How often do you live in the moment?
Life is busy.
We have created a culture where busy is important and the busier you are the more valuable you must be.
We are so busy that we are constantly either ruminating over something that has already happened, or worrying/planning something in the future.
Our obsession with social media has only made the situation worse. We are so obsessed with documenting our lives that if we’re not careful we forget to live them.
We can’t drink a coffee or eat a meal without taking a carefully framed photo of it to post on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat so our friends all know we’re drinking coffee.
I want you to know that if you are a user of these platforms and like to take photos of what you are doing, I’m not judging you. Not at all.
When my children were little and I was home alone a lot at one point I realised I was commentating my life in the form of Facebook updates: “Kate is feeling tired and wishes the kitchen would clean itself.”, “Kate is about to change her 5th nappy of the day and thinks it would be good if someone else would cook tea tonight”.
As soon as I realised I was doing it I took a long look at myself and stopped it. I was home alone a lot and social media was my way of staying in touch with the world and letting my friends and family know I was ok.
Social media has a role to play in modern life and I use it a lot, mainly for business these days but I do still pop on for personal reasons sometimes (it is harder to update now the children are older).
As a business owner social media is essential. Most of my contacts found me online. I have to make sure I update all my platforms regularly.
I’m useless at it. Some people seem to manage to take photos everywhere they go. They post amazing photos of them doing their job or with people they are working with.
This photo is the only photo I took last Saturday. It was taken on my drive at 11:35pm when I got home.
So what? You might be thinking.
There are lots of days we don’t take photos.
The difference is, I had an amazing work day. I was up early to drive to Spalding, Lincolnshire. I delivered two great workshops to groups of amazing people, many of whom I had never met before but I know through social media. I then spent the rest of the day with two of my favourite people, Taz Thornton and Asha Thornton-Clearwater and I didn’t take a single photo.
I should have had photos of my workshops. Most of my work is in schools where it is impossible to take photos because of child protection. This was a beautiful workshop in the most idyllic setting and no-one will ever see it.
Part of me is sad that I didn’t remember to take any photos. I know that a business mentor would be furious that I haven’t capitalised on the situation.
I’m glad that I was enjoying spending time doing what I love, with amazing people in a stunning location. That I was so present, listening so carefully to those people and enjoying their company so much that it never crossed my mind to take out my phone and post a photo to social media.
My Dad is the most amazing documenter of our lives. Before taking photos of food was a thing he was taking photos of meals (with the people, not just a plate!) and he has the most incredible collection of photo albums. I can see myself on holiday in France in 1984 and know what I was wearing to go to Le Mans. I have often worried that he takes so many photos that he forgets to enjoy being in the present with his loved ones. It is his gift to the family though and he loves taking photos.
Interestingly, the one time of my life he didn’t document was my time in hospital with my tumour. There is only one photo to my knowledge of that week that I was in hospital and that is of my daughter sitting watching Cbeebies by my bed. This isn’t the only time he didn’t document. He didn’t snap a photo of me crying after I fell off my bunk bed and broke my collar bone either.
He was present. He was far too busy making sure I was ok. Worrying about my wellbeing. He didn’t care about documenting it.
Life is a gift. It is our most important purpose to live it.
We recently took my son to the Natural History Museum. He loved it. It was an amazing day out. We sat outside having a drink and an ice cream after we had looked round (it was at Easter before Noah started building his Ark!) there were lots of families doing the same thing. Some sitting at tables, others on the grass, but when I looked at all these groups everyone was staring at a screen. Families with the children eating an ice cream and both parents staring at their phones. We are missing out on so much living by obsessively sharing our lives with others and checking what other people are doing.
We get stuck in a cycle and we can’t get out.
More worrying for me is the effect this has on our mental health.
We don’t share the struggles, the difficulties. We share the highlights. This leads everyone to believe that we are living perfect lives and to question their own lives.
As teachers we are constantly looking for evidence to document a child’s progress. We take photos and photocopies of work and if we’re not careful we forget to just enjoy watching the learning process. Seeing a child suddenly grasp a concept or achieve something for the first time is something to be celebrated, and yes it needs to be documented, but enjoy the moment first.
When you are with your loved ones, enjoy every moment. They are precious and you never know when the last time you will get to spend that magical time with them will be. I have had a few wake up calls recently and I am pretty good at being present. Make the most of every moment you have. Enjoy being where you are and if you manage to take a few photos, great, but if you are too busy enjoying yourself, that is great too. Sometimes our memories are more important than our photos.