Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life, Uncaptured

It's been a kind of crazy week.  (Again?)

I went away last weekend, on a bit of a spur-of-the-moment getaway.  For me, "spur of the moment" means I only planned it a few weeks ago, instead of a few months ago.  It went so well, though, that I think I'm going to be tempted to do more of that in the future.

Especially since, when I came back, I had all kinds of energy and productivity.

But then, Tuesday night (well, Wednesday morning, actually), bam.  Sidelined by the histamine imbalance: I ate the wrong thing for dinner and spent the night paying the piper.  As I told my best friend yesterday morning, "I feel like I've been hit by a truck in the shape of a tuna-fish sandwich."

So I was out of commission for most of the day yesterday, recovering and waiting for the benedryl to work its way out of my system.  (At least I managed to avoid the ER this time around.)

One thing these chronic conditions teach you is patience.  I had a big long list of things I was going to get done yesterday, and it had to be scrapped in favor of simply focusing on getting the one thing done that I couldn't not do (a super-important committee meeting).

I used to feel really angry and frustrated when I got sidelined like that.  But now, perhaps because I've had it happen quite a few times this year, I think I have a bit more equanimity about it.   (Not a lot, but a bit.)  

I focus on recovering from, instead of reliving, the problem, and remind myself that it's a set-back in an otherwise generally positive move forward.   My health is far better this year than it was last year at this time, and that's definitely something.

In what will seem like a non sequitur, I read an article in Psychology Today this morning that examines the need to constantly photograph our surroundings.  In the age of the smartphone, we can't imagine not taking a picture of a beautiful sunrise--or sunset--but we often do so at the expense of the experience itself. We're so busy thinking about the picture and the subsequent social media posting, with all of its attendant praise and feedback, that we miss the moment itself.

I often think about how my generation was one of the last (I think) to grow up in a world in which the ability to take photos (or videos) was somewhat circumscribed by the necessary expense and often-unwieldy size of a camera, the need for film, and the subsequent need to take that film somewhere, pay to have it developed, and then wait a week and see if any of the photos you took actually look... good.

Don't get me wrong: I like a world of photos of everyday life, as opposed to a world filled with special-occasion-only photos.  And I like that people can stay in touch and share their experiences more easily.

But I do think we've lost an aspect of that experience and that what looks like "connection" may not really be true connection at all.  If you can't photograph something, you have to live it and remember it and figure out a way to store that memory.  And if you waste that moment lamenting the absence of your smartphone or the presence of a dead (or dying) phone-battery, then you truly waste that moment and the richness of its presence.

When I went to Paris in 2007, I deliberately didn't bring a camera.  I'm not a photo-person in general (as my blog so clearly testifies), but in this case I decided not to have a camera because I wanted to see Paris, not worry about getting a good picture.  It was the first time I travelled somewhere without a camera.

Oddly enough, it's one of the trips I remember best.  I remember the sights--but I also remember the sounds and the smells and the look of the city itself.  It was raining at Versailles, and I remember what the gardens looked like in the rain, and how cold it really was inside that damn palace if you weren't going to be wearing silk and fur and lighting enormous fires in every fireplace.  I remember the sound of the music on the Pont Michel and the tortuous streets of the Ile Saint-Louis.  

I also remember the Eiffel Tower--both what it looks like up close, and in the distance, as a feature of the Paris skyline.  I have my own, personal (mental) images of the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, and I would venture to guess they're as vivid as anything I've seen on social media.

My point is, I think that sometimes, opting to remain in the moment instead of constantly thinking about what the future will hold is actually a really good strategy for living a good life and forging rich and happy memories.  

When illness hits, you're in it, no question, and reminding yourself that "this too shall pass" is actually a good way of coping with such moments.  

But when life itself is happening--whether in the form of a vacation or a relationship--I think that occasionally reminding oneself that trying to "capture" a moment is always an inherently futile gesture isn't necessarily a bad idea.

It compels us to truly live those moments instead.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."