Rituals of Reticence

“Quiet time” might be one of the most confusing words in the Christanese English Dictionary.  It’s revered, insisted upon, and I’ve always felt vaguely guilty for not doing enough of it, but it’s hard to know what it actually is.  Quiet time involves Bible reading, of course, and definitely some praying.  I hear whispers about worship songs and something about a special chair in a corner with a quilt.  Not to mention #CoffeeAndJesus.  Or should that be #JesusAndCoffee?

I’m an ex-seminary wife, but I’m no theologian so I won’t attempt a dissertation on the means of grace.  However, I think it’s fairly clear from the Bible reading I’ve done that we are called to read God’s Word regularly and come to Him with our prayers, thanksgivings, and worship.

When I think about those activities, they have a common theme of requiring a great deal of attention.  It may or may not be audibly quiet but to be still before God requires, well, being still.  And reading the Bible well requires time, an attention span, and the mental space to reflect.

I still feel like my 5 year-old self who was constantly getting scolded in Sunday School for playing with the Velcro on my shiny patent leather shoes during prayer time. I continually find it a struggle to sit still for long enough to read Scripture well or to place my attention on God instead of myself for more than 10 seconds at a time.

But why should I expect myself to be able to be quiet before God if I’m not quiet any other time of the day?  If I can’t carve out times to think or reflect about anything without obsessively scrolling through my Instagram feed, why would my time with God be any different?

Our attention is so often misplaced, refracted by the prism of technology into infinite beams of distraction–red inboxes, blue newsfeeds, yellow snaps, and rainbows of images–all stealing my ability to focus on just. one. thing.

The habits we allow to rule the majority of our lives will naturally spill over into the times we set aside to intentionally grow in our faith and relationship with God.  If I lose my literacy by skimming online articles and headlines, my ability to read the Bible suffers as well.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Luke and I often remind each other of this quote from Blaise Pascal. The bad news is that it’s harder than ever nowadays to be quiet and alone. The good news is that replacing the rituals of distraction with intentional attention will not only make being quiet before God more natural, it will smooth out some other wrinkles in the rhythm of life.

And sure enough, when we begin to prioritize thinking over texting and listening over “liking”, we find our problems smaller, our hearts calmer, and our minds clearer.

Living in Russia without a traditional 9-5 grind has provided me with the opportunity for more mental space.  This fall, I’m going to focus on growing my attention span and creating rituals of reticence throughout my day.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts on misplaced stuff (not the lost luggage variety) next week! Same place, same time.  You can sign-up for an e-mail notification in the box below.

 

RSI of the Thumb

I’ve officially diagnosed myself with thumb RSI (thanks, WebMD).  RSI = repetitive strain injury where fine repetitive movements in the thumb cause tiny tears in the muscles and tendons.  The tendons run out of lubrication as there is insufficient time to rest and recover.

I blame Instagram, but I mostly blame myself for making scrolling on my phone my default posture when I’m not doing anything else.  This post will be brief, because I’m down a digit.

After several days in an existential crisis, I realized that my sore thumb was a symptom of a much larger problem.  Not only am I abusing technology by wasting time on my phone, I am actively seeking those dopamine rushes when a new e-mail, text, or notification comes through.  I’ve silenced all phone notifications and quit Facebook, but that doesn’t help much when you’re checking your phone every 5.8 seconds.

My first solution to this general feeling of emptiness is to find more hobbies.  If I’m looking to my phone for entertainment too much, I should probably pick up oil painting. My husband gently reminded me that I’m already an aspiring baker, fairy gardener, recipe organizer, writer, crafter, reader, runner, and QuickBooks novice, so perhaps my problem was not too much time on my hands but a misplaced hope.

We live most of our days with a vague longing that something will come in the mail one day that will change our lives forever.  It’s not just my phone I’ve been looking to for fulfillment.  I keep hoping my life will provide me with an unexpected excitement that I know I’d despise if it came because the anticipation is greater than the realization.

My thumb needs time to rest and recover from my anxious scrolling and so do I.  Instead of finding another distraction, my goal is to more fully participate in the hobbies, relationships and rituals I already enjoy.

