Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Digital Detox and Happiness Bytes

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of working with two lovely ladies “of a certain age.”  I spent a delightful afternoon putting together outfits for Dorothy and Mary, two sisters-in-law, for a trip to London, the centerpiece of which was to be a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show. 

Both ladies are huge horticulture enthusiasts.  Dorothy owned the most charming flower shop in the center of town until she retired.  She now donates her expertise to the local Catholic Church, and every Sunday at Mass, and especially at Easter and Christmas, I say a silent prayer of thanks to the Good Lord for Dorothy’s beautiful flowers.  Not having a green thumb, myself, I am always in awe of those who do. 

At 4:00pm, precisely, we stopped for a well-deserved cup of tea served in Dorothy’s best china cups, and as I sipped my Earl Grey I felt warm and satisfied in the knowledge that this had, indeed, been a productive and enjoyable afternoon.  And the best part was – there were no cell phone interruptions!!  Quelle joie!  Over the last few years, the frequency of cell phone interruptions has made working with clients increasingly difficult, often stressful, for them and for me. 

I always turn my phone OFF when working with clients; they deserve nothing less than my full and undivided attention, and I request that they do the same.  Until recently, that was usually not a problem.  Now, however, that request is routinely greeted with fear (“What if I miss a call?”) and disbelief (“You want me to do WHAT?”).  One young woman became so agitated at the thought of turning OFF her phone that she actually started to hyperventilate.  Between gulps for air, she explained. 

“I have a two-year-old at home.  What if something happens?” she said. 

“You mean, you left a two-year-old at home alone?” I asked.  Now it was my turn to gulp for air. 
“No, no, my mother is with her,” she replied. 
“Oh, I see,” I said, relieved.  “Well, I’d be willing to bet she can handle things on her own for an hour or so, don’t you think?  I mean, she raised you and your sisters during those dark days known as the pre-cell phone era, and you seem to have turned out pretty well.” 
She nodded in agreement, but I could tell there was nothing I could say to assuage her anxiety, so I suggested she keep her phone on vibrate.  She did and checked it every five minutes......just in case.  I don’t know how much she got out of our session together, but I do know I did my professional best to try and focus her attention away from her phone and onto herself, which was the reason she was here. 
Cupid Takes a Selfie
When is the last time you went out to lunch or dinner with friends and no one checked his/her cell phone for texts and messages?   
The other night, I was watching TV (well, actually half-watching, half-listening) while cooking dinner, when I heard a psychologist discuss digital addiction and the fear of being disconnected to the devices that run and rule our lives.  The very devices that were supposed to make our lives easier, have actually made them more stressful and unhappy, according to him.   Facebook, he insisted, can actually make some people more miserable, as we log in to find all of our friends leading “apparently” much more interesting lives than ours.  Just look at all those fabulous pictures of all the fabulous things they are doing with all those fabulous people!!  In reality, what we post to Facebook is the best, often idealized, version of our lives in words and pictures, which leads me to another thought…..
One of the many life lessons I’ve learned with age is that if you constantly compare yourself to others, you will never be happy with yourself and your life.  And, I hate to say it, Ladies, but, and let’s be honest, we are the biggest offenders here.  We start comparing ourselves to other little girls pretty early on – the smart girl, the pretty girl, the girl who gets all the cute guys, etc.  Do you detect a pattern here?  These comparisons are always rigged against us, leaving us dissatisfied with ourselves and our lives.  Of course, we often find out later that those fortunate few are not always as fortunate as we imagine.  I’ll never forget finding out that one of those “golden girls” in college, as I used to call them, who married one of the “golden boys” after graduation, quickly found out that the man of her dreams was, in fact, the man of her worst nightmares.  After suffering through years of physical abuse, she finally found the courage to leave him. 
And, now, being “ladies of a certain age,” we have come to the point in our lives where we are tempted to compare ourselves to ourselves, that is, our younger selves (“Look how cute I was!  Look how thin I was!”).  I have only this to say about that.  Take a good look at those pictures of the cute, thin 25-year-old you once were and ask yourself this question: 
“Did you appreciate that face and that body when you had it?”  Hmmm?  So, here’s my advice as one femme d’un certain âge to another.  Embrace the woman in the mirror right now.  There’s no one else like her and never will be again. 




    1. Don't get me started???? I think it's about time someone got us all "started" on the subject, and I'm glad I got your engine going. Great Comment and I totally agree. It's all a question of good manners, don't you think?

      I'm always delighted when a thoughtful reader leaves a thoughtful comment.

