I’m not a Beatles fan by definition, but this song came to mind during a recent email exchange with a dear Internet Friend of mine. I was responding to a series of recent events they’d gone through and in my stream-of-consciousness style I touched on the fact that like my friend, I’m guilty of becoming a hermit and not interacting with my friends as often as I should. My ramblings in my letter (yes… really – I wrote out my response long hand and then scanned it to them) expanded into a variety of other thoughts, mostly on how we humans who use the computer for everything are becoming more and more isolated from actual humans.
I don’t care to talk on the phone. If you’d known me when I was in middle and high school, you’d wonder at the change as I was guilty of being on the phone for hours with a person who was one of my best friends at the time. Now? Phone calls are best left for business or if texts are becoming too numerous and cumbersome and I might as well just call because that’ll take less time. I’m also a fan of email. Email gives me a chance to mull over what I want to say and get it exactly how I want it worded without coming off as an ass because I mixed up what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it which is one of the issues with being a stream-of-consciousness kind of person. Ooh! Glitter!
And so, I rambled on about needing to reach out to friends when we feel ourselves slipping into negative thoughts and feelings. Our friends want to help us. They want to be there for us. We just have to let them.
American society spends so much time with our mobile devices shoved in front of our faces that people appear to no longer be able to connect with each other on personal level. We’ve given over to either fierce independence (I do it!) thinking we don’t need anyone in our corner because fuck them or wallowing in a pool of self-pity and wanton desperation for the approval of anyone and everyone. I’m highly prone to the former and loathe the latter.
I’m sure that there are other cultures similar to Americans who are increasingly disconnected from each other, and yet as half of my friends are from Sweden, famous for sitting down to fika at any and all times of the day, I’m lucky to have a group of friends, my tribe, who will force face-to-face interaction. One cannot refuse an offer to fika (please go read this post talking about that and other fun Swedish facts and anecdotes).
All these thoughts about spending face time with our tribe members, our friends, had me pondering on another question I was asked about how to get younger people joining a national organization that was “getting old and fat”. I’ll write more on that another time, but that question had me pondering about how as a child and teenager I was involved in all manner of sports, 4-H, the National Junior Horticultural Association, the local saddle (horse) club, the regional horse association, began taking Master Gardener classes, was in the band and went to leaders and board meetings for both 4-H and the horse groups. Now, my Mom was the one who drove us (my siblings were involved in the various groups and activities as well) here, there and everywhere, but the overwhelming point is that there always seemed to be time to get things done. I don’t know how Mom did it with three kids, four if you count my father, a hobby farm with a lot of animals and a full-time job.
Now? Mr. Muse summed it up when we had a brief check-in on the status of if we are both still okay being child-free – his immediate response was, “ABSOLUTELY! I barely have time and energy to do what I want to do, let alone what I need to get done.”
So what happened? Beyond going to work and spending a few nights a month with our friends, we haven’t been involved in anything else. For all of the advances in technology that is supposed to make everything more efficient, how is it that we barely have time to participate in activities and groups as adults like we had time to do when we were younger? Have we spread ourselves so thin that we can no longer participate in life outside of work and home work? What has been the cost to our personal relationships with loved ones when we have no recreational or creative outlets? What has been the cost to our network of friends and acquaintances when we don’t participate in recreational, creative, or civic groups?
Effectively? Our group of friends, our tribe, gets smaller. Our network of friends contracts. The people we know, who we can call with questions or for help, dwindles. We feel more isolated, more cut off and ultimately, more alone. I have fond memories of people I got to know through those groups I was involved with when I was younger and I’m missing that in my life now.
So, tomorrow we’re going out with friends for a birthday dinner (one of theirs), I’m scheduling a “decompression from the week dinner” with another couple. I’ve got the next monthly meeting for an interest group marked in my calendar. It’s time to expand my horizons, not to mention my network of friends and acquaintances. It’s time to get involved in Life. (And learn to make a gluten-free version of fikabröd.)
What are your thoughts?
Do you constantly feel pressed for time?
Does your group of friends get smaller with the passing years?
Are you a member of any groups?
I have many acquaintances and few friends. I enjoy my time being isolated from the rest of the world and spending it with my wife. I am very busy but if I was less busy I would still choose to stay fairly isolated from the rest of the population.
I can understand that. I think for me is comes down to the lack of doing things that I think are fun. I commute 2 hours a day, am at my office for 9 hours. I’m left with 5 hours (when I subtract sleeping time) of “free time” that I spend on home work. It’s time for me to have some fun.
