Are you capturing the moment or enjoying the moment?

Snapshot camera of today

Smart phones have turned everyone of us into photographers and curators of images to share on social media, but what I saw in the Sydney Running Festival last week took the concept of taking photos to a whole new level. This runner in front of me was holding a selfie stick and as I passed him by I could see him adjusting the stick while smiling at the camera. Talk about multitasking! I can’t imagine how anyone would run 21KM holding a stick – in addition to being a safety hazard it slows you down and in my view prevents you from paying attention to everything else, the race, the scenery, other runners. I don’t know if this runner did hold the stick all the way to the finish line and this is probably an extreme example, but what I find really sad is that in many situations we see people capturing the moment instead of enjoying the moment. Instead of looking at the rainbow we reach out to our phones to photograph the rainbow.  We can look at it later when it’s on Facebook when our friends are liking it.

When we only had 24 pictures per roll we were much more mindful with what memories to record, we waited patiently to have them printed and placed in the album or shared with friends. We enjoyed the moment first, the photos came second.

I’m not suggesting that we should stop photographing. The photos we take and collect tell an interesting story about us and the world we live in. There are so many beautiful, provocative and curious events and things that illustrate our lives and it’s important to keep a record of them. But I’m arguing that the rush to digitally record every moment doesn’t make our lives more meaningful. Scientists even suggest that this mindless photo taking is ruining our memories.

I suspect that this need to capture every moment is fueled by our desire to show to the world how busy and important we are. Only the best snaps will be loaded on Facebook or Instagram to present ourselves in the light we think is most appropriate. In our hyper-connected world we need to be seen doing something exciting. You can no longer just sit and enjoy the sunshine at the beach. You must ensure you capture a nice image to share. That’s a lot of pressure to always be on the look out for excitement.  The mind doesn’t get a break – when it does, we ensure it gets entertained with our phones, either by producing content or searching something online, reading the latest feeds, checking email or watching silly videos.

By sharing mindless photos and content online we are only contributing to the noise. So it would be really helpful if next time we feel the urge to grab our phones to photograph our breakfast, we take a step back and think if wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the experience instead? We probably will never look at that photo again and our friends won’t really like a cold coffee.

My grandparent-less upbringing

Grandmother

My mum with baby Thomas

I was in a cafe the other day when an elderly woman set down at a table next to be. She reminded me of my mum. A few minutes later a mother with two children arrived. They greeted the elderly lady, gave her big hugs and sat down. They were giggling and chatting for about thirty minutes and finally left with the kids holding grandma’s hands and I was left holding back my tears. There was so much love among them and that made me think of my own grandparent-less childhood. My parents moved from Rio to the Northeast coast of Brazil when they got married, and travel was not as affordable as it’s today, so me and my siblings grew up without any connections with our extended family. We had relatives that came to visit here and there and as lovely as it was to have them around for a few days, they were  strangers to me.  I’m talking about the pre-internet age here, there was no Skype or Facebook. We knew very little about each others lives.

Kids that grow up with grandparents, aunties and uncles around are very fortunate. In fact, these children are happier than kids without grandparents. I was reading about a study that shows that “the emotional relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can significantly affect the children’s academic, psychological, and social development.”  Another study found that kids that have a close relationship with their grandparents have less symptoms of depression and have better emotional health.

I remember from my own childhood feeling a bit jealous of kids that went to their grandparents home on the weekends or were picked up at school by their grandparents. I always thought it was exciting to have a ‘second’ home to go back to and if something happened to your parents, you knew that you would still have family to love and care for you. In addition to creating an extra layer of security, grandparents pass down unique life lessons and values that you don’t get from your parents.

Fast forward 30 years, history repeats itself. Like my parents, we also moved away, much further away. Thankfully my kids were born in the digital age, so even oceans apart, they know that their grandparents, cousins and relatives are just a click away. My mum and parents-in-law are now too frail to endure an ultra long-haul flight, so we keep going back to Brazil whenever we can. We probably won’t be able to leave a lot of possessions for our kids but they are surely collecting lots of stamps in their passports and memories that will last a life time.

 

 

Too busy or not too busy, that is the question

A typical day
We are all too busy. At least this is what we proudly tell ourselves and others. I wrote about this before– everyone seems to be so crazy busy that busyness is now seen as a virtue, a symbol of status. If you are busy and unavailable you surely must be living an important life. But I am reading a fascinating book, Overwhelmed, that offers a different perspective to the hysterical condition of our busy lives. Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte has investigated the cultural epidemic of “overwhelm” to write the book and one of the points raised is that we exaggerate how busy we are. In the book, sociologist John Robinson argues that women have 30 hours of leisure time per week. He says:
“[Women] have at least thirty hours of leisure every week. It’s not as much as men, but women have more leisure time now than they did in the 1960, even though more women are working outside the home.”
I’m only in the second chapter, but I’m finding this argument quite implausible. So, I decided to do a time diary. A typical day for me includes:

1.30 minutes of breakfast, lunchboxes getting ready to school
1 hour of school drop off/pickup
1.30 minutes preparing/eating dinner
1.30 min hour for homework/reading/afterschool activities
30 minutes preparing kids to bed
30 minutes shower, brushing teeth, getting ready to bed
30 minutes of housework
1 hour of exercise/gym
8 hours of work
7 hours of sleep

According to my calculations I can easily account for 23 hours of my day. And this does not include a phone call to a friend, checking personal emails, meditation, walk the dog, a bit of social media here and there or writing or reading. I can’t see where I would fit 4.2 hours per day of leisure time (30 hours per week), unless I cut back on sleep.

