3:30 Thursday, Projects

Still Searching for Sunday

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been experiencing an eight year-long crisis of faith.

Maybe faith isn’t the right word. It’s been a crisis of church. I feel a homeless, and I don’t know where to go.

Like basically every Christian I know, one of my favorite writers on Christianity and faith is C.S. Lewis. There is a moment in the fifth The Chronicles of Narnia book The Silver Chair where some of the kids and a Marshwiggle named Puddleglum get trapped under ground, and the Emerald queen is trying to convince them that there is no Narnia, that Aslan is a dream, and that only the darkness of the cave is real.

Puddleglum finally says:

Puddleglum_walking

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all of those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones… We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the playworld. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia… and that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull as you say.

Puddleglums statement sums up why, for me, faith isn’t the problem, but church can be hard to come by.

When I think about my faith and my life, I want my faith to be relevant and useful, even if Christianity isn’t “real.” When I look back on my life, I want to know that I treated people with love and kindness, that I remembered “the least of these,” that I practiced forgiveness – because heaven or no heaven, Jesus or no Jesus, Noah’s ark or no Noah’s ark – I have faith that this way of living will make my life richer, happier and more valuable for me.

Does that still count as faith?

I feel out-of-place in church, and it’s been so long since I’ve attended regularly that the mere thought of hunting down service times, getting dressed, and showing up sends my anxiety into a tailspin. What if they find out I believe in global warming? What if they preach a political platform from the pulpit? What if they don’t let gay people be members? What if I go once and it’s not a good fit, but I see someone I know and they’re offended that I don’t like their church?

The few times I’ve had the courage to step into a sanctuary over the last few years, I have felt like a stranger in my own land. I don’t like being the new kid. I don’t like introducing myself to people. I don’t like not knowing where the bathroom is. And, Culture Wars aside, I’m frustrated when I hear sermons that are answering questions I don’t have about my Christian life. I don’t need to know who’s not getting in to heaven. I don’t need to feel superior to non-Christians. I don’t need the Bible to be infallible to be full of many truths. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I shouldn’t have to wrestle with my faith because Jesus has already done that for me. And I really don’t want to wonder if someone is telling my daughters that they are somehow less worthy than men because Eve ate the apple first.

But I still find myself longing for Christian community.

So, when I saw the title of Rachel Held Evan’s book, Searching for Sunday, I thought: “Yes – that.”1423422279150

I can relate to Evans’ desire to intellectualize church – to protect myself from judgement by being judgmental, to evaluate the merits of a church’s doctrine. And I can also relate to Evans’ description of the Evangelical church as “an ex-boyfriend who’s Facebook page you can’t stop checking”

I find myself speaking up for God and the church when I see nay-sayers (most recently, I engaged with a stranger on Facebook about whether or not God was causing hurricanes…). But, on Sunday mornings, I expect a lot from my church. I see a lot of church’s “reaching out” to people my age by having rock concert quality music from their Worship Team, changing their names (examples: The Meet Up, Roots, Cool place that’s not Church but is actually Church), modernizing their logos, having services at some other time, building a coffee shop (okay…I love the coffee shops).

And I believe that God loves our joyful noise (whatever music you play), and that it’s good to update your logo every 500 years or so, but I’m not trying to decide between church and rock concerts (maybe I’m the only one?). I don’t want to go to church and have to pretend I’m doing great all the time or that I don’t have any problems because I have Jesus.

I love this sentiment:

“At its best, the church functions much like a recovery group, a safe place where a bunch of struggling, imperfect people come together to speak difficult truths to one another.”

I would like to go to a place like that…I think. But…how do you walk in the door the first time? How do you figure out from a church’s website if it’s more recovery group or “place where we pretend we don’t have problem because we have Jesus?” And…would that mean accepting that other people need something different from their faith than I do?

I want my daughters to know God…but I want them to know God as a loving friend who’s there with you in hard times, who will help you clean up your yard after a hurricane, bring you dinner when you’re overwhelmed, listen to you when your totally confused and don’t know why, and call you out for your bad behavior. I want the voice of God in their head to be a voice of love – not one of judgement, righteous fury, and perfectionism.

But…by being so picky about how other people experience God, and I not being a judgmental perfectionist myself? Reading Searching for Sunday, I felt a sense of comfort. Here is a friend who knows what I’m going through. At least I’m not alone.

And isn’t that we are all ultimately afraid of? And isn’t that what church and community offer us? The ultimate truth that we are not alone. That we are all struggling and wrestling with the challenges of life together.

I am still searching.

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Maggie and Mary Margaret often read books in tandem; we call it our two-person book club. For September, we bring you (in two parts) our thoughts on Rachel Held Evans’s book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church.

Check out Mary Margaret’s thoughts on Searching for Sunday here.

Visit Rachel Held Evans’ website and blog here.

Projects

Do you watch deleted scenes?

Motivation Monday is back, this week, Maggie shared her Motivation Monday on her other blog, On the Banks

On the Banks

Deleted scenes were usually deleted for a reason.

And for that reason, I usually don’t watch them.

But recently, on a road trip, I purchased the soundtrack to Moana (because I have two children under the age of 5, and it’s one of the best Disney movies I’ve ever seen…but that’s for another day). The soundtrack included a few demo tracks with Lin-Manuel Miranda singing “Shiny,” “You’re Welcome,” and “Where You Are,” which I thought was pretty cool.

