We avoid truth when we ignore our mid-life crisis as a right-of-passage. Alas, instead we see it as a dangerous chapter in our life’s story. But what if we had them (midlife crisis) all the time? What if we took the resources and trust we’ve earned, and shared the momentum we’ve gained, and use it to help ourselves let go of the other stuff?
One of the best gifts we can give to someone is listening to what they have to say. Really listening with our full and undivided attention.
Look around you. Take notice of how distracted most people are. We are so busy that we multitask while talking to our children and grandchildren, text while sitting down for a meal, and keep that cell phone turned on “just in case”. Distraction is everywhere. It almost seems as if the art of conversation, of being fully engaged in a verbal exchange with another human being, is becoming a thing of the past. There was a time when “restaurants” with big screen TVs didn’t exist. In fact, most of us were made to turn off the TV when dinnertime rolled around. In my home, if a friend called during a meal, they were politely asked to call back later. Remember when homes had only one, maybe two, phones? Even as recently as when I would drive my daughter to and from her dance classes, which were several nights a week, we had no cell phone to interrupt our conversation. You got your kids in the car and you had a captive audience for the duration of the ride. And so did they!
There is nothing worse than trying to tell a person what is on your mind while having them text someone under the table, or “having” to take that phone call, or being so distracted by what else is going on around them that they end up only hearing a portion of what you are saying. Worse yet are the “dates”, where you will see a young couple out to dinner, she sitting there smiling while he gets to watch the big sporting event on the billboard sized TV that is hanging in the restaurant. The sad thing to me is that there are young women out there who take this as normal and seem totally OK with it.
Those of us at midlife and older know that life exists without constantly being plugged in. We have a vague recollection of giving and receiving undivided attention. We know what it’s like to read facial expressions and pick up on body language. We have eaten meals- appetizer to dessert- without looking at a TV or taking a phone call or texting under the table.
The current heat wave most of the country is experiencing this week is straining the power grid with extra air conditioning demands. This morning I received a recorded phone message from my power company asking customers to please refrain from using anything but totally necessary appliances in an effort to avoid an overload. After all, what would we do if, God forbid, we lost power and had to sit for an afternoon and actually interact with one another?
Lorie Sheffer, Guest Blogger, thank you for being here for us every weekend:
Last week I spent the night alone in my childhood bedroom. The lavender walls, which I grudgingly compromised my original choice of dark purple for, have been changed to antique white and my beloved window seat has been removed. Needless to say, my posters of Peter Frampton and Aerosmith are long gone. It now has the look of a very pleasant but infrequently used guest room.
Exhausted, I soon found that I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was the thought that I had just peed in my closet. After my brother and I left home, my parents converted our closets into what is now a bathroom that is shared by both bedrooms. Nice, waiting till we left home to think of that one! Growing up, we had one bathroom, and it was on the first floor. I opened the door to the little storage area under the eaves and gingerly lifted the loose floorboard, hoping to find something that I had hidden there years before. Apparently I had cleaned things out long ago or my father had discovered my secret hiding place. My stomach lurched, and then I reminded myself that I am 51 years old and my dad hasn’t grounded me in a very long time. Snooping through dresser drawers, I found boxes of jewelry that had belonged to my now deceased grandmothers. Picking up each piece, the vivid memories of them being worn had me in tears. The last thing I found was my puka shell necklace. My best friend and I each bought one in Ocean City Maryland in the summer of 1976, just before our senior year of high school. She committed suicide when we were 30 years old. I sat on the bed holding the necklace, thinking of the countless sleepovers we had, the secrets we shared and the midnight laughter that would wake the rest of my family. I put the necklace into my overnight bag and finally fell asleep.
I woke to the sound of morning rush hour traffic on the busy rural road. Slightly disoriented, eyes gritty from lack of sleep, I realized the sun was just barely rising. I almost felt as if I should hurry down the steps, shower, and run wet headed out of the door so I wouldn’t miss the school bus. Instead I padded down to the kitchen, only to find two elderly folks, one using a walker and the other looking to me for guidance. I poured a cup of coffee and headed out to the end of the driveway for the morning paper. Just as I walked back up onto the porch, the school bus drove by. I crossed my arms against the cold air, took a deep breath and walked back inside.