The Trouble With Now

Modern life lacks reality.

So much of what we do these days is linked to technology, the internet, our mobile phones. We live life through a screen. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is rather fabulous that we can connect with people on the other side of the world, see their smiles and hear their voices. I love that I can receive a picture of the dogs at home from my mum at any given point, and that I can send a picture of my day to people wherever they happen to be. It is brilliant that we can stay in touch with friends and family so easily.

There is, however, the simple truth is that everything is altered, filtered. I look at Facebook, for example, and cannot help but compare my own life to that of others. But of course what we all so readily forget is that the posts and updates on Facebook are carefully selected, censored and filtered to make them as exciting and positive and successful as possible. I am not judging. I do the same. A photo I take of my dog is filtered to make it look sunnier and captioned with some happy phrase when in reality, it was probably a grey day during which I felt utterly rubbish because I had aches and pains all over the place. But for some reason, I alter that and in return I get likes and comments which make me smile. Do I do it for approval? Not exactly. But I don’t really want to post something that reflects the depressingly dull reality of my day to day life. I’m honest about that at least.

So why is it that I look at other people’s posts and wonder “how can they be so much happier/more successful/together than I am?” Because I know that they’re doing the exact same thing as me if not worse. Only posting the things we want the world to see, the things we think other people will look at in a positive light. But that’s what social media does. It forces us to look at everyone else’s lives as if they’re better than us. We obviously want everyone to think that our world is going around just swimmingly despite reality being completely the opposite at times. No-one wants to see our bad days.

So. Given that we all know the truth of the situation, why do we insist on continuing the ridiculous cycle? I’m not saying we should stop putting filters on photos (because honestly, who’s going to stop?) and I’m not saying we should start positing the negative aspects of our lives, because a facebook page full of positivity; no matter how false; is better than a page full of misery. I merely think that perhaps we should remember the truth. That behind all of the well angled photos, emphatically upbeat statuses and dramatic life updates that make you feel like perhaps you’re failing at something, there are real lives which are as messy and confused as your own. And they’re probably looking at your posts and thinking “wow, they’ve really got a clue…I wish things were working out like that for me”. Maybe we ought to appreciate what we actually have a little more, and worry about other people are doing a little less!

On another note entirely maintaining only a tenuous link to my gripes with the internet dictating our lives, I’m going to ramble on about internet dating for a wee while.

I’ve been giving it a go. Nothing serious, because that’s a bit scary to be honest. But after my initial reluctance, I’ve been using a couple of dating apps to meet people. And I have actually met some people. Which, as some of you will know, is a pretty big deal for panic-ridden anxiety-fuelled me. And it was fine to be honest. No psychos or sleazeballs. I think I have somehow dodged a bullet there, as the screenshots Jenni sends me of her app messages border on the horrific at times. I’ve had nothing like that. In fact, I’ve mostly experienced pleasant conversations with seemingly normal guys. The ones I’ve then met up with have been nice, decent guys with genuine personalities and my panicky instincts have been able to settle down into a mild “he could still be a murderer though” undercurrent. Again, a pretty big deal for me!

So, I can tell you’re dying to ask, what is my actual problem? Where am I going with this mini-rant? Well, let’s discuss the medium through which dating apps work. The internet. Messages. GIFs and emojis and pictures and texts. Great right? Well, yeah. Easy relaxed communication basically. I don’t mind it on the whole. Many of my friends will scoff at this point because they know I’m often pretty rubbish at texting. I forget where I’ve left my phone and don’t pick up my messages for hours, I start typing a reply and either get bored halfway through and delete it or forget to press send and leave it sitting there for hours. But that’s okay, because with these apps and such it doesn’t do to look too keen by replying on the quick. My laxadaisical attitude probably serves in my favour at this point.

And here’s where it stops being cool. The ease with which we can freeze each other out is ridiculous. Simply by not replying, we can totally destroy the confidence of another person. And it is just altogether too easy. There is no guilt attached, no real feelings to make us question our actions. When we make that decision to not reply, we don’t have to look anyone in the face when we do so.

Put simply, it’s just rude. One day you’re having a lengthy and fairly meanginful conversation with someone, punctuated by the odd emoji, and the next you’re being blanked out completely. With no warning, no explanation, no apology. Just a big empty nothing. And if you’ve actually met the person and they do it? Well, that’s just a non-existent slap in the face isn’t it?! It bothers me, the ease with which we can do that. It doesn’t take much to drop a message, “Hey, I’m really sorry but I don’t want to see you again”, or “I think we’re on different levels, but thanks for the chat”, or “I don’t see this going anywhere, sorry and good luck finding what you’re looking for”. How hard is that?! But of course, it still requires a minimal amount of effort. It is altogether much easier to just not say anything at all and leave someone hanging, wondering what on earth they did wrong.

