Virtually Divided

brain-piechartIt’s difficult to remember a time when the only thing that could distract you from work or dinner or your favorite TV show was the phone. And I mean the kind that plugged into the wall and only made one sound. Ever. It didn’t play the theme from Django, or the latest from Kanye, Beyonce or LMFAO. It just rang. And the only way to determine who was calling was to pick it up.

Getting things done is much more complicated now that in addition to your antiquated landline phone, your mobile phone with its endless news alerts, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter notifications, email alerts, software updates and game requests acts as a HUGE distraction. Add that to your desktop computer (if you are chained to one like I am) with its email alerts, IMs, meeting requests, software updates, etc., etc. and you may start to feel the urge to reach for the Xanax. Or a hammer.

It’s cool that we are able to do SO many things at once now. It really is. I can today—sitting in the Eastern Standard Time Zone—work simultaneously on a project with someone on the Pacific coast. I can grab the laptop to attend a meeting or escape to anywhere where there is wireless internet and access network files from the office.

But with all of the good that it brings, I can’t help but wonder: What harm is it doing? Are our brains going in so many different directions that no ONE thing gets the full attention that it deserves? Are we multitasking so often that we are going to forget how to sit still for as long as it takes to see ONE thing through to completion? Or is everything destined to be divided and done in pixel parts from here to eternity? Because obviously the virtual world is not only here to stay… but to go… with US anywhere we wish to take it.

I don’t know about you, but my personal time has become severely fractured too. I no longer just watch TV or eat dinner or have a conversation or look at Facebook or write. In a typical evening I might do all of the above at once. If I have a favorite show, I might push everything else to the side… laundry, dishes, conversation… to block off that 30 minutes or an hour to “relax and focus” on the entertaining dialog between some beloved characters, only to discover that I can’t keep my hands off my iPhone.

I used to only pick it up at commercials to play a game, return an email or troll Facebook for juicy gossip. But I’ve noticed that increasingly so, I am fiddling with it during the very show that I once tried so religiously to protect. I cannot stop multitasking. Last night I must have gotten OUT of bed six times (I am not kidding) to do something just because it “occurred to me” to do so. Well, that, and I feared I might forget. That is a real fear now. That I’ll forget.

Gee, I wonder why the risk of forgetfulness is so much higher now. We all like to joke around and attribute it to aging… but I myself, think the more likely culprit is a divided mind. After sliding back INTO bed for the sixth time, I finally told myself to JUST STOP. Crawl under the covers and STAY there. Do not pick up the phone. Do not surf the channels. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just freaking SLEEP! OK!?! That is at least ONE time when I am doing only ONE thing at a time.

Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

Schadenfreude: The Cure For What Ails You

While putting this post together, I discovered a new word. A BIG word. It was a big, multi-syllabic word. And I absolutely love learning new and big, multi-syllabic words! I love it so much, in fact, that I had to use it in the title. So here goes… The dictionary defines the German word “schadenfreude” as: satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

Last Tuesday night I was in a bit of a mood. I came home, wandered around the house like a lost puppy and plopped, sullenly, onto the floor. I wondered if perhaps changing out of my work clothes would make me feel better. I selected a warm sweatshirt, about two sizes too big, a pair of soft, velour pants and my coziest, fuzziest socks.

“Yes, I think this will help.” I told myself. But as I tried to remove the clothes I WAS wearing… I threw a miniature hissy fit when my blouse got stuck around my shoulders. “GET OFF OF ME!!” I screamed at the stubborn garment while tugging wildly and jumping around. It’s a miracle I didn’t rip it apart at the seams. When I was finally free from it’s death-grip, I flung it on the bed and stomped my feet with extra fervor like some form of bodily punctuation.

All evening I could not shake free of the funk’s torment as successfully as I had the blouse. Wherever I went—fuzzy socks and all—“the mood” went with me. What in the world was the matter with me? Nothing negative of note had happened during the course of the day. So why then, was I so… frazzled? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it gets DARK an hour after I get home? That’s it! Maybe I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder)! Ah-Ha!… finally a scapegoat for which to blame the day’s general malaise.

Both Lee and Stan looked at me quizzically as I slogged through the motions of the end of the day. I’m sure they figured it had something to do with being female and wanted no part of it. Finally, around nine o’clock, I decided that “the mood” wasn’t going to lift anytime soon and perhaps it was best just to surrender. There would be no cheering up on this day. Or so I thought when I went to bed and flipped on the TV… And discovered the beginning of a brand new season of Hoarders!

