Mirror Conversations

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The art of communication is slowly dying within our society.  At least, that’s the way it appears to me.

I was riding in to my job last week (on my Harley) when I noticed the woman in the car next to me.  She was talking but it appeared no one was listening.  I was wrong.  Someone was listening…in fact two people were listening.  They were small children, sometimes referred to by my father as “pre-people”…little kids, strapped in firmly to their booster seats.  The woman (I’ll presume that she was their mom) was having a conversation with her children through the rear view mirror in her car.

I remember doing that very thing.  I drove a truck for many years (still do on occasion), and when my girls were younger I’d strap them into their seats in the back (it had an extended cab, and then later a full crew cab) whenever we were out and about.  On the way to the store, or the park, or the movies (I don’t think we missed a single Disney film during a 10 year run) or to school, we would have “mirror conversations” constantly.  I miss those days.  At the time they didn’t seem like they were all that important, but looking back now with the benefit of hindsight…oh yes they were very important.  As the kids grew, so did the conversations.  They became more animated, more give and take and more important each time.

The “kids” are all now young adults, and it’s difficult to get them to slow down long enough to have a conversation with them.  There are weeks that sometimes go by, and all I can hope for is that I’ll get a decently quick response to my voicemail soon enough.  And I understand how it is–they all have their priorities, they all are busy, and they all love their dad.  But when we do get the chance to talk, I am amazed at how much more meaningful and valuable the conversations have become.

We live in an age when the technology and tools we have can truly benefit our lives.  But I fear we are entering a time when the art of good conversation may be suffering a bit from the overabundance of technology (if that’s possible).  Texting is common place, the “twittersphere” is active, and why talk when a quick video or “snapchat” photo will do? I use all of these too, so I understand the simplicity and availability of the tools, but we need to remember to talk.  And listen.  And talk some more.  And listen some more.  Even picking up the telephone has at least a little more depth than a simple text message or email.

I work in a building that isn’t all that large.  Email communication is pretty standard fare here, which is fine as a business tool and sometimes required to assist with tracking/remembering details and following up on particular items.  But I still enjoy getting out of my chair, out from behind my desk, and walking the hall to have a conversation, even if it’s only for a few minutes.  As you approach your next week, give some thought towards how you are communicating with those around you.  And put a little renewed effort into having a good conversation every now and then.  You might be surprised by how it makes you feel and think, as well as what it can do to stimulate the other person to communicate better.  Let’s keep our ability to talk, listen and interact with those around us as strong as ever.  It can make a positive difference in our work lives, our family lives and our own personal life.

Life is Short

 

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Anthony Keith “Tony” Gwynn died recently.  A professional baseball player, Gwynn was known as “Captain Video” and “Mr. Padre” for his highlight reel performance as a big league hitter with the San Diego Padres.  He could hit the “long ball” and did so quite often.  Tony Gwynn died from complications related to his fight with cancer, cancer of the salivary glands, presumably brought about at least in part by his longtime habit of smokeless “chewing” tobacco usage.  No matter the cause, he died too young.  He was 54 years old and leaves behind his wife, a son and a daughter.  I too am 54 years of age.  Tony Gwynn died too young.

We read about famous people passing away, and if you are like me, you think about perhaps when you saw that person last–maybe it was a television show, or a sports event, or a movie–and you think to yourself “now they are gone”.  We can be affected by the loss of those we idolize, those we admire, those we cheer on, those who bring entertainment and brief joy into our lives.  They don’t know us, but we know them.  And when they depart, we can and often do feel the loss, even if at a distance.

I was on a long road trip when I heard the news that Tony Gwynn had passed away.  It shouldn’t impact me–it doesn’t immediately change anything in my personal life.  But the reminder is there; life is short.

The apparel company and sports brand icon Nike ran a series of marketing efforts around the saying “Life is Short; Play Hard”.  Whether you play hard or not, work hard (or not), it really doesn’t matter…life is still short.  That is true for every one of us.  We are given a finite amount of time on this planet.  When we are young, it seems endless.  But as we age, we see it is not.  The value of the time remaining for each one of us increases day by day, while the time itself decreases.

Make the most of your time.  Even the writer James, in the New Testament of the Bible, once commented that life is like “a vapor” (steam) that “appears for a short time and then vanishes away (James 4:14 is the verse I am paraphrasing here).  The clock is ticking away.  What we do with the time we have is up to us, so live your life to the fullest, use the time wisely and keep your perspective during both good times and bad times.  Life is short, so let’s all make the most of what time we’ve been allotted.

 

 

 

Thinking Time.

 

 

 

 

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I love riding my Harley.  I’m not a biker per se, but I enjoy riding a 2005 Road King on my relatively short commute between home and the office.  It allows me time to think while focusing on the ride, with very few interruptions.  I agree that motorcycle riding is more dangerous than driving a car.  I also see lots of fearless souls weaving in and out of traffic and “lane splitting”, which is legal here in California,  although not something I choose to participate in.  So I ride conservatively, treating my vehicle as if it were a car, and do what I can to be as safe as possible while riding.

But the focus of this brief discourse isn’t riding, it’s about having some “thinking time”.  I’m old enough to remember the days when you called home before leaving the office, to check on plans, or the grocery list, or whatever else you might want to know–there were no cell phones, so you called.  But it was understood that once the call was finished, you would be out of touch during the commute time.  It was a peaceful experience.  You could opt to listen to the radio or a favorite CD or cassette (note that I did not include 8 track tapes), or you could simply drive, but you had some uninterrupted “me” time…time to think, time to plan in your head, time to unwind from the office or work stresses.

With the onset of the smart phone, we’ve basically lost this precious window of solitude.  Emails, calls and text messages can and do come through at all hours of the day and night, whether we want them or not.  It is up to us to consciously choose how we manage the inbound flow of communication.  I’m a big believer that we all need some quiet time, time that we can spend in reflection, inside ourselves, just to reset our balance and sort out all that life throws our way.

How do you maintain a balance?  Are you living with a constant connection to your smart phone or tablet or PC?  It can be challenging to turn off the device (or at least turn it to silent mode) for fear that something, some tidbit of information, might be missed.  But what are we missing when we live our lives focused on our devices first?

Carve out some “me” time.  Take time to think….not to do, but just to think.  Enjoy the peace that comes with it, and build it into your lifestyle in some way.  For me, riding the Road King provides me with much more than just transportation.  I get a chance to “breathe mentally”, to escape the stresses of the day, if only for a few moments.  Find your method and stick with it.  You’ll be glad you did (thanking me is optional).