      Thanks, Sissy,

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    This is a GREAT post!
    Luckily we both are not that addicted and we never ever had our TV on when we have guests (that's where it already started...); don't check for messages on our cell phones etc. Some people are only busy with their own EGO all the time. On FB it is also annoying to see the many selfies and me-me postings or borrowed things from others. They have in fact very little to say or write about!
    Yes, live each day intensely and look forward to more of those days ahead of us. For me no Botox either, nothing just trying to gracefully grow old. Never even did dye my hair.
    Hugs to you and enjoy this summer.

    1. I'm so glad you agree, ma chère amie, although I knew you would. Sadly, we live in a world of ego-gratifying self-promotion to an alarming degree. The ubiquitous "Selfie" is just an annoying of many.

      Big bisous, ma chère Mariette,
      xoxo, M-T

  3. Wonderful, wonderful my friend!! We are increasingly addicted to mobile access! It's so refreshing to disconnect. I did that yesterday, then when I checked to day, I felt like I'd missed out on so much. Silly really, because I didn't miss out on my life, just others. I'm sharing this gem. Those ladies and your tea, sounds like such a lovely, elegant afternoon. It's how I wish more of us lived.
    Let's chat about stuff. Did you get my email?

    1. Oooh, you said something so insightful -- missing out on the lives of others, while living yours. How often have we curtailed something we wanted/needed to do for ourselves and those we love to check on/respond to the digital demands of people we barely know???

      I did get your e-mail and have responded. We have much catching up to do, my friend.

      xoxo, M-T

  4. Excellent piece, my dear M-T. Excellent conclusion, too. Oscar Wilde might have added: "Be yourself: Everyone else is already taken." -- A wise woman, that M-T. A wise man, that Oscar ;-) I must be lucky as none of my girlfriends checked their cell phones when we had our last lunch out. These ladies have style... and manners, that's why. I loved your astute observations about Facebook by the way (I use it on a regular basis.) Facebook only shows one side of reality. It's a bit of a shame. Take care, and big hugs to you and Monsieur Dan. A bientôt, ma grande, et merci de ton sympathique message cette semaine. Vero (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Merci pour la fleur, ma grande. I'm so happy to see you back in my Comment box, and this one is a gem. Anytime someone cites one of my favorites writers, Oscar Wilde, I'm thrilled. Wouldn't you just love to have sat quietly in a corner and just listened to him speak?

      Big bisous to you, M-T

  5. Fantastic post! I loved "cupid takes a selfie." Perfect for our generation of selfie addicts. Now all you need is cupid holding a plate of food for him to snap a selfie of the dish and post it to Facebook. No food pics, please! lol
    What did we ever do without our smartphones and iphones? Whatever happened to letter writing and postcards? I try to limit the use of our phones, especially during dinner and conversations. Times are different now. Sometimes, I love to just sit next to my 84-year old grandmother and talk to her while the rest of my family is using their technology during family gatherings. I sit, talk, and observe. I guess I'm just an old time snob.

    1. Dear Gina, you sound like a young lady after my own heart. Loved your take on the cupid selfie.

      What did we do before smartphones and iphones? We did something called "conversations" with our friends and loved ones. In fact, if you were really good at it, you were known as a great conversationalist and were always the first to be invited to parties.

      Your grandmother is a lucky lady to have such a delightful granddaughter.

      Cheers, M-T

  6. J'adore this post. I struggle with my 'need' to constantly be on top of everything, and this was almost PERMISSION to stop. Even though I know I should be more present anyway, it felt good to read about it. Very affirming.


    1. You have my permission to "unplug" and be the charming, delightful person I know and love. Let the rest of the world enjoy her, too.

      Bisous, M-T

  7. Bravo! The last time I forgot about my phone AND camera (tempting for a blogger) was last month when I had brunch with friends, and it was FABULOUS! Since then, I also deleted my facebook, twitter, and pinterest due to the frustration COMPARISON was producing. I also deactivated my blog's comments temporarily, while I PURPOSELY get better-acquainted with the girl who writes it, the girl who seemed to lose a little of herself in this four year journey through blogland.
    Found my way to your page via my bloggy friend, Jennifer Connolly.
    Glad I stopped by today.

    1. I'm delighted you stopped, Marcia. That "comparison" thing is a real killer, n'est-ce pas? Would like to join you in getting to know the girl who writes your blog. I'll be checking it out. She sounds lovely.

      Jennifer is a great friend and fantastic blogger. Keep in touch.

      Cheers, M-T


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