 

All is not as it seems

Facebook after an election is probably at terrible idea.  Yet curiosity not only deprived me of an hour of sleep on election night, it also kept me scrolling through endless angry and ecstatic articles.

I don’t have the time, energy, or ability to deal with hateful comments to deal with all of the logical fallicies presented on my News Feed tonight.

So I’ll just pick my favorite!  It was sparked by this tweet:

And reinforced this article: If You’re Feeling Sad Today Just Check Out the Millenial Electoral Vote Map.

If you were hoping to hear how I voted or what I think about the election, you can stop reading now.  I’m more fascinated with the media ecological side effects.

At first glance, the facts line up with the map. There were, in fact, more people under 44 voting for Clinton than Trump and vice versa when we look at the over 45 crowd.

exitpolls_cnnage

Source: CNN.Com

The color-coding makes that obviously appearant.  But the percentages themselves aren’t that overwhelming–they all hover around 50%.  Which means it’s a pretty even split in all age demographics on Clinton vs. Trump.  I’m not statistiction but I’m guessing the percentage point differences aren’t statistically significant.  If you are a statistiction, please comment and let me know!

Even if there was a statistically significant poll that showed the majority of folks under 40 voted for the Democratic nominee, I somewhat doubt that this signals an oncoming wave of liberal 50 year olds.  At least, I surely hope that we all change and grow in the next 30 years–whether that means some of my peers switch parties, some dig their heels in deeper, or some become disallusioned and go live in hobbit hole somewhere.

Right now, it makes a lot of sense that younger people slant towards liberal policies. We advocate more for change when we’re young and we don’t know as much about the world.  It’s easier to vote for higher taxes for richer brackets when we’re chilling by the poverty line. And we’ve only been a life for a quarter of a century so long-term effects don’t mean as much to us.  It doesn’t mean we’re right, but it does make sense.

If a person is not a liberal when he is twenty, he has no heart; if he is not a conservative when he is forty, he has no head.’ — John Adams

This inherent media bias isn’t limited to young people. Throughout the news coverage I watched on NBC, an underlying assumption that all women voted for Clinton and all older males voted for Trump colored every question that asked.

One reporter asked, “As a woman, what was it like to vote for Trump?”

Last time I checked, women fill in little bubbles with regulation black ink the same way men do. I tested this and Luke and I have remarkably similar bubbling techniques.  We credit the state mandated standardized tests of our youth.  Thanks SATs!

While the color-shifting presidential race map was almost as fascinating as a lava lamp, I found the exit poll results to be telling an equally interesting story.

Perception: All women vote for Clinton

Reality

exitpolls_cnn

Source: CNN.Com

Perception: All college-educated folks vote for Clinton

Reality

exitpolls_cnneducation

Source: CNN.Com

Perception: All rich people vote for Trump

Reality

exitpolls_cnnincome

Source: CNN.Com

Perception: All married folks vote for Trump

Reality

exitpolls_cnnmarriage

Source: CNN.Com

Just like the age demographics, our perceptions turned out to be true but just barely.

All that to say: young people can and will change and media outlets that try to support equality and free thought often squelch it with their inherent bias.  Again, the medium is the message.

2016 Is The New 1984

I’ve been reading my way through the “English classics I probably should have read in high school but somehow didn’t” this past month and slowly working my way up (or down?) to a 12th grade reading level.

Summary: Animal Farm? Good. The Scarlet Letter? Excellent. Catcher In The Rye? Didn’t get it. To Kill A Mockingbird? In progress but loving it. 1984? Yikes.

I just finished George Orwell’s dystopian novel from the mid 20th Century and rank it pretty high on my list of  “terrifying glimpses into the future” books.  It bypassed The Giver with a wide margin, barely squeaked past Anthem and sits squarely underneath Atlas Shurgged and Brave New World.  Overall, I still agree with Postman’s thesis in Amusing Ourselves to Death that it is Huxley’s world of brain-numbing entertainment that is more probable than Orwell’s Big Brother brainwashing in 1984 but there was at least one striking similarity to Orwell’s world and our own that made my heart skip a beat.

