These days it looks to me as if life is becoming less satisfying as our sense of achievement dwindles in this crazy, do-it-better-do-it-faster high-tech world of ours. When was the last time you felt in control, on top of things, and had a sense of achievement such that by end of the day you could take a deep breath, knowing you'd done a good job?
Not that I'm against technology -- how could I say that as the owner of the new iPad with all the apps that let me keep track of all I need to do, as well as my calendar, my texts, my emails, my books, my family, my friends, my network, my projects, my magazines, my newspapers, and my online games. And I've only had it for six weeks. Think of how much I can achieve when I discover more of the more than 200,000 apps available!
Then just a few days ago I heard my mother's words: "There are days when I feel I'm not getting anywhere fast!" It was nearing the end of the day, I checked off another item in my Reminders app and looked to see how many I'd completed -- 14, not bad! Then I noticed the remaining list was nearly as long. Of course they could wait, because everything not completed today automatically shifts to tomorrow's list. After a moment of desperation, I laughed out loud. Hopeless! The list is getting longer, not shorter. Do I really have to do everything I think I have to do? And my inner wisdom whispered, "No."
Our awareness of this issue is growing. Grandparents disappointed when their grandkids sit at the holiday table, heads bowed not in prayer, but texting and tweeting. Friends sad that they don't pick up the phone so often these days. In a recent article in the New York Times Sherry Turkle says,
"We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection."
A friend mentioned just yesterday something his father used to say: "Don't confuse progress with motion."
Are we making progress?
Usually a Pollyanna optimist, I sometimes believe that we've made little true progress in the past 100 years. While there have been extraordinary technological achievements, I think we've moved backward in the ways we relate to one another, in our ability to rely on one another, and be there for one another. We spend too much time on our own, doing, doing, doing -- on our way somewhere in a hurry or on a quest to get as much done as possible.
I don't think it's an accident that Downton Abbey is loved by so many of us. It takes place 100 years ago when things moved more slowly -- spent eating meals together, sharing meaningful conversations about things that really mattered, and asking for and receiving help from one another, for those upstairs as well as downstairs. Today we're so busy that we have to schedule weeks ahead to have dinner with friends.
Do you have to do everything you think you have to do?
Just a week ago I asked myself this question for the first time. It was so out of the box for me, that I made a note to myself, and it's been sitting on my desk ever since. I invite you to do the same.
My response to the question has been to start each day with a small sheet of paper on which I write a short list of the most important things I want to accomplish today. I'm doing my best to get these things done before I check my email or open my Reminders app. The better I get at this new discipline, the more my sense of true accomplishment increases.
This wisdom is far from new. More than 1,850 years ago Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said:
"Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain."
I'm certainly not the first grandparent to wonder about what life will become if we keep going in this direction at this pace.
Tim and I are leaving shortly for a month in Europe to be with friends, relax, recreate, and celebrate our blessings. So I won't be writing my next article until the middle of June, when I'll be starting a new series about money.
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For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.
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