But then, I listened to another demo track for a song called “More” and the reprise, neither song appears in the final cut of the film.

There’s no animation to go with the song, but it sounds like the song is an alternate to “How Far I’ll Go.” Which is an AMAZING song, and is obviously the right choice for the film.

But it’s a really good song, too, and the reprise…

View original post 473 more words

3:30 Thursday, Projects

6 Practices to help you screen less Tech Sabbath Part 2

On Sunday, August 13 Maggie and Mary Margaret eschewed phones, computers, and televisions, observing a technology sabbath. This week Maggie shares her insights on her 24-hour screen break. Be sure to check out Mary Margaret’s thoughts and read about our preparation for Screen Free Day!


I approached screen free day as a day long meditation practice. I expected that I would experience a certain amount of tech withdrawal – a strong urge to sit down at my computer or reach for my phone, and I didn’t want to spend the day judging myself. In mindfulness practice, they say that when you come back to your breath (or the object of your practice) from being distracted, your return to the present moment and that feeling of “waking up” is the practice. Screen Free Day felt like many moments of waking up.

Normally, in moments of downtime, I mindlessly start scrolling through pictures, posts and articles on social media. I check my email. I send a quick text message. But on Screen Free Day, with nothing to do with my hands, I worked on a writing project, I sat down at our new-to-us piano (which I found from a stranger on Facebook…) and practiced. Things I’ve been telling myself for months that “I don’t have time for” suddenly got my attention.

Awareness:

One of the things I noticed immediately was how many roles my phone has in my life.

200545827-001

It is:

  1. A camera
  2. A newspaper
  3. A radio
  4. A bulletin board
  5. A telephone
  6. A telegraph
  7. A television
  8. A post office
  9. A way to connect with friends and family
  10. A marketing tool
  11. A personal organizer
  12. An encyclopedia
  13. A dictionary
  14. A map
  15. A calculator
  16. A way to disengage from the problems or irritations of the moment

A place to let your better angels run wild

Being unplugged from technology for a day reminded me of the Spring of my sophomore year in college. Back then, Facebook was “new” and you had to have a “.edu” email address to get an account. That fall, Facebook caused a lot of unnecessary drama in my life, so I gave it up for what ended up being most of a semester. While I enjoyed not having the distraction and drama, I was a pretty lonely semester. My friends made plans for lunch dates, shared jokes, and communicated on Facebook, so I missed out on those things by being off the grid. I realized that I was willing to risk a little drama to stay involved with my friends and reactivated my account.

smartphones2_persona

I also feel like I bring my best self to my social media accounts in a way that I struggle to bring my best self to the real world. Not just in the “I only share my best moments online, so my life seems way better online than it is in real life” way. In the real world, I stumble over my words, can never think of the right thing to say, and generally – in my fear of seeming weird, being offensive or struggling with my critical inner voice – I hold back. Some people use the anonymity of the screen to say terrible things to others that they’d never say in person. Whereas, I tend to skew in the opposite direction – when I’m hiding behind my screen and have time to chew on my thoughts, think about others feelings, and how best to put something – I tend to be kinder, more thoughtful and more generous in virtual spaces than I am in the real world. Whereas an internet troll may let their demons run wild in the online space, I tend to let my better angels run wild.

It’s a Trap!

Trap 1: I need to hide behind the screen to be my best self

On the other hand…is that a trap? Is that just what the internet wants me to think? Perhaps if I devoted the time I spend curating my online presence volunteering in my community, joining toastmasters to work on my public speaking, or facing real people instead of virtual people, I’d find that I could be my online self in real life.

Trap 2: I only see what I want to see

One of the things my day without screens made me most aware of is how customized my online experience is. It’s nice to have a tailored experience – I see my favorite friend’s posts more frequently; I see news that’s related to other stories I’ve read from sources I find reputable and interesting; I hear music and radio shows that I like and choose whenever it’s convenient for me to listen.

But…what am I not hearing, reading or seeing?

If I got a printed newspaper every day, I would undoubtedly see news or hear stories that the editor of the newspaper thought were important that I might never choose for myself. And that is both good and bad. By choosing my own news, I get what’s interesting to me. But, I think it’s valuable to read, watch and listen to the perspective of people who grate on my nerves, who challenge my preconceived notions, and who don’t always say what I want to hear.

A sense of calm

My kids interrupt me constantly. It’s what they do. I hear “MOM!” at least 100 times a day. And most days, that sound fills me with anger. Usually, it’s pulling me from something I’m working on, reading or doing, and I find that constant interruption of my concentration and the inability to work deeply and focus on something to be infuriating and frustrating. But…on Screen Free Day…I felt focused and even though the interruptions kept coming, I didn’t feel angry.

For several days after Screen Free Day, I felt a residual sense of calm and focus. I also felt less pulled to the virtual world. I made fewer posts, fewer comments, got less carried away on social media or news sites. And…it was kind of amazing. I enjoyed silence and hearing the noise of the world around me.

As I said before, I think there is a lot of good to be found from connecting and staying in touch with friends and family online. It’s how my children know what their grandparents look like. It’s how I’m able to stay in touch with my sisters and friends who live all over the country. It’s how I learn what’s going on in the world, and it’s also how I’m sharing this story with you.