The telescreen.  If you haven’t read 1984 yet, it’s a two-way television that monitors your every word, movement, and facial expression.  It’s used by the Thought Police to identify and exterminate potential traitors.  Terrifying, right?

Yet we are pre-ordering them as fast as we can type in our credit card information.  Today’s telescreen is known as Google Home or Amazon’s Echo. Or to hit closer to home, Siri.

The appeal of this virtual assistant (robot?!) devices is obvious.  You can look up information, set timers, manage your to-do list, cook spaghetti, decide on where to go out, order take-out, ignore your spouse,  play music, etc… with just a few words.   As someone who is in love with all things centralized, the idea of having one device with many purposes is extremely alluring.

But there’s the flip side.  How do these devices know when you’re talking to it?  You say, “Ok, Google” or “Alexa” or “Siri.”  Which means it’s ALWAYS LISTENING.  Right now, it might not be recording everything you say.  Right now, the government might not be allowed to subpeona those records.   All I can say is that I’m going to wait and see how these play out before inviting a telescreen into my home.

All right, now that you’re fully convinced I’m a conspiracy theorist, let me know what you think. Does two-way technology freak you out at all?  If you need me, you can find me in my bunker (just kidding…for now).

Sales 101

I’m on a mission. A mission to find the best social media publishing, monitoring, and analytics tool out there. Countless hours of searching, spreadsheet compiling, and sales calls later and I’ve decided that the perfect solution doesn’t exist. However, I learned some valuable sales tips along the way.

  1. Do your research but don’t be creepy. Every good salesperson LinkedIn stalks before calling a prospect. I’ve seen my profile up on a tab during demo screen shares many a time and I appreciate the due diligence. However, asking extremely detailed questions about my interests is unprofessional. Questions like, “When was the last time you went mountain biking?” and “Where exactly do you live?” just aren’t necessary and a waste of both of our time.

I reached out for information, not a new best friend.

2. Do e-mail before calling. I don’t have Caller ID on my desk phone, so I’ll always pick it up. It’s frustrating to be interrupted in the middle of a project so please try to do most of your communication via e-mail first. With the advent of Inbox Zero, a lot of us do actually respond to most e-mails.
3. Don’t ask for sensitive information over the phone. Love it or hate it, the open office is a reality for most professionals nowadays. If you ignored #2 and called me anyways, there’s a good chance everyone in my department can hear what I’m saying on the phone. Asking for sensitive information about my company or budget puts me in an awkward position and won’t get you closer to the sale.
4. Do have an awesome accent and keep it short. The 2 best sales calls I had in this entire process were from Sendible and Buffer. Sendible is based out of the UK and the salesperson had the best accent ever. Maybe faking a British accent isn’t for everyone, but what really sold me on him (and maybe his product) was that he was honest and upfront about the strengths and weaknesses of the product (see #5). I’ve been a huge fan of Buffer’s culture and personality for a while, so I wasn’t surprised that their sales call was quick, informative, and not the least bit awkward.
5. Don’t avoid giving information to focus on the sale. When I take the effort to reach out for more information or a demo, that’s actually what I want. Information, not a sales pitch. There’s nothing more infuriating than asking a specific question (Does your service provide xyz?) and getting a pitch for another feature returned.
6. Don’t belittle the gatekeeper. I get it. I’ve gone through Sales 101. You are trained to ask if there’s someone else involved in the decision making process. I know you’re eager to get to whoever holds the purse strings, but the reality is, you’ll probably never talk to him. The gatekeeper (aka me) who is doing the research will make the proposal of which company to use. If you want to be in that presentation, stop worrying about talking to someone who doesn’t have the time and focus on the one who is actively seeking your product out.

Not only did my research give me valuable insights on what makes a great sales call, I also learned a lot about social media platforms and how hard it is to pick one. I’ve got some helpful tools up my sleeves for other social media specialists in the same boat–stay tuned!

This article was originally shared on LinkedIn. You can find it (and other social media/professional related writings) on my profile.

Insta This.

