While I was driving to an appointment this morning, Suzanne called. We started discussing if each day has to be this huge heart-felt gratitude for the 30 Days of Gratitude project. I argued a big fat, “No”. That’s way too much pressure. And if you aren’t feeling super thankful, trying to photograph or write something about gratitude sounds fake, icky, and cliche. I want it to be organic. I want to be present and sincere with what I’m grateful for each day.
When I talked with Suzanne, my gratitude might have been this: I’m grateful for finding a bathroom in time. I had some bad cheese last night and was hoping the sickness wouldn’t join me on the road. Finding a bathroom in time isn’t something you buy a card for because there’s nothing heart-felt about it. But it is something you are absolutely 100% extremely grateful for. Trust me. And you can believe I would have photographed the hell out of the bathroom and posted it on the blog. Thankfully, it didn’t. My day was going to give me a much better reason to photograph gratitude.
At lunch a message popped up in my Facebook email. It was from an old friend who had read 1:30 Days of Gratitude post. She wrote a simple email with an apology and how she is grateful for our friendship. The apology was completely unnecessary. Actions done when you’re in your early twenties are almost always excusable. We were babies only pretending to be adults. I know this with certainty because age has slapped me around bit. Age has made me wise to my immaturity. But don’t tell this nugget to a person in their early twenties. They’ll laugh at you and call you Old-timer. But one day in their mid-thirties, they’ll knock on your door and say, “I’m sorry, Ma’am.” That simple email reminded me of my youth. And during that time frame it was filled with the type of fun you can only enjoy because of recklessness, selfishness, confidence, false maturity, and an ego that swore my actions would never be punished. That kind of attitude creates a youthful joy which is only granted to 18-25 (you pick the age range) year-olds. The kind of joy you wish you could revisit for a day or two. But you can’t because your brain has aged nicely and is fully aware of consequences. Now we have to relive it with our memories and embellished stories we tell each other.
Today, I’m grateful for technology. Without it, I would feel less connected. Without it, I wouldn’t be connected to her or other friends from my past. I’d go on with my life thinking about her when I see a dark green hoodie or if I hear a certain song. But I’d be left wondering what had happened during her life. Technology shows me she has beautiful children and a nice life.
I hear people say all the time that social media is bad and makes us less connected. Throw a rock and you’ll find a study about the ill-effects of Twitter and Facebook. “Maybe try to actually connect in person rather than on a computer.” I agree. But that’s not easy. After I had my first son, I felt like I had lost connections with friends I used to see three days a week. It’s hard to schedule dinners with kids in tow. It’s hard to make dates when you have laundry, homework, out-of-town meetings. Technology allows me a glimpse into their lives. It allows far-away family members to watch my boys grow from babies into boys. Without it, they might get a Christmas card. Might…
And with technology, I’ve increased my meaningful friendships. On Friday, I’ll get on a plane to Philadelphia. When I land, I’ll be greeted by two women I never would have met without the Internet. And I’ll spend the weekend getting to know more women who are supportive and creative. We’ll spend the weekend photographing whatever steps into our path. We’ll drink and talk about children. We’ll laugh, eat, talk about cameras, and drink some more. And we’ll try to stay out of trouble.
Yes, technology demands balance. Sometimes I have to be told to put the laptop away. I’m not proud of this. Skype is great if you live hundreds of miles from your friends and family. I don’t believe Skype should be used to replace actual meetings. It’s not the same as a face-to-face gossip chat and hugging your computer screen is creepy. Call or text your friends after you see an update. Make actual plans. Don’t complain, “But no one calls me.” When was the last time you called someone? And if you’re always the one calling, maybe try a different friend. I know, it isn’t easy. But we have more options than ever to stay in touch. Use it to your advantage.
My phone call this morning was perfect. I was in the car bored and she was walking back home. We used that time to catch up. We made plans for a weekday lunch. I met her because of technology, but our friendship is pretty old-school. One of us talks. The other one listens. And we repeat. Sort of old-fashioned, but just the way it should be.