Think what you will. Judge if you must. But I believe that this program (and so many like it) was created for the very purpose of helping US feel better about ourselves. You know, all the reality shows centered around such crippling addictions, strange behaviors, eccentricities and odd proclivities that they make us feel like we’ve truly got it all together?

I am convinced that there is nothing that quite lifts a person’s spirits as much as witnessing the suffering, insanity and lunacy of countless, anonymous others willing to put their “crazy” on display for the world to see. Schadenfreude in it’s purest, money-making form. Why else would these programs be such a huge hit if it weren’t so therapeutic to watch the personal, intimate struggles of others?

And if you think I am a horrible person for making this hideous (but true) public admission or you already knew the meaning of the word schadenfreude, then by all means you definitely ought to come away from this reading experience feeling better about yourself… for you are more intelligent and sensitive and not NEARLY as shallow and insane as me. And doesn’t that brighten YOUR day?

Honk If You’ve Had Enough

There is a certain commercial on TV these days that I have fallen in love with. It’s for an interesting new feature on the Nissan Altima. When filling the tires with air, the car will honk its horn at you once optimum pressure has been reached so that you don’t overfill.

What’s so entertaining about the commercial is that it depicts a sort of goofy-looking but average guy going through his life and hearing a horn honk every time he has done “enough” of something. When he’s trying out a new handshake, putting on cologne, making a move on a girl and betting too much at the blackjack table… he hears a honk and knows when it’s time to stop.

But the actual reason I love the commercial so much is that I can’t help but imagine how great that feature would be in REAL life! Here are just a few of the areas where I thought that concept would be ideal…

  1. When I’ve said / shared enough
  2. When I’ve eaten enough
  3. When I’ve put on enough perfume (or self-tanning cream or hairspray or make-up or coats of nail polish)
  4. When I’ve worried enough
  5. When I’ve stared long enough
  6. When I’ve baked / boiled / microwaved <insert any type of food here> enough
  7. When I’ve called / emailed / messaged enough
  8. When I’ve spent enough
  9. When I’ve trimmed my bangs enough (Ladies, can I get an AMEN on this one?)
  10. When I’ve stayed long enough

Of course, I made the number 1 mistake of over-sharing and telling my thoughts to Lee about the whole thing and now he “honks” at me before I ever even open my mouth. See… where was that horn when I needed it?

5 Reasons NOT to Watch the “Criminal Minds” Marathon While Completely Alone

Recently, while home alone for the night, I had the brilliant idea of watching a four-hour Criminal Minds marathon. Now, I know what you are thinking… the mind reels that one may actually be capable of sitting on one’s own @$$ for that long a period, however, I can assure you that I DID get up from time to time.

I managed to climb out of the comfort of my recliner for several reasons. I got up for pizza, to use the bathroom, to lock ALL of the doors, to feed the cat, to close ALL of the blinds and windows, to get a diet pop, to check EVERY square inch of the basement and ummmm… to get more pizza.

I should mention here that I am quite familiar with this program about the FBI’s BAU a.k.a. the Behavioral Analysis Unit. (By the way, don’t you just adore using acronyms? I do. It makes me feel so much more intelligent and worldly) Anyhoo… I absolutely LOVE the show (about as much as I like using acronyms). And it doesn’t usually matter whether or not I am alone when I watch it because I know it is purely fiction.

Well, fiction that is based on fact that is. Yes it is fact-based fiction about the psychological profiling of real-live nut-bags who like to stalk, maim, torture or kill otherwise normal citizens like you and me. Which is why, perhaps, that it may NOT have been in my best interest to watch four whole episodes whilst being alone in a big, empty house that is still relatively new to me.

Here are just a FEW of the reasons why watching four hours of this particular program (all by oneself) is probably not the brightest of ideas:

  1. You’re convinced that a stranger has indeed been stalking you for 6 months (even if you’ve only lived at your current address for 4).
  2. You’re certain that the friendly neighbors who love to chat you up everytime you pull into the driveway or push your garbage can to the curb are indeed serial killers who are hiding a secret torture chamber beneath the unassuming, non-descript-yet-mysterious-anyway grey tarp in their back yard.
  3. When the Fedex man arrives on your doorstep the following morning carrying an unexpected package — you refuse to answer the door no matter how interesting or impressive said parcel may look.
  4. You believe it IS entirely possible that while you were away one weekend some creeper or creepers managed to break into your home and hide tiny cameras in every room… leaving absolutely ZERO trace of their ever having been there. And they are watching you at this very moment. And laughing.
  5. You are 100% sure that the single dude on the corner with the perfectly-manicured lawn and glass animal collection in his front window is a sociopath currently working on an entirely different type of “collection” in the garage that he never seems to use.

