Marti's Theory

My high school didn’t have a debate team. However, I did participate in de facto debates is our Government and Civics classes, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  One that I particularly remember was debating the pros and cons of capital punishment, where I was assigned to the “pro” side.  We researched it, gave a great presentation and won the debate.  Woo hoo!  The irony is that 17 year old Marti was definitely NOT pro capital punishment.  But it was a game and I was pretty competitive back then. Plus, winning feels way better than not winning. Debating was what I considered “good sport.”

And today, I see many people continue to feel the exhilaration of a good debate.  No, I’m not talking about those preposterous presidential things on TV that pass for a debate.  Those have devolved into something closer to Jerry Springer or studio wrestling.  Even the candidates who I respect are more geared to tomorrow’s soundbites than they are to substance.

What I’m referring to is debating among us regular people. People I know and generally respect, who may or may not have the same opinion as I do.  Several friends have asked why I no longer participate in hot topic debates, particularly via social media.  Some have even speculated on why I don’t – everything from feeling bullied to not being “up on things.”  I’ve wondered myself: why have I stepped away from discussions where previously I would have jumped in, front and center?

And it finally occurred to me. It’s debate vs. discussion.

At this point in my life and the life of the world around me – I engage in discussions mainly for two reasons:

1. To understand

2. To be understood

And the concept of “debate” strikes me as counter intuitive to the process of understanding.  If I listen to another person for the purpose of preparing, in my mind, how to counter his position, then I’m not really listening, am I?  And vice-versa.

I’ve actually managed to have one or two brief discussions, mostly with people who see things differently from how I see them, and mostly because I’m curious about how a seemingly bright person could be so wrong-headed about an issue. [see what I did there? self-deprecating humor wrapped around a chunk of truth]. In those cases, I only listened, and did not explain how I see things. Why? Because I wasn’t asked, so figured I wouldn’t really be heard. Those discussions didn’t change my own opinions, but did open my mind a bit.  And then I moved on.

Same way with social media.  If something holds a promise of new information, I read.  If not, I scroll by. These days, I do way more scrolling than reading.

Because here’s the thing about pretty much any hot button issue and how we assume a particular stance or action will play out:  No matter how convinced we are, no matter how much data we find to support our position, it’s still just an OPINION.  (ooooh, I bet some people quickly disagreed). And we are so close to the issue that we tend to forget it’s only our viewpoint, and not an absolute.  In most cases.

But then again, this is only my opinion.

 

 

So let’s talk about time today.

I understand that we need the chronology of time in order to navigate this world, in the same way we need gravity.  Without either, things would be, well, a mess.  Hunger alarms can tell me when I should eat (yeah, like I wait that long) and heavy eyelids let me know when to sleep.  But how would the showing of Star Wars, The Force Awakens and I hook up?  See, I understand we need the concept of time.

But the more I accumulate of this chronology thing, the less I understand the value. What I particularly don’t understand is our tendency to hold on to it, to try and hit the pause button.

I write this as I sit at a desk that was mine for eight years, in a community that was mine for twenty.  But in the past seven years and ten months, my life has been elsewhere.  And by this evening, it’ll be there again.  So today I think backward and in a few hours I’ll begin to think forward, while in each case, trying to gently bring myself back to now.

Why is it so hard to think in the present?

And in the Cause & Effect department,  “time” produces an even more perplexing concept:

Age.

Tomorrow I turn 62 and I think that’s partially driving this post.  It isn’t my “age” per se.  I mean, yes, I’d prefer to forego the wrinkles and creaky joints and yes, I’m wondering if I should do some future care planning.  But for the most part, I’m cool with my age.  It took about a year, but I like being in my 60s.  It’s like having permission to gleefully not give a shit about unimportant stuff on so many levels.  Or more specifically, to have the clarity to see how increasingly unimportant so many of those things we value really are.

The part that has me totally flummoxed is —

WHEN DID 62 YEARS HAPPEN??!!

And that’s the part I just can’t grasp. Seriously. It seems like about 30 years or so have passed. I have maintained friendships with people I’ve known since my childhood and teen years and when I talk to them, without consciously thinking about it, I feel no different from the person I was at seventeen. Or seven. Or whenever.

I’m about the hit the 400 word mark, so it’s time to tie up these somewhat disjointed musings.