But, in the spirit of mindfulness, I’m going to work on my practice of screening less. Here are the practices I intend to adopt:

 

6 Practices to help you screen less

  1. Have a screen free hour every day
    • Note: obviously, we all have an hour in the day where we probably don’t happen to be looking at a screen. But, I want to take an hour of the day to do this on purpose.
    • Maybe you put the phone down and watch your child’s practice or play with them.
    • Maybe you drive to work without music, radio or podcasts playing.
    • Maybe write out something by hand instead of typing it.
  2. Have a screen free day once a week or month
    • Note: I would like to have a weekly screen free day, but I do a lot of preparation for the week using my computer, and my job requires I work at a computer – at least a little – every day. I had to do a good bit of pre-work and catch up to make screen free day happen. I’m not ready to do it every week, but I know I could do this once a month.
  3. Instead of using the tools on my phone – get some of those specific things: a calculator, a camera, a newspaper instead
  4. Be mindful of your curated experience
    • seek out sources, stories, people and information that are off your beaten path
  5. If you like the person you are online, try to bring that person to the real world.
    • Make a date to meet someone in person
    • Show up to a community event or meeting
    • Volunteer somewhere
    • Go to a live show or concert
    • Try a new restaurant
    • Say something nice to someone’s face.
  6. Have a space in your home or life where there are no screens
    • The main living area of my home does not have a television or computer in it. We did that on purpose because we wanted to avoid the temptation to check out or veg out when we’re together as a family. I find this makes it easier to play board games, pull out a puzzle, have a conversation or do things that help us engage in a face to face way.

 

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Screen Less?

On Sunday, August 13 Maggie and Mary Margaret are planning a screen free day or technology sabbath. We wanted to make ourselves more aware of the role technology plays in our life and see how we do for a day without them. However, simply preparing for this day has proven worthy of many laughs, insights and challenges.

Mary Margaret

Once Maggie and I agreed to the idea of doing a “screen-free day” as a blog topic for the month of August, we immediately had to begin preparing ourselves for this epic, challenging feat!

Wait a second… a few years ago I didn’t even have a smart phone.  My first year in New York I didn’t have any internet capability on my phone. A few years before that, I didn’t even send texts. A few years before that I didn’t have a personal cell phone….HOW HAVE WE COME TO THIS?!!

I immediately begin thinking through the potential problems and scenarios presented by the idea of not using the phone or the computer for the day. I can do this pretty handily when I am away from work, on a family vacation or something, but in my working, day to day life, the idea sends me into a mild state of anxiety. I’ve certainly felt the wave of panic and then freedom from suddenly realizing on the train that I’ve left my phone at home, but then typically I can still check in through  email communication once I get to work.

Maggie and I proposed screen-free day precisely for this reason; we want to be mindful about the amount of time and energy spent engaging with these devices. We want to make ourselves aware of our addiction to being connected and plugged in. Here are some major anxieties that started to come up when we started discussing the idea:

1. OVERSLEEPING!

My phone serves as my alarm, so I’ll have to pull out that small clock I have somewhere…hmmm, where is that thing?

2. Work contacting me!

I requested we do the experiment on a  Sunday, because Monday is my day off. Since the nature of my job means I frequently hear last-minute stuff the day or evening before. Or morning of. Basically, this comes down to the fact that people EXPECT to be able to contact you at any time, so I’ll just hope our stage manager isn’t frantically trying to get ahold of me to let me know that we’re putting an understudy on in the Sunday matinee.

3. Letting people know

This goes back to expectations. There’s an awareness that people have their phones with them virtually all the time. We spend actual time with many people that we contact by phone; we see them check their phones! We know they look at their phones!! So if we don’t hear from someone that is typically responsive (and I try to be) we may worry or think something is wrong.

4. Making the plan beforehand

We are so used to being able to make last minute changes to plans, and I am getting together with friends on Sunday night, which is typical for me. Only this time we shall have to plan ahead, and then refer to point #3, which is me telling them not to change plans, since I won’t be reachable for last minute upheavals.

5. What if someone I love has a baby?!?!

The last and most pressing current anxiety is that Maggie and I are both on baby watch! In spite of knowing that in ye olde time days, you might have to wait months for a letter to arrive letting you know about the birth of a baby, now neither of us could imagine not knowing (even hundreds of miles away from these births) the instant when our dear friend Jillian and my sister Emily go into labor. Via phone call, Maggie and I we may have concocted a contingency plan that involves friendly confederates roped into looking at our phones FOR US at spaced intervals to screen for baby-related incoming texts or calls. And then naturally there was the tacit agreement  that if a baby is coming, screen-free day  is henceforth finished and postponed until a later time. Maybe to a day far in the future when no one will potentially be sending us cute baby pictures.

…So the moral of the story is that we haven’t even gotten close to screen-free Sunday (coming to torture a blogger near you on August 13) and we are already hopelessly proving the point  about our modern-day screen addiction.

Yes, where’s that alarm clock? And maybe I should start passing out the extension on my land line at work.


Maggie

I have been gearing myself up for a screen free day for weeks. I don’t like to do things cold turkey, so just like when you’re easing into a swimming pool trying to avoid taking the inevitable plunge, I have been trying to use my screens a little less in preparation for our screen free day.

born-ready1. Deleted Social Media Apps from my phone.

I realized about 9 months ago that Facebook was just way too much temptation for me to have available for viewing at all times, so it’s been off the phone for awhile. But, that meant I started exploring the Twitter-verse. And WOW, there are some fascinating, funny and crazy stuff on that platform. So…it’s gone now, too.  There were a couple of other apps I tried that also tend to suck me in, they’re also gone.