Perhaps it’s wrong, but it’s hardened me even more. This has happened to me a few times so now I approach it all with the attitude of “urgh, figures, whatever, I can’t be arsed with this!” A bit sad? Yes probably. But that’s what happens. That’s what this technology does to us. At least in the real world if you’re going to reject someone, you have to do it openly. You have to look at their face and say the words. Would we just stare blankly and coldly at someone and then walk away from them without saying a word? Would we see and hear them coming towards us and just look past them and continue walking? Would we? Really? The more hard-hearted of us might say yes at this point, but really truly I don’t think we would. It would just be the rudest thing. And unfortunately thanks to social media and apps, we are facilitated in our cowardly rudeness. And I think that’s very sad.

But there we go, that’s the way it is.
Grumble over.
Peace.

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Dear Friends

This train of thought came from a photo I saw recently…

I started going to Quaker Camp when I was very young. I don’t really remember the early ones, when I was very small. I only know that I caused my grandmother, Diana, more than her fair share of grief. I was a stubborn and somewhat contrary child so if she wanted me to eat the vegetables, I would refuse, if she wanted to go for a mountain walk, I would refuse, and so on.  I imagine I didn’t make life altogether easy at times.

As I got older, it became a very important place for me. I would count down the days until we packed up the car to go. I felt sick to my stomach with excitement and nerves as we searched for the wooden sign on the side of the road, pointing us to the right field. I knew I was going to see my friends, but because I only saw them once a year I used to panic that it would be different, that they wouldn’t want to talk to me this year, that they would have forgotten me. But they never did.

In my teens, it was a haven. But we were typical teenagers. We would spend our whole time wanting to go to the nearest towns for a shower or to go to the cinema, grumbling when it was our duty day and complaining loudly every morning when we were woken unceremoniously by children banging on pan lids. Incidentally, as a kid, banging the pan lids in the morning was the be all and end all of camping! You would wait for duty day, just to wake everyone up with a rude clanging and bashing and yelling simply because you were allowed to!! Adults would actually give you the tools, it was amazing. As a teenager, you hated the little blighters with every fibre of your being when they bashed and banged and shouted at 7am outside your tent. Oh the pain!

It was only so bad because we’d have been up late the night before, of course. Not drinking or smoking or anything like that, simply lying out by the campfire, looking at the stars and talking all sorts of rubbish. It was, magical. It wasn’t until the evenings that we would really appreciate where we were. After supper, the campfire would be lit, cocoa would be made and everyone would start vying for the best spots by the fire. As it got later into the evening, people would drift off to their tents leaving the teenagers and “cool” adults to spend hours putting the world to rights. I have memories of the odd few appearing after “watching the sunset”, which we later realised was code for going to the pub!

I used to argue with Di-Di about what we were doing during the day. She would want to go on walks and cycle rides, but I did not. I never did. The thing is, and I remember this and know this with clarity, I was never trying to be difficult. I’m not sure she ever really understood, but what I always loved best about being at Camp, was being at Camp. I felt so relaxed on the campsite, just sitting with a book or some music, or someone to talk to. I didn’t feel the need to leave the site, I was content there. There was a peace that came from being there and I relished it.

It’s been years since I went. I used to feel so emotional when I left at the end of the week or two weeks, to go home again. The lure of hot showers and sofas and flushing toilets, while incredible thoughts, never seemed enough when I thought about the friends and experiences and freedom left behind. And when I was younger, I couldn’t imagine a summer coming around where I didn’t go. Of course, life has a nasty habit of getting in the way and for the past five or six years, I haven’t been in a position where I’ve been able to attend. There were always new faces coming through, so I’m not entirely sure there would be many campers left who would remember me these days.

I hope the teenagers who go now really appreciate their time there. If their experiences are anything like as wonderful and heart warming and soul affirming as mine were, I am happy for them. I used to come away with such incredible peace of mind. Hurts and worries just kind of melted into insignificance, because that open warmth that was shared around the circle would fill you up.

As I type this, my little dog is stretching her head across my middle, and a paw is sneaking onto the keyboard. Life has changed for me in so many ways, but I will never lose that piece of me that was made at Camp. I learned so much there, gained so much and, I hope, gave a fair bit back too. I hope everyone there this year, and in those to come, soaks up every moment of it and loves it. One day they may have their memories jogged by a photo on facebook and find themselves thinking fondly on summers gone by, filled with beautiful faces and stunning places.