Irony and Angry Birds

In recent months, Lee and I have discovered both Angry Birds and Words With Friends. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Well, I am hereby going on record and predicting that Angry Birds and Words With Friends will be the death of life as we know it. They will be the final nails in society’s coffin. They will finish the job that reality TV, YouTube and Facebook started years ago. Maybe those Mayans were onto something after all. The following scenario played out at my house just last night…

“I can’t believe people actually live this way!” I expressed in horror as the latest episode of Hoarders got underway. “I mean, what in the world is so wrong with them that they are incapable of disposing of their own waste!?! Then again… if there wasn’t something wrong with this behavior there would be no TV show, so…” My voice trailed off as I grew ever more transfixed by the strange and severe mental incapacitations of others.

“This is so gross and yet I cannot look away. I am fascinated by this show!” I said for about the fourth time while Lee just shook his head and laughed. He is not a Hoarders-watcher like me. But I did occasionally catch him getting slightly drawn in by the unique drama as he sat on the couch hypnotized by Angry Birds. All the while cursing me for suggesting that he play it in the first place when he got his new smartphone last month. 

We sat in the living room, like bumps on logs, through two whole episodes talking trash about these people and feeling all superior because we had running water, functionable plumbing and could still see the floors in our home.

It didn’t occur to me until a few hours later (after we traded technology and therefore possession of YouTube, Facebook and Words With Friends for Angry Birds for probably the third time) that if we weren’t careful — our floor just might begin to disappear from neglect too. They would find us surrounded by laundry and garbage… glued to the TV, smartphone or computer… utterly unable to function in normal society… passing judgement on a bunch of other people for being lazy slobs.

Easier Than Nuclear Fission?

It is with great hesitation, reservation, fear and trepidation that I put this out there for the world to see but I am just going to go for it. I need to make some changes. Some personal changes. Because let me tell you, the status quo is just not cutting it.

Einstein is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In my mind, the genius of this quote is akin to splitting the atom.

The funny thing is that ALL of the stuff I struggle with could probably ALL be resolved by changing three simple things. They are… in exactly this order: going to bed on time, getting up earlier and exercising.

The fallout from these three actions—not unlike the dropping of an atomic device—has the potential to be far-reaching and long-lasting. One doesn’t have to be a nuclear physicist to understand that going to bed ON TIME would make GETTING UP EARLIER EASIER, hence having more early morning time to EXERCISE! Duh.

But still I fight it tooth and nail. There’s always a really good episode of Friends or Seinfeld or The New Adventures of Old Christine or the King of Queens or Chelsea Lately or… I KNOW… I WATCH A LOT OF DAMN TV. I GET IT.

Anyway, there’s that… or I want to read just ONE more chapter in my book… or paint my toenails some fabulous shade of purple that I just found at the local drug store… or I get a rare surge of energy and decide to organize my linen closet by color, shade and texture.

So… as you can see… I seem to have a lot of potential roadblocks on this journey toward self-improvement. And yet, as good old Al so clearly implied with his definition of insanity: If nothing changes, nothing changes. Detonating these three explosively-effective measures would inevitably begin a chain reaction that would knock down all sorts of barriers in my life.

I would look, feel and BE healthier for getting more sleep. I wouldn’t owe near as much money to my therapist or pharmacist for all the mental health rewards I’d be reaping as a result of my incredible self-discipline. I’d be able to comfortably wear those cute little tiny things in my closet that fit me once upon a time. My productivity on the job would sky rocket leading to promotions and bonuses and salary increases…

I’d be unstoppable.

So what then, is holding me back? With my finger planted ever-so-firmly on the button, why can’t I press down? Well, you see… tonight there’s this really good episode of Friends / Seinfeld / The New Adventures of Old Christine / King of Queens / Chelsea Lately and I’m almost done with my book… I’m behind on reading my magazines (which are really piling up)… the summer clothes need to be put away… and…