2. Attempted to ‘get ahead’ on work I normally do on Sunday.

I like to think that I take my Sundays totally and completely off from work and reserve that day for my family. But…I own a small business, so there’s a part of me that really wants to be available if someone wants information, has a question or needs something on a Sunday. But…maybe it can wait.

3. Starting bringing awareness to when I want to visit social media

There are a couple of tools to help you stay focused when working on computers. Two that I like are called Block Site and Freedom. Block site is an app that will keep you from visiting certain sites during days/times that you specify. So, for example, if I try to visit Facebook, Twitter, certain new sites, etc. during my “working” hours, my browser will redirect me to a website that is raising funds for a cause that is offensive to me. It’s AMAZING how quickly that will make you realize that you’re typing in the URL for Faceboo… before you’ve even thought about it.

Freedom is an app you can use on your phone (or computer) which also blocks sites and apps that you choose during the days/times of your choosing.

I’ve found that I love/hate using these tools. On the one hand, it’s great to keep myself accountable. But, on the other hand, I’d like to think I could have self-control without the aid of an app. But…I think they’ve designed the apps to be that way, so I don’t blame myself.

4. Recognize what I want from my technology

I do really appreciate the way that my phone connects me with my family and friends. I love listening to podcasts, seeing pictures of my friend’s babies, going on vacations vicariously through my friends, learning tricks to help me be a better parent, business owner, wife, homeowner, etc. But I don’t want to be so involved in those things that I miss my own life – my children, my home, my town, etc.

I also don’t want to fall into the trap of viewing my world through an iPhone camera lens, 140 character quips, and filters. Of course, our own beliefs, values and experience serve as a lens that change what we see in our world and in our lives…but at least it’s a 3D representation rather than a curated bunch of pixels. I want my kids to know how to make eye contact, to listen intently, to know what dirt between their toes feels like. I don’t want to make a false choice and say we should all get rid of all our technology, but I don’t want to use it just because it’s there. I think that my phone, my computer and my television are tools. They work very well as tools, but aren’t great masters. So, I’m hopeful, that Screen Free Sunday will be a kick-start on a journey to a more mindful relationship with the screens in my life.

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

You don’t have to want to do it

I love my job.

Really. It’s a cool job, and I love doing it.

But there are parts of my job – mailing Quarterly 941 Tax Return to the IRS, filing sales tax reports on time, reconciling accounts, keeping track of addresses, remembering the passwords for various websites, answering the phone for telemarketers, renewing my insurance and licenses, catching up when I’ve fallen behind on some of those tasks – that I don’t particularly enjoy doing.

I like working with individuals, having conversations that help people grow, seeing people improving their flexibility, strength and coordination, engaging with people, teaching.

BUT – If I don’t do the things I don’t like doing…I won’t get to do the things I do like doing. (sorry for all the double negatives here)

Does that sound crazy?

What’s even crazier is that I love having done the things I don’t like doing. I love the feeling of relief that comes when a nagging or unpleasant task is over. I love knowing that I haven’t let some large thing slip through the cracks – or if I have let that thing slip through the cracks that I have filled the crack and things will no longer slip through it.

I think it’s useful to keep this in mind because it helps you do the things you don’t love doing. Because they have to get done whether you want to do it or not.

So – for this week – remember, whatever it is for you. You don’t have to like doing it.

 

3:30 Thursday, Motivation Monday, Projects

Let’s just leave God out of this, please.

Earlier today, the President of the United States shared the following sentiment on his social media accounts:

And something in me has officially snapped.

I am done.

If I hear one more statement from a Christian comparing the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to a morally questionable leader/king/etc. from the Old Testament and saying that because God used so-and-so, God is also using the 45th President of the United States to bring about his will. I have a few things to say to you.

And, to you, morally superior Christian who has instead identified this man as a portent of the end times, the anti-Christ, and evil incarnate – I have some things to say to you, too.

It’s probably not the end times.

Let’s get some perspective – basically, all Christians since the year 33 A.D. have believe that they were living in the end times. And, let’s be honest, the Christians who lived through the black death in the 14th Century saw 50% or more of Europe’s population die. By 1691, 90-95% of the indigenous peoples of the Americas had died from epidemic disease, war, famine, and other side effects of the “discovery” of the New World. Even in the last few centuries, children died of malaria, small pox, diphtheria, polio and common colds due to malnutrition, lack of medical care, poor sanitation and unfortunate luck. Now, here we are in 2017, and in the United States of America we have an unqualified bully for a President.

A man who admittedly thought it was worth his time today to accuse Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska of “letting Republicans down” by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And who also thought it was worth his time and energy to make a statement excluding transgendered Americans from serving in our military.

But even in these dark times, we still have electricity, running water, cable television, Facebook, and an overabundance of cheap processed food available at grocery and convenience stores 24 hours a day. I’m just saying – our claim on the end times is pretty pathetic compared to basically all time before now.

I can appreciate your feeling that our President feels like a bad omen. Nevertheless, I want to challenge that idea. I think we make this mistake over and over again in our country, and in the Christian faith.

Let’s think about Jesus for a second…

The ministry of Jesus Christ was not a political revolution. He confused people constantly in his ministry. He appeared to have infinite power:

ICYMI (In cased you missed it):

  • He could heal the sick just by touching them
  • He used 5 loaves of bread to feed 5,000 people
  • He turn water into wine
  • He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors – usually having meals with them
  • He raised a child from the dead
  • He raised his friend from the dead
  • He called out religious leaders for hypocrisy
  • Also, when faced with the prospect of death, he died. Rather than use his power against his accusers – he died. (Note the distinct contrast with the words of our current President: “When the President gets hit, he’s going to hit back 10 times harder.”) Then (we’re back to Jesus now) he came back to life.