What’s the bottom line?  Well, it’s not very original, but still resoundingly true:

The passage of time is a constant in this life.  It doesn’t stop, it keeps moving, and there’s nothing we can do to change that.  But the hard-to grasp good news is this – that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.  Not only can I accept 62, but I also accept that next year will be 63 and – if I’m still here – ten years from now will be 72.  And that one of those years, I won’t be any longer.  The clock is running and eventually I will get a big “DING! Time’s up!” And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.  I don’t exactly know what’ll happen next, but I know something will, and it’ll be some kind of adventure that I couldn’t possibly grasp yet.  But good.  I know that.  So what the heck …

My wish for you and for me, today and within all these crazy increments of time is simply to keep reminding ourselves to be present and to keep remembering to enjoy the moment, big or small, tender or funny, intense or easy.  It’s ours. And it’s ours to do with what we like.

Happy 2016, gang.

(click for James Taylor, still singing about the Secret of Life, 2010)

jt

James Taylor, from JT CD cover. 1977

 

 

One of my favorite sites on social media belongs to Oakland’s KTVU’s anchorman, Frank Somerville.  His posts are often thought-provoking, sometimes sad, sometimes heart warming and always very, very human.  One frequent topic is his younger daughter, who is about middle-school aged, I think.

Today’s post (and if you have Facebook, you can find it here) had to do with how he managed to get hoodwinked into bringing milkshakes to his daughter and her two friends every Thursday.  His comment to us, the readership was – he had worried he was “spoiling” her and wondered what we thought.  He also invited us to tell him about what we remembered about our dads, growing up.

I wrote this:

Oh, I have one!
My dad drank his coffee with lots of cream and sugar, and he liked to dunk a folded slice of regular old white bread, buttered, into the coffee and eat it. As a little kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. My dad drove a coal truck, so he left for work by 5AM, while I was asleep and he went to bed pretty early. I’m not sure when it started, but each morning, he’d gently wake me up, and stand by my bed with a cup of coffee (more milk than coffee) and a folded over slice of buttered Wonderbread. He’d patiently hold the cup while I dunk and ate. Then he’d tuck me in, and I’d go back to sleep. I know it sounds silly and Mom thought we were ridiculous. But even now, 50+ years later, I smile as I write this.

Speaking of which … Dad always had a huge smile on his face during this routine and I never really understood why until I became a parent.  Then I realized – without this tradition, he wouldn’t otherwise see his kid until late afternoon or early evening. So really, he was doing it for HIM. (aww …) Okay Frank, the spirit of my dad gives you “permission” for this little routine to be as much for you as it is for your daughter. Admit it. You love it. 

That’s all.  Just wanted to share.

dad and me

It all started a few months ago…

I was about to go somewhere cool or do something fun when I noticed a little thought, way in the back of my brain, picturing how I’d post it on Facebook. Another little thought, from a different part of my brain said, “Whoa … that’s weird.” And then both thoughts were gone.  Poof.

But the idea of it kept coming back, as well as the weirdness of it.

Do I REALLY – even if it’s subtle – frame my life in terms of social media?  Does anyone else? And if so, what the heck does that mean??

So I began to notice it more and yes, I kinda do.  And it seems that others (but not all) on my friends list might be doing it as well.  I repeat: NOT ALL. Just some. That subtle little “here’s my life” spokesmodel slant was creeping in to our posts.

Now I’m the first to sing the praises of Facebook regarding my ability to keep in touch with friends and especially with my all-over-the-planet family.  And I’m the first to laugh at how a friend and I tend to FB each other from different rooms in the same location.  And it’s certainly a useful tool to publicize events for my Ed Center and for my Rotary Club.  I love marketing and enjoy the challenge of getting views and likes and — OMG, I’m starting to market myself!

Okay, that’s just strange.

What’s even stranger to me is this:

I NEVER EVEN NOTICED I WAS DOING IT.

Dang.

So I decided to step away from Social Media for a bit.  Not completely, though.  I still play with our Facebook Rotary Club of Lahaina page quite a bit, and with my Lahaina Education Center page a little as well.  I visit groups that I belong to, and use lists a bit.  And I’ll scroll through five or six posts a couple times a day. But frankly, “staying away” hasn’t been that difficult.  Why? Because – and I include myself in this, most definitely – I think we post too much.  If you were here, would we talk every day? Probably not.  So do you need to hear what I am up to, three times a day?  Definitely not.  Frankly, I don’t even care what I’m up to that often!

Oh, I could go off on a number of tangents here, like:

  1. Friends list – do you even KNOW all 500 of them?
  2. FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – our unique 21st century fabricated nonesense
  3. Oh, never mind #3.  I’ll just post memes about it. (heh heh)

But I think I’ll stop here, and just give you one, no finger pointing, “oh, that makes sense” kind of conclusion–

I think the culprit is the scattershot All Friends or Public approach to posting.  Who in the heck are we addressing, anyway? Often when I post, I’m thinking of a specific person, or a specific group.  So I’m thinking I will explore the idea of more targeted posting. Targeting posts??!!  Oh yikes, marketing strikes again…

I give up.

