Wednesday, March 28, 2012

fun is a choice

My friend and I were sitting in Bryant Park recently, discussing the serious lack of fun in our lives. It dawned on both of us simultaneously that we were having fun at that very moment, but overlooking it in the search for something Really Fun. Given what I know about my love for fun, I was surprised at my own willingness to overlook the Little Fun, the Mundane Fun, and the Regular Fun in a quest for some big kind of Transcendental Fun or SuperGiantAwesome Fun.

And at that moment, in a very uncomfortable chair in a very crowded Bryant Park, I committed myself to a month of fun. Or, in the world of Kate, a Funth!

Every day for a month I am going to do something fun. It can either be wacky -- like a Thai Yoga Massage class (that, sadly, got cancelled on Sunday), or a viewing of Punderdome 3000 (a groan-inducing punning competition) -- or it can be simple, like the surprise of being able to talk to my friend while on the elliptical machine in the basement, or having a quiet brunch full of smoked salmon with a dear friend. There are no rules about the fun that is allowed to count, I just have to be intentional about it. And I have to have some every day.

And this reminds me: fun is a choice. I left the park that afternoon and found myself in my office, working on the same project I was tackling before lunch, but approaching it with a totally new attitude. More levity. More curiosity. More of a song in my heart.

In a way, my Funth is a continuation of the Year of Yes! (well, ok, the 14 months of yes) and in a way, it's a completely different project. During the YoY, I tried to imbue my life with different qualities, to see how they showed up in my actions. During the Funth, I am committing to taking action, to see how those actions impact my thinking. The YoY was inside out; the Funth is outside in.

And you're all invited. Anybody want to have some fun?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

how my iPhone makes me feel more disconnected

I now have the internet at my fingertips 24/7. My adorable little phone (aptly named "Spankie") has ushered me into the 21st century, and now I know how the other 99% live. I can text, tweet, post to facebook, upload photos, and otherwise reach out and touch someone at any hour of the day (except while I'm in the subway).

And I haven't felt this disconnected since I can't remember when.

Texting is a slippery slope for me. It's a great way to passively reach out and drop a funny line or thought on someone's radar without putting too much energy or thought into it. I can share a link, tell a joke, or otherwise flit in and out of a friend's life in a matter of seconds. I sometimes have full conversations with someone over text, and those conversations are well thought out, carefully constructed, and usually ridiculously funny.

I'm sure nobody would be surprised to hear that texting is on the rise. According to a 2010 Nielsen study, every age group is texting more than they were the previous year, even those of us in the 35-44 category:
And the trend is only going to go up, so I feel like a bit of a Luddite even having an issue with this. But I do.

I don't really feel like I'm getting to know the people on the other end of my text-line any better as I text with them. There's so much less revealed. People have time to think, react, and respond before sharing their impulses or insights. There is also much less clarity in texting. The tone of voice -- so crucial in spoken communication -- is completely gone, and the context -- which usually helps to set the tone of an email -- is also missing. So all I get in a text is the nugget, the core of the message. Which is fine if that message is "I'm running late," or "Just wanted to say hi."

But what if that message is something more complicated, like "I can't make it tonight" or "what's the deal with [insert any topic]?" The brevity and lack of intonation make it difficult for me to see where the other person is coming from, and makes it so much easier to throw my own interpretations onto the message. (Which is never a good thing.)

I know I need to get used to it, but for me, true connection comes voice to voice, if not face to face. I want to hear the hemming and hawing. I want to know when there's a sigh. Emotions, mistakes, and non-verbal noises help me feel more human and more connected to others. I've thought about instituting a no texting policy for a month, just to see how it goes, but I think I've gotten so used to texting that I'd miss it if it was gone. The secret is to blend both, and to set boundaries around how much I'm willing to text. But how much is too much? And how much is not enough?

When I figure out what that balance is, I'll let you know. Or if you want to find out, you can always call me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

holding the space

If I can say this without sounding too self-congratulatory, I will: people find it easy to talk to me. I guess I have one of those faces. They ask me for directions, guys admit things to me on dates that perhaps they shouldn't, and strays think I'm the cat's meow.

In the last few years I've gotten better at actually listening (instead of just waiting for my turn to talk), and I've developed a skill that has really surprised me -- my ability to hold the space for other people.

Now, "holding the space" is a really coachy phrase -- akin to "maximizing your potential" and, let's admit it "fully living" -- so what does it mean? It's the ability to be there with someone else who is experiencing emotions without feeling the need to shut them up, fix them, or get them to be anywhere but where they are right now. It's watching someone cry and waiting for her to ask for the box of tissues instead of passing it to her right away. It's opening your heart to the pain and suffering of someone else, trusting both yourself and the other person to make it through, to recover, to let this moment be what it is and also to let it pass.

I bring this up because I was at a workshop recently that really flexed this muscle, and it's one I don't think enough people are aware of, let alone "maximizing the potential" of.

What does it take to hold the space for someone else? Empathy. Support. Wanting to be there for someone else, to let him know that it hurts right now but it won't hurt forever. Trust. Faith. Acceptance. And it takes a real vulnerability. The emotional flexibility to dig deep, connect with your own strength and your own pain, and just breathe.

The next time you're with someone who's hurting, try this: just sit with him or her. Hug him so he knows you've got him, but not so that he feels he has to stop crying. Absorb just a little of the pain so it's not so intense for her. Rain blessings down on the both of you to make life just a little easier after this moment. And trust that, when the time comes, he or she will be there for you. And see what's different.