Note some big missing elements: He never endorsed a political candidate or party (not even Ronald Regan). Also, he never mentioned the United States of America, free speech or trickle down economics. In fact, he suggested that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the first would be last and the last would be first (Matthew 20:16).

Thanks for the Sunday school lesson…why are we here again?

Here’s what I believe: Jesus Christ came to restore humanity’s relationship with its creator, not overthrow the Roman empire. I’m just going to put this out there – I don’t believe that God cares one way or another who the President of the United States is. I think God cares how we treat each other, how we treat the poor, how we treat the sick, and how we treat the planet. And, I dare say, we can do better in those areas.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t even believe that God hates Donald Trump. I think this is why Evangelical Christians have “hope” for this man – Donald Trump is not beyond the reach of God’s love…he doesn’t strike me as someone who is searching desperately for the living water that Jesus offers his followers (John 4:14), but who am I to judge another human’s innermost heart?

And that is another revolutionary idea of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ died for Donald Trump, too. I believe that Mr. Trump sees Christians in a transactional way – he likes the ones that voted for him…and that is sad for him. Because if he ever put anyone or anything above himself, he might discover the power of grace, the value of love, and the return on the investment of forgiveness and faith that leads to a truly abundant life.

I don’t believe that Donald Trump should have the power of the Presidency, and I certainly don’t want to give him the power of the antichrist. He is unworthy of both.

Is he a greedy man? Yes.
Is he a shallow man? Yes.
Is he a bully? Yes.
Is he an insult to the position that he holds and the country he represents? Yes.

And YES, he is in a position to do real harm to many people and our country, and that is why, despite my desire to pretend that he does not exist, that I choose to resist.

But please, do not give him the credit for bringing about the end times. And certainly don’t give up on the Paris accords or trying to prevent the destruction that our planet will experience due to Global Warming because you think the World is going to end anyway.

The world has seen bad leaders. evil leaders. and worse – leaders who were bad and evil, but also smart and charismatic. Mr. Trump is clumsy, inarticulate and foul. His lies are transparent and he will fall into the trap he has laid for himself.

In the mean time, let’s give God a break. Christians, can’t we please get back to the work that was important to Jesus Christ? Feeding the hungry? Healing the sick? Loving those who were rejected? Turning the other cheek? Not throwing the first stone? Following the Spirit rather than the letter of the law? Let’s do those things and stop pretending that the man in the White House represents those values right now.

 

Motivation Monday, Projects

Wish your alternate self well

One of the things that I’ve found follows me through life is the wondering questions, “what if…”

What if I had majored in x?

What if that relationship had worked out?

What if I had made that move after all?

What if I had turned left instead of right?

I think this idea is most beautifully expressed in Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I love these two lines of the poem:
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back…”
It’s true. There are many decisions we never get to come back to.
In Science fiction, there’s a popular trope of the alternate universe. A parallel world where at one time, one decision was changed and everything that followed was different.
kira_and_the_intendantMy favorite example of this is the alternate universe episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I’ll be honest, I prefer the DS9 universe where people are kind, ethical, work hard, solve problems, etc. But it’s fun, about once a season, to imagine that this utopian world could have been different. darker. That things weren’t destined to turn out that way.
What does this have to do with motivation?
Sometimes, I find myself falling into the trap of regretting the roads not taken in my life: the opportunities turned down, the choices made or not made.
Then, I remember that there could be an alternate universe out there. A place where I did make that decision. There could be millions upon millions of alternate Maggie’s in the parallel universes out there living out all the dreams, hopes, and desires that I can’t fit into this one life that I am living. She’s living with the positive and negative side effects of that decision, just as I am living with the positive and negative side effects of the decisions I’ve made in my life.
parallel-universe-reality.jpg
Then, for whatever decision I’m feeling wistful about today, I wish that alternate universe Maggie well.
I hope that whatever decision she made – whether it was to choose a different job, travel the world, spend a year in silent meditation in a cave in Bangladesh, become a vegan – worked out well for her and that she’s happy. Then, I choose to wish myself well, too. Because unless we discover an anomaly in the space-time continuum, this is the only universe I get to experience. And I get to experience less of it when I’m dreaming and imaging I’m living some other version of my life.
So, I hope you enjoy our wonderful universe this week, and wish all of the alternate realities out there a great week, too!
Projects

Millennials…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We’re all a part of the millennial generation. According to Wikipedia (which we’ll use as a source, since we’re all millennials here): Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends. Demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.

This week, Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian will share their thoughts on how or whether they feel like the labels and stereotypes associated with millennials apply to us.


Maggie
I have seen this video shared by people on the internet so many times. Every time there’s a caption like “Simon Sinek saves the world.” “Simon Sinek on how to fix millennials.” “I blame the parents.” Blah. Blah. Blah.
If you have 20 minutes, Simon’s observations are interesting, if condescending.

 

John Christ, a comedian, has also capitalized on our cultural “truth” about millennials in a series of amusing, if condescending, youtube videos.

