Monthly Archives: October 2016

Love/Hate Social Media

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Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I often feel swamped by messages and posts, have wasted too much time on Facebook, and feel overwhelmed by all the different platforms available to us today.

But as someone who lives far from family and friends, I appreciate having this means of staying in touch, sharing and seeing photos, reconnecting with people from earlier days, connecting with relatives I didn’t know. Those things I like about social media.

But there are aspects that trouble me too. Why do we feel compelled to post photos of ourselves? There seems to be something vaguely narcissistic about posting our faces and our lives on the Internet for the world to see. At least the faces and lives that we want the world to see.

When we post on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere, we present ourselves and our lives in a way of our choosing, which is not necessarily how things actually are. Not that we don’t do that when we are with people–we often keep things to ourselves–but our presence on social media is in the form of snapshots that are frozen in time and gives an impression that our whole life is as we post it. There isn’t the added element of interpretation available to the viewers of the post, such as body language, tone of voice, facial expressions.

Happy times, beautiful scenery, wonderful trips, loving relationships, great achievements–on Facebook life is good. But what we don’t show is how we worry, or how our stresses affect our psyche, or how we slept badly or grouched at someone we love, or that we struggle to get through a day because of an anxiety we just can’t shake.

I am often conflicted about posting. There are times when I want to post experiences because I wish I could have shared the experience with friends, like an amazing sunset or rainbow, and putting them on Facebook is the only way possible to share it with them. Other times I feel as if I’m bragging, rubbing my good fortune in people’s faces. That’s not what I’m doing, but it can feel like that nonetheless.

Yet that rainbow or sunset over the water is not really what my life is about; it’s only a very minute piece of that day, of that moment.

Sometimes I get so tired of feeling pressure to post, to read everyone else’s posts, to make sure I “like” so they don’t think I’m ignoring them. Do you feel like that at times?

We authors are encouraged to create a presence on social media to connect with our readers. That’s how I got started on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn. (I am stunned to list that many since I really only use Facebook and not the others, even though I have profiles with them.) Personally I would rather connect with my readers through the books I write than with what goes on in my life. At times I’d love to put social media profiles behind me.

But then I wouldn’t see photos of my new grand-niece, or know that a friend completed a half marathon, or see how another friend’s garden is growing…

How do you feel about social media?

 

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Swing my burdens away

swinghairRecently I had my hair cut. I’d been growing it for months and it had gotten quite long. My hair grows thick and heavy (both a blessing and a curse) and I’d simply had enough of the weight of those long locks, so I decided to chop chop. My hairdresser, Ellen, convinced me not to go completely short though, to leave enough length to be able to still tie it back on hot days, and suggested she take off about three inches.

Almost immediately after she made the first cuts, I felt lighter. I swung my head this way and that. It felt good to be so less encumbered.

On my walk the next morning, with my hair swinging in the breeze, it occurred to me that the feeling of lightness I was experiencing could be a metaphor for the sense one experiences when they let go of their burdens and concerns. I have been weighed down with various stresses and worries of late, finding it a challenge from day to day to put anxieties aside and mindfully experience life in the moment. As unlikely as it may seem, swinging my hair made me feel better, as if I was flinging my stresses away while the lightness of my hair helped my mind to feel less weighted.

I know this is a temporary feeling, and quite fanciful. The matters causing me stress don’t disappear just because my hair is shorter. My hair will grow again. But for now, when I feel troubled I will simply swing my hair this way and that, and I will feel better.

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Back in the author’s chair

homeworkaI’ve been on a long hiatus from writing, from posting blogs, from doing anything close to being “authorly.” For many months I have allowed life to get in the way of my muse. Travel, guests, weather, family, painting, music–I can come up with any number of justifications and they would all be valid. However, if I am to be completely honest, I must own up to the fact that I simply did not sit myself at my desk, tune out all distractions, and write.

The main difference between people who accomplish things and those who don’t is the actual doing of what it takes to attain their goals. Once upon a time I was that person who did what it took, who was disciplined about writing, who worked diligently on completing novels. But lately (heck, this whole year! How did it get to be October already, by the way?) I’ve been one of those people who only think about writing that book, who goes to the computer to write and spends hours doing anything but.

