisions she’d made and be thrown off track.

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I too have had many similar experiences. One that comes to mind was a situation in which, having asked for feedback on work I had performed, I was thrown off-balance by the one negative comment I received amid a dozen positive pieces of feedback. I was  in a spin over this for several days. There have been other times too when I have been cut to the core by a careless comment.

Watching my friend spiral into self doubt, I questioned my own reactions in similar situations. Why do we at times place more value on these remarks that unsettle us, cause turmoil and throw us off balance than on our own intuition and inner guidance?  Can we take action to retain our poise when faced with these wayward comments?

I would suggest we need to consider if the comment was intended to cause us pain.  From there we can determine if there is any wisdom or a lesson within it from which we can learn and grow. Being able to step back and ask ourselves; “How does this advice, feedback, remark weigh in with my own thoughts, feelings and guidance?” could alleviate a lot of pain.  We could also, as my friend did, seek the counsel of those we most trust to give us an honest account from their perspective.

As well as trusting your internal judgment and finding friends you trust to give honest feedback there is more we can do. We can cause no harm. I intend to lighten my “footprint” here. Before I speak I will consider if what I have to say can be interpreted in a manner unintended, if what I have to say doesn’t come from a loving place I’ll keep it to myself.

Life is too precious to cause others pain, intentionally or otherwise. Words are powerful, they have the ability to heal and wound. Choose yours carefully and remember: sometimes we simply need to step out of the turmoil  and view a situation from a different angle.

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