I hate to be a “snow flake” or a “whimp” who just can’t take a joke…but I feel like these kinds of things, while they may have their place in our conversation don’t really capture the whole story here. I’m so frustrated by the stereotype of millennials. Maybe I’m being a millennial here, but…these things don’t describe me. I don’t feel like I’ve been ruined by text messages, Facebook likes, instagram or participation trophies. I’m not traumatized by getting unfriended by someone. I don’t feel like I’m allergic to work. I don’t feel like I’m entitled to a corner office.

I do feel like I was played by the system. I believed that by working hard in school (and I worked very hard and got really good grades), I would be able to get a good job when I graduated from college. You know, the kind where you can pay off your student loans and pay the rent for an apartment that didn’t have a cockroach problem. I didn’t need a corner office, a fancy title, or free snacks.

I expected that I could find an entry level white collar opportunity in some field. Accounting. Banking. Consulting. Something. Anything. Literally anything. But that was a luxury reserved for people who graduated in another time.

I graduated from college in 2009. And, I don’t know if you know this, but the World economy nearly collapsed, the housing market went belly up, and on top of that we (the collective, United States of America, “we”) ended the shuttle program, which was kind of a big deal for Florida’s Space Coast where I happened to find myself as a freshly minted college graduate in search of a first job.

I applied for a lot of jobs, and I got several. At one point, I had three part time jobs. All paid less than $10/hour. That was not fun. But, I struggled to find a better opportunity, for every “entry level” job I found, there was this line at the bottom “minimum five years of experience.” Where was I supposed to get this experience? I thought about moving somewhere else…but how was I supposed to afford to move? What if there weren’t any jobs there either?

At one point, I thought, “I have a degree in mathematics, surely I could get a job as a math teacher.” BUT….no. Budget cuts in our local school system meant that they weren’t hiring smart, enthusiastic people without a teaching certificate. So…I thought about going to graduate school to actually get qualified to do something, but wasn’t wild about the idea of borrowing more money and still not actually having a job.

I feel more like the guy in this Zen Riddles for Millennials than the millennial getting engaged or the people being described by Simon Sinek.

Maybe I’m too bitter about this. Maybe I don’t have enough perspective to see the reality of this situation. Maybe I don’t know a diverse enough collection of millennials to really appreciate how shallow, entitled, and addicted to screens we all are. I’m just saying…I think there is more to this story.

I’m not saying I’m retroactively entitled to a job. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to figure out some things. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for the career and business I’ve found. But I am saying that this should be a part of the conversation.


Mary Margaret

While brainstorming topics for the blog, Maggie tossed out a suggestion she’s mentioned before: Let’s write about what it means to be a Millennial. And I said…

Okayyyyy….but I’m not even really sure what that means.

Which pretty much says it all.

I’ve heard the term peppered throughout popular discourse—  disparaged by baby boomers, contrasted with Gen-Xers—without ever actually tuning in enough to define what it entails. But what I’ve learned since Maggie’s suggestion about my inclusion in this generation is rather handily contained in my response and reaction.

For one thing, I had an absolutely “millennial” solution to my problem. (Insert eye roll here) I immediately Googled the term, pulling up the Wikipedia page to skim through general definitions and subject headings. My adaptability to ever-changing technologies and information sources is undoubtedly a salient feature of my generation, and one that I’ll happily acknowledge.  I’m glad I remember when few people owned a personal cell phone or computer, when email was new, and when school research papers were drawn together using mystical elements like card catalogs, libraries, and reference books. Simultaneously, I’m glad that by the time I was in college, accessing online source material was common and expected, so I learned to be a discerning consumer of this new stream of information. Growing up with the growth of the Internet has saved our generation from the struggle faced by some of our parents in becoming literate with these new technologies. I’m grateful to have absorbed early that not everything you read on the Web is reliable, and that there’s really no such thing as privacy in that space. I like my inclusion in a demographic that straddles a recognition of what digital technology has given us, while possessing an ease of facility in its use. (Gracious, these kids today don’t even know what a pay phone is!)

I also admit to accompanying many of my peers in a trend of “delayed rites of passage” compared to early generations. While I moved away from home, got my degree and became financially independent not long after University, I haven’t married, bought a house, had kids… frequently pointed to as milestones of “adulting.” I also check other Millennial boxes like my career flexibility and desire to follow personal interests and passions in my job. Other points ring false for me, though, (such as the idea that Millennials are less religious, since my faith is critical to me and my worldview), and it is this rejection of the label that is perhaps most telling.

From Wikipedia, I learned my favorite thing about being a Millennial, which is that only a minority of us actually identifies as being Millennial!  So I thought, oh yes, I’m a Millennial (but not really, don’t put try and box me in and think you’ve understood me!) What I garner from this point is something I see reflected in the entire article–  constant references to our make-up as the most diverse generation, as well as the most educated. For better or worse, perhaps this awareness of our variations, paired with our knowledge of diversity in the larger world, makes us rail against identifying as groups. I mentioned briefly in our feminism post that I push back against self-identifying with labels, this slivering up of societal segments. Perhaps its’ my Millennial narcissism (cue second eye roll) that leads me to see myself (but also others!) as incredibly complex creatures that resist defining. Perhaps it’s my Millennial social liberalism that desires to see less fragmentation in our society and this pitting ourselves into different camps with different goals and motivations. Maybe it’s my Millennial positivism (umm, not totally sure this is me, actually) that hopes for this!