This morning I resolved to decide if I want to write another book or not. It was time to pull out my writing folder, read through the nineteen different first chapters I’ve written, pick one, and get to work. (Yes, I have the beginnings of nineteen novels in my folder. A few have as many as 50 pages into the story. And some of them are pretty good, if I do say so myself.)

So I’m back in the author’s chair and we’ll see where it takes me.

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So long Nicole

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-1-17-32-pmIt almost seems like old news even though it was only four days ago, but I thought I’d share a bit about our experience with Nicole (you remember that category 3 hurricane that hit Bermuda on Thursday?). We were without electricity for three days, so I’ve only just now sat down at my computer to post a blog.

Thursday was a scary, unsettling day to be sure. In the beginning when Nicole first arrived, we still had power and Internet. It was both comforting and entertaining to stay in touch with fellow islanders via Facebook to keep track of how things were going on their part of the island. And we had a Facetime chat with our granddaughter and daughter, which was a great distraction from the howling winds and torrential rain.

Our power went out mid-morning. Having lost contact with the world outside our walls, we sat tight in the house while the wind and rain wreaked havoc around us. Little air circulation, because of course we couldn’t open any windows and no electricity to power the ceiling fans. The storm shutters were closed, so the light in the house was gloomy. Not a fun day; however I did manage to read a whole book. I would have started another but my iPad’s battery died.

When the eye was upon us, after about 4 hours, we had some relief. It’s kind of eerie how everything suddenly goes silent after noisy howling through our fireplace and the cacophony outside. We were able to go out and get some air, see what damage had occurred in the first half, connect with the neighbours who were also outside for some air. After about an hour, the wind started picking up again and we all went back in for the second onslaught, which on our side of the island was worse. By 5:00 it was over and we opened the shutters and windows. 

We went for a walk along our little road. Here are a few photos of the mess Nicole left behind for some of our neighbours:

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The next day we spent a few hours cleaning up the debris around our house. We moved the kayaks back outside, swept up the patio, paths, and steps, washed the windows, walls, car, and scooters. This is what a car looks like after a hurricane (and the walls and windows of houses too!), full of bits of leaves, twigs, grass, all glued to the surface with salt water spray from the ocean.

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Outside there is now a lovely aroma that reminds me of autumn in Ontario, that scent of fallen and decaying leaves. With the temperatures having cooled, and the humidity broken, it actually feels and smells like fall.

Our electricity (and running water) were finally restored Saturday night. And now, other than all the extreme pruning that nature did to the foliage and the cleanup that still needs to be done, it’s hard to imagine that we were in the midst of a category 3 hurricane four days ago. Life is pretty much back to normal. 

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Waiting for Nicole

hurricane-nicole

We are preparing for a hurricane today. Nicole is expected to pass right over Bermuda tomorrow, and already the winds are picking up. There is a tumultuous energy around the island as people get ready to be assailed with up to 100mph winds, torrential rain, and storm surges. I’ve lived through a few hurricanes since moving to Bermuda and getting ready for one has become somewhat routine, but what is not routine is the unsettled anticipation of the storm. In many ways it is invigorating, that energy prevalent around us, both from people working to prepare and from the wind blowing the trees around and freshening the air.

Still, my enthusiasm for these storms has waned. During my first hurricane I was excited to experience it, wanted to photograph and document all aspects of it, but now I’m jaded, can’t wait for it to be over, anticipating the aftermath of recovery. I’m not looking forward to losing power for several days, taking away phone and Internet, not to mention water (it is pumped to our houses electrically).

In the days preceding such a storm, there’s a weird effect I experience that friends have told me they do as well. Focusing on anything but the hurricane becomes difficult, as if our minds are being scattered by the wind. I feel unsettled and disquieted.

Nonetheless, we must get ready for Nicole.

How do we prepare? We stock up on non-perishable foods. We make sure we have lots of drinking water. We fill our bathtubs and containers with water. We get our camp stoves out, and our candles and flashlights. We nail plywood over vulnerable windows and doors, or tape them, or latch down the storm shutters. We move everything from outside–patio furniture, plants, kayaks–to a safe place where the wind can’t pick them up and blow them about. We stock up on books to read, games to play, and wine. We charge up all our devices. We make sure our friends and neighbours are prepared and help them with anything that needs doing. The lucky ones with generators make sure they have enough fuel to power them.

And then we sit and wait and listen to the wind howl…

However, right now it’s a breezy morning — no hurricane yet — and I am going for a walk before I can’t any more.

 

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