Free time. The most popular phrase right now is "I'm busy." It's even online - I was researching book reviewers and blogs last night, and every single one I clicked on said "I can't promise a timeline because I'm so busy." This catch phrase has caught on across all demographics, regardless of age, profession, or station in life. It's a shame, too. I realize we all have a lot of roles and responsibilities to fill, but having time to yourself is critical to keep in balance. No wonder so many people are demanding, cranky, rude, tired, and popping out of control attitudes. I went through a season a few years ago when I was "Little Miss Everything," and I'll be honest enough to tell you that I hated myself and my life then. I had to make a change because I couldn't live with myself at that crazy, whirlwind pace. Does anybody else do this? Or are they alright with being stressed out and running out of control? I wonder if people are even asking themselves if they really like themselves, or if they simply accept it as the way it is, and say they'll be better when life settles down - without realizing that the power to settle it down is within their reach. We all have a choice and 100% of the time, a better life comes from making better choices. You can't have it all at the same time, folks. You have to prioritize and accept each season as it comes.
Manners. Nowhere is the decline of manners more apparent than on the roadways. People drive more aggressively, and their disregard for laws results in more traffic accidents and injuries/deaths. Still, they don't make the connection. I agree that we should all be authentic and be ourselves, but this means being your best self. There's a difference between stereotypes and social norms that help us live together in a civilized society. One of our former pastors told me that relationships are the most important thing in life, but this is obviously a secret because people take them for granted all the time and only use them as tools to get what they want. What a shame. "Please" and "thank you" may seem archaic, but they do in fact help us live together in a civilized society easier. It's wiser to act like you care at least a little about others, even if they mean nothing more to you than the extra 40 minutes in a Martian day. Why? Because you never know when you'll cross paths again, or when you may need them. I had an experience where I left a place, only to have a consolidation bring every one of them back into my office and my life two and a half years later. That could have been awkward if I busted an attitude (thankfully, I didn't). People are more willing to help out others that they like, and manners help here. Plus, you never know - that person that means nothing to you today may have the potential to be your BFF in five years, if you don't blow it now.
Following Instructions. I remember my first day in my gifted class in fifth grade. The teacher gave us a maze with a boy on the outside and a picture of a pie on the inside. She said we had 2 minutes to draw a line from the boy to the pie. We fiddled and fumbled around that maze while she patiently waited out the 2 minutes. Then, she took my paper and drew a line directly from the boy to the pie. "I didn't say to go through the maze to do it," she said, "because all of the maze paths are blocked. There is no path, because the instructions were to draw a line, not to go through the maze." She went on to say that following instructions was the best path to success, regardless of education, talent, social status, money, or intelligence. "Most people think they have better ideas of how to do things, and they forget that the rules are the rules for a reason." This is true. The publishing industry is a perfect example of this: if you don't follow the instructions to the letter, then you're rejected, and there's not a second chance. Why? Because they're swamped with submissions and don't have time to accommodate people that don't have enough respect to follow the guidelines they set! Sure, we all need a measure of grace. We all make mistakes - and people are more willing to forgiven them and grant you that needed grace if you've established a level of trust by doing your best and following the rules before. I know we aren't supposed to judge, but that doesn't stop people from doing it anyway, and doing it every day. There are times and places for creativity and thinking outside of the box, but too often people mistake when and where they are. It all comes down to common sense. Unfortunately, this is only applied when people really want something, and there aren't many things in life that mean that much to people.
Thank You Notes. Monday (May 16) will be our 18th wedding anniversary. One thing that I remember from that time was that I missed writing one thank you note, and boy did I hear about it. I got a special call from a friend of a friend wondering where the note was. It turns out that the card fell off the gift at the wedding reception, so we didn't know who it was from - it took less than three weeks for that mystery to be solved. Imagine our surprise when we went through our box of invitations and thank you notes five years later, and realized that we only got thank you notes for 25% of the wedding and baby gifts we had given. I checked the etiquette on this, and it remains the same as it was in 1998: if the gift isn't reciprocated, then a handwritten thank you note is appropriate and should be sent. But like manners, people quit doing it. It seems they think it's owed to them. We even had someone get angry at us when we called to ask if they received a somewhat expensive gift we sent to them three states away. They were moving, and we wondered if they got it, or if it was sitting in the old house being enjoyed by the new tenant. When we told them this, they said "Who writes thank you notes anymore?" We never sent them another gift.
Sadly, Christmas cards are going the same direction. People are using email and social media as substitutes. We get a lot of electronic greetings, but the card pile gets shorter every year. In fact, I just finished sending out a box of cards last Christmas that I bought three years ago. Perhaps we should go the popular route on this one. Social media is keeping us connected better, after all, and postage increases every year. If we aren't worth a stamp, then are you?
Makeup and Panty Hose. I remember my grandmother telling me to be sure I always look my best when I go out, because you never know who you'll run into, or when somebody will take out a camera and start snapping pictures. Ironically, cameras are everywhere these days, but taking pride in your appearance isn't. I realize this is a personal decision, and one that you have to make on your own based on what matters most to you. It's just sad to have people staring at you in Walmart on your lunch break because you're the only one in pants and a nice shirt among everybody else in their pajamas, curlers, and flip flops (or mismatched sweatsuits with shirts from one set and pants from another). People used to take pride in their appearance. I'm surprised that's changed.
Many other things have changed: some for the better, and some not so much so - but this blog is long enough already. I know you can never go back, but there are some ways when it might have been best to hold to some of those old-fashioned values. In all of our gaining, it seems we've lost a little bit of what makes us human.
That's all today. Have a great rest of the week.