I dislike like the idea of belonging to the ME generation in many ways; I may in fact believe the selfie stick is what’s wrong with society at large. But if my Baby Boomer parents sought to instill in me a sense of self-esteem and specialness, the effect might actually have been that that while I often struggle to see ME this way, I very much believe this about YOU. The fundamental uniqueness and value of the individual is elemental to me, and it’s how I’d like to approach all my interactions with others, as much as I may fail practically at this.

If I’m important, so are you, so are we all. Millennial enough for you?


Jillian

I’m a millennial and I love it and I love millennials. I love our selfies and our internet slang and our memes. I love our technology obsessions and our new expectations about what our lives should look like.

If you belong to an older generation and you dislike millennials, I have some difficult news for you. It isn’t millennials you hate. It’s change.

For centuries, the invention of the printing press was considered the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Suddenly information could be mass produced. Knowledge could be handed out and passed around. Ideas could be shipped across borders in boxes.

Before, the world’s intellect was contained in small collections of rare, hand-written manuscripts. Only scholars and priests could read – no one else had any reason to. Suddenly, with the printing press, everyone had a reason to learn to read. Knowledge was diffused among the people, and with that, power was likewise diffused. Lay people could read the Bible for the first time in history, and Protestantism could be born. News could be disseminated and political pamphlets spread around – that’s how a revolution was begun and the world’s first modern democracy was born. And once people had a reason to read, people could also write. People could maintain relationships with loved ones across long distances through letters, giving them greater freedom to leave home and pursue new and better opportunities.

Once the printing press was invented, the world caught fire with intellectual growth and unimaginable possibilities. Everything changed.

Now, think about the invention of the internet.

No more is the printing press the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Now, the entire world’s catalog of knowledge and ideas is accessible via my smart phone or your Apple watch. I not only can talk to my friends anywhere in the world at any time – I can meet entirely new people anywhere in the world on social media. I can pay bills, consult with a doctor, get a degree and petition my government all online. I can broadcast my own ideas to the world, and if they resonate with other people, I might be heard by millions.

The most pivotal moment in the history of the world is this one, right now.

The power and possibilities of the internet have expanded so rapidly and are still expanding so rapidly that we have no idea where they will lead, what new responsibilities will come, what new problems, or how we will face them. That’s scary, but it’s unstoppable. The future is exploding. And we are alive to see where it all goes and even to participate.

I think about all this wildness, all this excitement, all this danger, all this newness, all this profundity… And then I hear people talking about how the young people today should be more like the young people of yesterday.

It’s like a record scratch. What? Do you not see what’s happening? How could my generation possibly be like your generation? And how would we survive this cultural explosion if we were?

Your generation, your youth, were great. And so are ours. It’s not better, it’s different.

The march of progress is inevitable. And when something like the invention of the internet happens, that march becomes a tidal wave. So, you can disdain these developments and most of all the way they’ve changed people. Or you can appreciate the extraordinary magnitude of this moment and marvel at the unprecedented ways in which humankind is adapting to this radically new environment.

I’m a millennial but I’m an old millennial. The kids my husband teaches are young millennials, and they’re much different than me. I hope I never grow to look on their habits, attitudes or values with disgust – they were born into a different world than I was, though our births were only 15 years apart. I hope I always maintain a joyful curiosity about the perspectives of the young and an openness to the wondrous complexities of progress.

For now, I’ll proudly wear the millennial label in honor of this spectacular moment in time.

In the words of every millennial’s favorite Broadway musical, “Look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”

Motivation Monday, Projects

Ask for help

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how for that week, I needed to stretch myself and get it done. It was a week where everything needed to happen, and I needed to do it.

After 24 hours of contemplating this, I cracked.

I realized that I didn’t have the emotional or energy reserves to be Wonder Mom or Super Woman for the week, and I needed help! So, I did what any grown woman would do in that situation, I called my mom.

“Don’t you want to drive down and spend the week with me?!?!?!”

Luckily for me, it worked out, and as a bonus I got to spend a few days not just with my mom, but also with two of my sisters and her dog. It made a hard week more fun for me and my daughters.

I often think I’m being weak or lazy when I ask for help, but I think it’s also valuable – dare I say essential – to recognize that we can’t do everything for ourselves or by ourselves. Sometimes, you need a little support, and other times, you need a lot of support.

So, I hope that this week, when you need it, you’ll remember to ask for help.

3:30 Thursday, Projects

Try a Podcast!

The 3:30 project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. This week, we’re going to share a recommendation for a favorite podcast that we enjoy listening to!


Maggie

I don’t watch television. I don’t have cable in my house. I don’t even have the bunny ears set up so I can watch the local news when there’s a hurricane. Instead, I occasionally watch The Magic School Bus and animated kids’ movies on Netflix and listen to podcasts.

I am a huge fan of podcasts. In fact, I organize a large portion of my life around listening to my favorite shows and hearing the interesting stories, news, ideas and insights from people I’m interested in and admire.

The first podcast I ever subscribed to, and probably my favorite podcast is by writer, Gretchen Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft. It’s called, “Happier.” 

Each episode has a delightful tip to try at home: make your bed, go on an errand date, plan your summer, keep a one sentence journal. Happiness hacks like how to store your toilet paper in a small bathroom. And interesting conversations about Happiness stumbling blocks that come up for many people.

They aren’t addressing the deeper ills of society, but rather the nagging things that come up day after day that can either boost us up or drag us down. Their conversations are lively, engaging and most of all useful. It’s true – I’m happier when I make my bed every morning; I feel better when I tackle nagging tasks; and it really bugs me when I don’t have a place to keep my toilet paper.