I’m glad for my memories.

Thank you, Friends, for being my friends.

The Magic Of Books

I have just finished reading a book.

It was a very good book. There was magic and intrigue, mystery and murder, romance, betrayal and wonder. It was an all round adventure and I loved it.

The only issue I have is that none of it is real. I get so caught up in the lives these books hold; I want nothing more than to fall through the pages and find myself in the midst of it. Finishing a book like that leaves me cold.

More than anything, I want an adventure like that. Minus the betrayal and murder perhaps!

I know that part of the charm of such books is that, because they are not real one can allow oneself to be utterly swept away by it all. In reality, it is likely we would all exercise more caution and less haste in embarking on such journeys.

But still my heart yearns for it.

God damn these authors and their ability to create a world of words so beguiling I long to be a part of it. And bless them for their gifts because I love the way they can paint these pictures in my head.

Even if it breaks my heart that they are pure fiction.

Love

I am in awe!

This evening I chose to sit and watch the One Love Manchester concert. The events of that night have reverberated around the country and broken hearts across the world. Along with people everywhere, I was shocked to read the news the following morning, to discover what tragedy and loss had hit the city of Manchester out of nowhere. It was harrowing and scary and soul destroying.

As the media continued to share details with us about the identities of those people who’s lives were cut short, I watched with growing anger at the senseless actions that caused such suffering. I was furious that one person could cause so much devastation in one short moment. I felt enraged that there are people in the world who wish to behave like that, who feel that they are justified in those actions. It incensed me.

My faith in humanity is not known for being very high, but in the days following the attack on Manchester, it was at an all time low. I was struggling to make sense of it, as so many people were and still are. Because it doesn’t make sense at all. And then this morning my phone pinged at me with more terror news from London. More mindless violence, killing innocent people. It can be hard to accept that this is the world we live in, to feel that the ugliness is taking over.

But tonight, I am amazed. Watching this concert, seeing the love and the solidarity and the passion for life that has brought people together to commemorate and honour those lost and injured, has blown me away. When we are cruel, we are a scourge on this earth. But when we are kind, when we have compassion, when we love, oh we are magnificent.

Every artist performing was sharing messages of love and unification. There were smiles coming through tears and choked words as some people struggled to contain their emotions. But every single one of them was fighting hate with love. How incredible are we, to be able to do that?! To take something tragically painful and turn it into an outpouring of pure sweet love for all.

The strength of it. It’s just amazing.

That is all. I simply wished to share my feeling of total and utter awe and admiration for the way the people of Manchester and indeed the rest of the country are somehow managing to create magic.

Beautiful.

It Can’t Just Be Me?!

In fact, I know it isn’t!

How do I know that it isn’t just me? Because I have had this conversation with people before, although I was on the other end of it. So I know that other people do understand what I’m about to say.

Ever feel like you just need to cry? You know, when you get a strange little bubble just sitting there, blocking you somehow and waiting to pop at an inappropriate moment. Sometimes it can last weeks, months, years. Other times it only sticks around for a couple of hours until “pop” everything comes spilling out. My current bubble has been sitting here for a while. Around the two week mark at the moment, give or take.

I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from. There are so many little things that build up to create a bubble like that. And it only takes one of the tiniest things to pop it. I hate that. Because it means that I never know when it’s going to make a mess of my day! Fortunately, because I only work with one other person, if I were to burst into tears for seemingly no reason whatsoever, I wouldn’t be too mortified by it. Laura would most likely stick the kettle on and make me cuddle Frank for a bit.

Have you ever wanted the bubble to pop though? Like picking a scab or scratching a mosquito bite, you know you probably shouldn’t but at the same time, you really want to. Because sometimes it feels good to take a bit of control over your emotional state. “I’m crying because I want to okay?!” And it can be cathartic too can’t it? Sometimes, letting yourself have a good old boo is the only way to release a whole host of negative emotions that you didn’t even know you had built up. I remember having acupuncture from my grandmother and on several occasions, bursting into sudden tears without even knowing I was going to. When she asked me what was wrong, I didn’t have an answer, only that it felt good to let it out.

I feel like I kind of need that at the moment. Nothing bad is happening in my life so it might seem like I have no reason to cry. And that is very true, I don’t really. Which means actually letting go of stuff is made all the more difficult because I can’t even find something sad to dwell on to make myself cry and pop that wretched bubble with. I’m worried it’ll come out for a weird reason, seeing as I have no bad reasons. Something like, running out of milk or a horse giving me a well-timed snuggle or Daisy making a cute noise. Oh lordy.

What’s a girl to do?!