I think the time sheet above is pretty common to most working parents. So the question is, are we really too busy? Do we really need to cut back on sleep to squeeze in more leisure time? I can’t wait to move on to the next chapters to find out more, but looks like I’ll either have to sleep less tonight or wait until the next weekend. In the meantime I’d love to hear your thoughts.

7 fathers’ days without my dad *

family

What’s to say? Nothing replaces a loved one. It’s only memories now. It was and still is devastating that I couldn’t say good bye and I couldn’t be there to say “I love you dad”. Like him, I also moved to a distant land away from family and there is a price you pay for that.

Every father’s day I say a little prayer to you dad. I hope you can hear it, somehow. It’s never without tears. I love you.

* It’s actually 14 father’s days – the Brazilian father’s day is in August and Australia’s in September.

Ouch! Multitasking Hurts

Multitasking

Epic fall from the treadmill yesterday. Today they are sore and bruised, can’t run.

We all multitask. We check our emails while eating, talk on the phone while driving, etc. But neuroscience has been telling us for some time that our brains are designed to focus at one thing at a time. I often praise myself for being a multitasking master but I know it’s not the way we should operate. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller noted that we are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”  And the cost for me this time was an epic fall from treadmill. It was painful and embarrassing. I simply moved my phone from the right bottle holder to the left. It was probably a 2 second task and it sent me tumbling down. The treadmill only took a few seconds to stop but it felt like an eternity. I was in all fours while the machine was running and the sandpaper-like belt scraped my knees – over and over – until I eventually jumped back and out of the machine. Painful. Embarrassing. Stupid.

I’m promising myself to resist the temptation of multitasking. I already failed miserably while preparing a dinner party last night. But today it was a bit better – one thing at a time – although it’s a Sunday and I haven’t really done much. Wish me luck.

Warning: Blue Skies Ahead

How I longed for Spring to come this year. Just to think about longer and warmer days makes me feel energized. And I need every ray of sunshine to dry the endless loads of laundry that my kids produce. Today my son was ‘buried’ at after school care – with jacket and all. I thought I wouldn’t have as much laundry to wash as my kids grew older but for as long as I can remember it’s been 5-6 loads per week. Anyway, this is a load that is easy to carry. A much heavier one has been managing my anxiety. Thankfully I’ve been able to lead a high functioning life but sometimes it’s not easy. And Thursday 10 September is ‘R U OK?’ day so I thought of talking a bit about my experience. If you are finding it hard to cope, be certain that there is light beyond the fog. Or if you know anyone that don’t look quite like themselves lately, you can start a conversation that can change (or save) a life.

Welcome Spring

It’s important to talk about the heartaches of life but we don’t find many people out there sharing what’s going wrong. In our hyper connected world fueled by social media we only peep into other people’s lives and what they let us see is usually ‘picture perfect’. Everyone seems to be having it easy and riding the waves of life like a pro, so it’s not uncommon for people feel isolated. If you are finding it hard to cope REMEMBER that you are not alone. There are 3 million people living with anxiety or depression in Australia.

I spoke with a friend this week that suspects she’s suffering from anxiety. I hope I’ve been of good help. It’s not easy to talk about needing help to deal with mental health issues. Unfortunately there is still a lot of prejudice, stereotyping and ignorance. I’ve heard and still hear well-meaning people saying or implying that you just need to be a positive (or determined, responsible, motivated) person and you’re immune to mental health problems. But the problem is that anxiety, depression and other mood disorders are not just a problem – they are an illness and as such they need treatment or they can take over your life. Anxiety and depression left untreated can lead to serious problems like addictions (not just to drugs; compulsive shopping, spending and eating, etc…) , inability to hold a job, family problems, suicide, etc…

Anxiety is much more than getting nervous before a job interview. Anxiety does not go away, it’s always present – you feel anxiety most days, if not everyday. Beyond Blue has a factsheet with signs and symptoms that is quite informative.

From my experience, I know that there are dark days, days you don’t want to leave your bed but you do it anyway because dragging yourself out of the house is better than staying there with your thoughts (or because kids need attention, bills need to be paid…). But I also know that there is a blue sky beyond the stormy clouds. The road to blue sky is not easy but with the right treatment and support the relentless mind starts to give space to a sense of calm and contentment.

If you think you can help someone by asking R U OK? check here to see how to start a conversation. It doesn’t have to be September 10. There are countless people out there that have their minds ‘hijacked’ by anxiety and they don’t even realise they need help. When I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder seven years ago, no one knew what was going on in my head while I was obsessing about dying of cancer – I wasn’t physically sick, it was all in my mind. After countless visits to the doctors, one of them eventually picked up my stress and emotional cues and sent me in the right direction. This doctor wrote in a small post-it note “ALL WILL BE WELL”. It was a gesture that made a world of a difference.