In fact, I think it’s thanks to Gretchen’s inspiration that I was eager to start this blog with Mary Margaret and Jillian – it boosts my happiness to see their words every week and gives me a reason to stay in touch with them!

Coffee Break Podcast
subscribe at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/my-coffee-break-podcast/id1249557075

Also – I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that all of my podcast listening has inspired me to start a podcast, too! My husband and I enjoy drinking coffee and talking to each other. So, we’ve started a podcast, which just like this blog, has given me a big happiness boost. I’ve had to figure out new challenges: how do you submit a podcast to iTunes, what’s an RSS feed, how do I get a logo, is there music I can use without violating copyright laws, and, most of all, how do I get myself to stop saying “um” when we’re recording; and it’s given us something fun to collaborate on together, which I’m sure sounds crazy since we own a business together, but a lot of times we work in parallel rather than together, so this is a nice way to connect.

So, if you’re not a podcast listener, try subscribing to a few and giving them a listen! It’s a delightful medium – kind of like radio, but whenever you want, and you can press pause!


Mary Margaret 

Thank goodness for podcasts. I’ve become extremely addicted to them while doing daywork at Broadway theatres, because those are three to four hour spans of time where I’m basically alone in dressing rooms prepping clothes (ironing, steaming, sewing repairs) for the evening performance of the show. What to do with my mind while I check countless pant hems and ferret out loose buttons? Podcasts are absolutely my friends.

I’ve mentioned several on the blog already that I enjoy, including ‘This American Life’ and ‘Reply All,’ but I’ll also add another new favorite I’ve been enjoying, thanks to my co-blogger Maggie Penton: ‘Pantsuit Politics.’ This is a twice-weekly conversation between two women—a progressive and a conservative—tackling the political topics of the day, striving to introduce “nuance” to each of their conversations. I like listening to these southern ladies, because they are educated, with backgrounds in law, but they aren’t reporters, living in Washington, or ensconced in the bubble of a full-time political career. They are moms and wives, active members of their communities— one of them works in the business world, the other serves as a local City Commissioner. They attempt to provide research, background and context for the issues they discuss, strive for balance, and also authentically express where they land on certain issues. When an issue is asking for more background in order to facilitate discussion, they even put together special episodes called “primers” to help people understand the history of a certain issue. These women push back at one another’s various opinions in a non-confrontational, non-insulting way. It feels like a mutually respectful discussion between friends, but without rambling, (which while completely fine for normal conversation, can be tedious in some other podcast opinion shows I’ve listened to.)

Since most of politics now feels so polarizing and negative, I have found listening to these women to be a very healthy way to consume news. They are real voices, not playing characters or striving for satire (which granted can also be fun and have a place in our public discourse) talking about things that matter to them. Rather than pushing an agenda, they’re earnest and clearly motivated by their personal values. They started the podcast with the worthy goal of inciting dialogue and increasing empathy, which seems like a monumental task in the current climate. But I’d like to travel with them on that journey, and if that sounds appealing to you as well, I think you’d enjoy listening to Sarah from the left and Beth from the right!


Jillian

Maggie and Mary Margaret have shared some really smart, informative podcasts about self-betterment or current events and to all of those I say YAWN.

When it comes to podcasts, it better be about MURDER or ALIENS or I’m not interested.

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Here are the podcasts I listen to, and highly recommend:

King Falls AM: Y’all. Y’ALL. Check out King Falls AM, it is so wonderful. This one is a fictional radio serial (how retro!!) about an urban radio broadcaster who moves to a small town that turns out to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. Before long he finds himself at the center of a weird mystery, and hilarious hijinks and creepy encounters ensue. It’s like the lovechild of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the X-Files, and the Cat Who mysteries. It’s perfection, and the voice acting is delightful. It’s literally the best thing on the internet.

My Favorite Murder: You might have heard of this one – it was featured on Buzzfeed not that long ago. It’s a comedy podcast about true crime – murder in particular – which sounds weird, but if you listen, you’ll find it totally makes sense. For those who love true crime and love to laugh about their weird love of true crime, it’s perfect. Hosted by two hilarious women, it’s also got a humorously empowering vibe, with catchphrases like “f*** politeness,” “stay sexy, don’t get murdered,” and “you’re in a cult, call your dad.”

giphy-downsized

Astonishing Legends: The hosts of Astonishing Legends research and present only the weirdest stories from history, both recent and distant. Some of their series are mainly historical, like the one on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (give it a listen – it’s much weirder than you probably know!), and others explore stories of the paranormal, such as the haunted Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Scotland, the Mothman encounters, or Skinwalker Ranch. (Guys, just fyi, you should be at least as concerned about skinwalkers as about supervolcanoes. Which, if you’re me, is very concerned.) Most involve a nice blend of both, such as the Oak Island Money Pit, the ghost ship Mary Celeste and the Dyatlov Pass mystery.

Up and Vanished: If you liked Serial, and you enjoy a good southern drawl, then you’ll love Up and Vanished by novice documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsay. This podcast investigates the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, the largest criminal case file in all of Georgia, which has gone unsolved for more than 10 years. A suspect was indicted mid-season, but the podcast is still continuing to explore a number of strange apparent inconsistencies with the state’s case and with the testimonies of witnesses and townsfolk. The case gets creepier every episode. I’m not sure Lindsay makes an ethically responsible journalist, but he’s definitely a great storyteller.

Happy listening! And remember…

The truth is out there.