I rather feel like I am pressured with so many things in my one job, not to mention my volunteer responsibilities, that when I do have time to “decompress”, I don’t want to do much of anything. I watch tv (a variety of shows I enjoy) and focus solely on those so as not to think about the ever expanding “to-do list”. I have often said I would enjoy doing more things, but feel overwhelmed with what seems (but isn’t) the little time I have.
Based on a comment about this post on Twitter – I think we’ve “busied” ourselves to epidemic proportions. We’re exhausted.
Hopefully, like in my case, what I busy myself with is also what I consider to be fun. If that isn’t the case for others then that isn’t so good.
How do you define “group” here?
I’m a busy person.
On Mondays, I wake at 4:30, walk the dog, feed the dogs, workout, dress the kids, dress myself, go to work, take myself to dinner, head to symphony rehearsal (I could head home after work, but I’d, essentially, have to eat and then turn around to head out for rehearsal), head home to pass out.
On Tuesdays, I wake at 4:30, walk the dog, feed the dogs, workout, dress the kids, dress myself, go to work, pick up my son, head to karate with him, head home, make dinner, bathe the kids, pass out.
On Wednesdays, I wake at 4:30, walk the dog, feed the dogs, workout, dress the kids, dress myself, go to work, take myself out to dinner, head to band practice, head home, pass out.
On Thursdays, I wake at 4:30, walk the dog, feed the dogs, workout, dress the kids, dress myself, go to work, pick up my son, head to karate with him, head home, make dinner, bathe the kids, pass out.
On Fridays, I wake at 4:30, walk the dog, feed the dogs, workout, dress the kids, dress myself, go to work, then I’m, for the first time all week, not actively scheduled. Sometimes I’ll head home to get some housework/laundry/whatever done. Sometimes I’ll sneak in another workout. Sometimes I’ll treat myself to a sauna & long shower.
The weekends? There’s usually some kind of family gathering on a Saturday. There’s always church and then lunch with my in-laws on Sunday. Then the Monday routine starts over again.
As time passes, I’m certain that the activities that are included will change . . . but, to answer “how your mom did it,” you just do, when it’s what you set out to do — you don’t think about it. You might not have kids, but it sounds like you do much the same — there’s shit that needs to get done, so you go out & do it . . . and then it’s the end of the day. I actually feel sorry for the people who “will probably just go home and watch some TV.” There’s part of me that is jealous that they’re “up for anything,” because, well, I have to do this and this and that and that – but, at the same time, I know I’m going to do this and this and that and that — and that person, while having the ability to do ANYTHING, will likely not do much.
To respond to phone calls & stuff . . . if it weren’t for professional responsibility or some bullshit like that, I’d update my voicemail message to “Hi, you’ve reached John, please hang up and text me.”
LOL. I like that voicemail message, sadly I cannot use it either.
I have a difficult time with just sitting and doing nothing. Even if I am watching TV, I’m crocheting, or writing, or mending something. It is only with rare occasion can I “just sit” – mostly that means I’m ill.
Just doing what needs to be done. Yes, I think so.
I could say the secret to getting it all done is simple, you just do it! But that really is no answer. I chuckled as I read John’s response – around about Wednesday, I expected the list to read – Get up at 4:30, dress the dogs, feed and walk the kids, you get the idea. Truth is, everyone handles the daily stuff in their own way. You figure out what you can sacrifice today so you don’t fall too far behind. I multitask and really did learn how to say “No” sometimes, My commute was about 12 minutes morning and night and I was never much interested in shopping. The kids helped with everything in exchange for the trips to meetings, the Pep Band obligations, the horse shows and athletic events and Yes, Church.. But let’s face it, that doesn’t work the same for everyone. This was brought to light on Tuesday when Dad informed me “this weekend, I’ll unplug the Christmas lights” That was not “I’ll take down the Christmas lights and get everything put away” No just I’ll unplug them. Considering one set is plugged in next to the back door and is passed numerous times daily and the other is plugged in next to the front door. Even with the temp below zero, the job wouldn’t even require him to put on his shoes – open the door, reach down and pull the plug – A task that had to be planned for 5 days into the future so that he could fit it into his agenda. Yikes – I pulled both plugs myself – the actual dismantling can happily wait until a warmer breeze blows! You must do what you cotta do and follow Erma Bombeck’s advice – leave the vacuum standing in the living room and if anyone ever questions its presence, your response is – Gosh, you just caught me in the middle of cleaning” Don’t be too hard on yourselves and go have a little fun. Remember, we met with friends for cards and snacks and jokes and lies nearly every Saturday, whether the dishes got cleaned up first or not!
That’s true – sometimes the dishes were in the sink. 🙂 You’ll be happy to know that this Friday is Game Night, it may not be Sheepshead, but Cards Against Humanity can be just as much fun. 😉