But before go, I want to ask you one question – have YOU become a sub-conscious self-marketer?  Think about it.

Marti’s all time favorite Facebook meme.

Marti’s second favorite Facebook meme

I moved to Lahaina, Maui from Hana, Maui about seven years ago and it took awhile to adjust. Like, maybe six years to adjust?  Hana is a very down-to-earth, very Hawaiian “local” kind of community where I lived for twenty years. But Lahaina is full of hotels, restaurants and luxuries like fully stocked grocery stores that are open later than 7pm and even a movie theatre.  It also is full of mainland visitors and the recently moved.

What I noticed right away was that people treated me differently than I was used to being treated.  They were polite, of course, but there was something missing.  In fact, there was one grocery store checker that really kind of bothered me. She was courteous and efficient, but not really “there.”  Then it struck me.  She treated me like a …

… tourist.

I didn’t consciously think about it, but under the surface, it bugged me.  I wanted to pull out my “Twenty Years in Hana” hat or fake pidgin street cred and say, “Hey, I’ve lived here half my life!”  But of course, I didn’t.

Nevertheless, I began to behave a little differently whenevah I went to da stoh.  (see how I did that, there?  Yeah, that’s what I’d do).  For some crazy reason, I wanted her to know that I wasn’t a tourist or recent transplant.  There are a hundred different ways in which that’s a messed up attitude, but the one that fits my current train of thought is simply:

I had an agenda.

I wanted her to see me in a certain way.  Odd, yes?

Once I understood that, it was easy to let go of it. Pouf! Gone!

But it got me to thinking … do I have agendas when dealing with other people?  Think in terms of the phrase hidden agenda for this to make sense. It’s when you do something that seems one way at face value, but under the surface, you actually want something specific from a person.  Some common, relatively benign social ‘hidden agendas’ are:  Do I want this person to like me?  To do something for me? To think I’m smart? Or cool?  Do I want them to adopt a certain opinion?     And yes – I sheepishly admitted to myself – I often have those agendas, without even realizing it.

It was one of those “moment of truth” times, where we fluctuate between patting ourselves on the back for being so self-honest and wondering why it is necessary to always be so damn deep.  Okay, maybe I’m the only one who fluctuates thusly.

Anyway, the point is…

I spent the next year or so honestly examining my motives when dealing with others.  I mean, yes – we like to be liked.  But no, I’m not running for Prom Queen.

At this point, those of you who have known me for a long time are probably thinking, “When in the hell did ‘what people think‘ ever stop her from saying what’s on her mind?”  So I will qualify it by saying – this wasn’t a HUGE issue; it was just a little quirk that had gone previously unnoticed.

These days, I’ve hit a good balance.  Life is good so I’m happy, and “happy” leads to kindness.  But on the other hand, I’m technically a senior citizen, so regarding most opinions of me (or anything, actually), I really don’t give a shit.  Really.  I don’t.  [Young people take note: This actually makes getting older worth it.]

What brought this one?  The other day I saw a notepad thing with AGENDA as the heading, but someone had scrawled

I have no agenda!  across the page.  And I decided it was a sign.

So I am going to dust off my “no agenda” agenda and make sure that it’s still valid.  “Being Present” – I think that’s what the kids are calling it these days.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Oh and an anecdote:
A few years ago that grocery store checker needed some college advice and – even though I was only my regular, no frills Marti, the Haole College Lady self – she now calls me Aunty.

Funny how that works.

heh

heh

In 2007, a young college student named Michael from an online writers’ site told Lori and me about something called Facebook.  We each promptly opened a profile, designated either other and Michael as our “friends” and -for me- it stayed that way for the next couple of years.  Those were the My Space days and, since I lived in a beautiful yet very remote part of Maui, the early days of social media really appealed to me.  It gave me a little mainland fix.

Fast forward a bit.  My Space, which was quite a nice little thing, was eclipsed by Facebook and began to wither away, due to a sudden lack of nourishment and has been on life support ever since.

Since then we’ve learned to tweet and snap and make circles and lord only knows what else. Apparently we are not into cockney accents here in cyberspace, as the occasional “Ello” only echoes through empty halls.

But then there’s Facebook…. the enduring (though not particularly endearing) Facebook.  Why are we all still there?  Lord knows, we grumble about it enough.