There have been some pretty great mockeries of the Instagram facade lately.  Like when Barbie when hipster and this girl decided to cut out the cropping. Personally, I’ve been tempted to create a satire of my own, showing the moments that truly encapsulate my day: red brake lights, my empty coffee mug, the dirty dishes that NEVER END.

It’s not news to anyone that our Instagram and Facebook feeds are rarely indicative of reality.  And that’s okay.  We turn to social media as a way to escape from the real world of traffic and messy kitchens.  What worries me isn’t the fact that your albums are full of happy photos and inspirational quotes.  What worries me is that everyone’s albums are full of the same happy photos and inspirational quotes.

My Instagram feed is starting to look like a really good set of stock photos.  Cute feet, artful lattes, the latest book.  Since moving across the country, I’ve become a much more avid consumer of social media.  I like seeing what my friends and family are up to.  But nowadays, I can’t tell if those legging-clad feet in adorable saddle-back shoes belong to my childhood neighbor, high school acquaintance, college soulmate, or dad. Minus that last one, I’m missing what used to be the backbone of social media: connection.

Don’t get me wrong.  The photos are gorgeous.  I just want to see more of you in them.

Until next rant,
Chloe

Silence

Silence is a beautiful thing. It is rare. It means you are alone. Today, people are aloneaphobic. They can’t walk down the hallways alone. They can’t enjoy an evening alone. Even if they can’t find humans, they fill their spaces with noise and distractions and needless communication. No wonder we are so confused as to who we are. The only way we can see who we are is by observing our constant interaction with others. In the end, we base our idea of who we really are off of how we talk, what we say, what we do, and who we are associated with. I can’t think of a more innaccurate means of measurement. Where is your heart in all that? How can you tell who you are when you are so busy trying to control how you appear to others? You will turn into that ficticious person. You will cease to exist. Try being alone and then see who you are. When you are alone you can hear your thoughts. What are you thinking? Right now? Close your eyes and stop reading this blog. What fills the empty spaces in your brain? Or do you even have empty spaces? Is your life so full with other people and priorities that there is no room for unintelligble nonsense? Don’t let it be. Dream the impossible.

So there’s this new drug called Facebook…..

Facebook Anti-AdHello. My name is Chloe Smiley and I am addicted to Facebook. This addiction has afflicted an entire generation. I know several friends who have reached a point of no return. You know the part of all of those medicine commercials that list off all the potential side effects? And if you listen closely you start to wonder…why in the world would I take medicine that might kill me just so my legs stop feeling restless? It really doesn’t add up. The same goes for facebook (see, I wasn’t completely off topic). We are so easily impressed by the flashing images before our eyes that we stop hearing the side effects. So I am going to spell them out (cue images of happy people walking through fields of flowers to distract you)
1. Tendency to walk through life seeing it through the eyes of “ooh! that could be a good status” This has been reported to cause fatal narrow mindness and inability to enjoy life for what it is instead of enjoying life for the status it could inspire.
2. Leads to fatal self-centeredness. Many people have found that facebook leads one to base self-affirmation in number of comments, likes, friends, wall posts, etc…. Once reality hits, these empty affirmations will hurt you more than a denied friend request ever could.
3. Abnormal behavior and seizures when denied access. Life seems empty and meaningless with Farmville.
4. No longer able to communicate with friends face to face. People with this side effect often try to link things to their friends in the real world, only to recieve weird looks. Also leads to attempts to comment on others conversations resulting in the unsavory titles of “evesdropper” and “creeper”

5. Unexplainable urge to poke people as a form of interaction. The results when one finds others do not think poking is endearing can be disastoursous.

6. Inability to go on the internet/do homework/fulfill responsibilities/pet your dog/eat……..without checking facebook first. These distorted priorities will catch up with you and the resulting chaos will provide the perfect sympathy evoking status. Lucky you.

 

Some claim that the benefits of facebook (being friends with people you don’t know, seeing events that you weren’t invited to) far outweigh these side effects. Don’t let the pretty pictures fool you.

 

This is only the beginning but I can’t finish this post now…I need to go post this on my facebook.