I think the reason is  that there’s an accrued investment factor.  Friends, families, grandmothers, exes, co-workers, non-real-life friends that we’ve gathered up over the past decade … have almost all wandered over by now and it’s so easy to have one access point for all these people.  Except for that one word: Almost.  They’re ALMOST all there.  And now the point is starting to come into focus for me.  (I don’t pre-write or plan what I’m going to say – welcome to the circuitous pattern of Marti’s Thinking Process)

ALL of my friends are not on Facebook.  In fact, one of the few people on this planet who holds the title of Marti’s BFF Forever is not and has no plans to be.  And there are others.  A friend who I see weekly and socialize with occasionally is not.  Email, text – yes.  Facebook – no.  I’m continually surprised when he isn’t aware of something that is happening and then remember … oh, he’s not on FACEBOOK.  And one of my favorite aunts?  No FB, no computer.  I actually have to call her on the PHONE.  Yes, it makes calls, I am reminded.

So…

Put these musings together with the fact that I am savoring a reclusive, crotchety phase where I find social media annoying as hell (yes I KNOW what your political opinions are and I knew them throughout the last fifty memes) and simply want to cut down on the inner and outer NOISE in my life and voila … the No Facebook week was born.

How was it?  Well, to be honest – I only made it through five days.  In the beginning, I did log on a couple of times, but didn’t much care and logged out after reading just a few things.  Mostly I only wanted to make the little red numbers go away. So it was easy. But what made me go back to FB last night, two days earlier than planned?  Well. I was home alone, watching an old Criminal Minds.  (To toss in my usual digression – I’d never seen the procedural FBI drama until a couple of months ago, when I began to Netflix it from the beginning. Since then, it’s about all I watch.  Sort of the TV watching version of eating only PB&J sandwiches for a week.)  But anyway… They start and end each episode with a pithy quote that is designed to make the viewer say, “OH MY GOODNESS, YES. HOW RELEVANT AND PROFOUND!”  And I admit with slight embarrassment, that’s usually exactly what happens.  And the closing quote last night was a MUST SHARE.  So I did.  On Facebook, automatically.

Here’s what struck me as the interesting part:  I posted because I had something to share and no one immediately present to share it with.  Does that mean I wanted someone here, in my house, to tell it to?  Oh hell no.  It was a long, people-intense day and right now my little house feels like my own private sanctuary.  BUT … I find it interesting that it was my need to communicate OUT that caused me to automatically log on and share the quote.  And that – I think – is sort of the point.  That, and the whole idea of social media being a double edged sword.    Now I have very strong opinions about both of those concepts, but I’ll stop here and let you think about them on your own. And yes, I know this ALSO means I should probably lay off Criminal Minds for a bit.   And – as always – feel free to comment.  ;- heh.

Marti

Matthew Gray Gubler as Spencer Reid

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Around January 3rd-ish, my goal was to try to post a weekly blog.  I blinked and it was February and I thought, “Okay, monthly then.”  One-third of the way closer to March and I ask myself, “So … you got a plan C in there somewhere?”  In the past six weeks I’ve had at least ten blog ideas that pop into my head while driving, standing in line at Safeway or in the shower (never mind that one), but they’re only one short thought that has to be fleshed out in order to become a REAL BLOG POST.  Hence, plan C: Short, one thought, shallow blog posts.  Case in point:

Long Hair

Right now my hair is longer than it’s been since Denver in the 1970’s  When wet, my hair goes about an inch and a half past my shoulders, so it’s actually just longish.  And why do I say “when wet?”  Well, as every curly-haired person knows, only wet hair is measured by length. Dry hair is measured by width.  To whine further- when you have a long neck, it takes FOREVER for the length get down there far enough to officially register as Long Hair. But I digress…

Longish hair takes some getting used to.  First of all, when getting dressed it gets caught under my bra strap and I never figure that out until I’m fully clothed and have to fiddle around with where it is and how to unleash it.  Same principle for trying to turn my head while driving or when leaning back in my office chair.  The worst, though, is when I wear something sleeveless. A fast turn to the right and I am immediately startled by whatever or whomever gave me such a light touch on my left shoulder.  And then I remember: Oh.  Right.  It’s the hair.

But the negatives of longish hair are far outweighed by one major advantage: I can toss the whole thing into a maintenance-free ponytail and forget about it all.  Unless I’m driving, or sitting in a high back chair, that is. [Picture someone seated with her head pitched two inches forward] Then it’s low pony all the way.

Yeah, this was a pretty pointless blog.  But that’s how we’re gonna roll this year.

This illustrates the flat iron magic of Salon Bella Maui’s Kim Willits. Six times a year, I have “normal human” hair.