When did it become socially boring to talk about daily experiences?
Recently, I’ve become acutely aware of how many of us say something like “nothing new” or “same old, same old,” when asked about our day (month, year). We choose an easy conversation-karate-chop rather than share anything that happened lately.
What about the perfect parking spot, the weird storm clouds or the funny child in the grocery store?
Even further, relationships and connection, especially at a distance, drift as our culture feeds on the idea that in order to communicate with someone we need something profound to say.
If you don’t have a funny story, a congratulations or a crisis, we feel that a coffee/dinner date, phone call, email, text or letter are pointless. We wouldn’t want to waste their time, right?
This modern cultural habit struck me hard while I was reading a book that my grandma recently published. Her book is comprised of letters that she wrote to her mother during her time living in New York and then traveling the globe as a USO dancer in the 1940’s.
Before I started reading it, I’ll admit that I was expecting each letter to be filled with wild adventures, thus creating a story. In reality, while there is a great deal of adventure, the greater part of the story is actually the bond shared between mother and daughter over a long distance and time.
Due to the express mail from New York to Virginia, they were able to write back and forth every couple of days. In doing so, the letters are filled with beautiful day to day activities that formed my grandmother’s life: the grand piece of cake she had that day, the clothing in the shop downtown that would look lovely on her mother, details of the flat that she was living in, her daily dance audition, where she was writing from and what those around her were doing.
While she talked about people, it was never in a way of gossip but rather description, appreciation of or disappointment in the relationships or chance encounters in her life.
These two women were able to maintain a deep relationship in a time when communication wasn’t instantaneous; and the way they did it was through sharing every day otherwise seemingly mundane topics.
Yet, in reading the book, you completely understand how this connection was made possible.
As a reader, you are transformed into her life, fully imagining and feeling her experiences. In choosing to share many details, not only large events, she was able to create a story that was more true to what life is really like. It’s beautiful, and so, so real. How fun for her Mom to be reading along as it was happening?
The truth about this type of communication is that it is not boring or mundane, but rather it’s the purest form of being present and truly sharing your life with another human. It’s looking at the little things and appreciating them for what they are, whether disappointing or exhilarating.
Why has this grown out of our culture? When did we start to value no communication over this deep connection builder?
Possibly it’s just fear.
Today, I find myself feeling shy about taking the time to share similar things in my own life.
This happens not only on Facebook or Instagram, where we often only post our most interesting events, but, even worse, with the ones closest to me.
We are in a constant state of rush, ensuing the need for efficiency even with communication. It feels discouraging to share things with friends or family that aren’t of the same interesting caliber as they see every day on social media or hear from others that are following this same protocol. After all, I don’t travel around Europe daily. Will they still be interested in the simplicity of my day if I share it?
I believe this hesitation is a bit of an epidemic in modern times.
The “interesting enough” protocol seems to stay in the back of our minds. The lack in quality connection and conversation with so many has nothing to do with our intelligence or even our commonalities. Instead, I believe that we aren’t as open and willing to get the conversation started, or keep it going, with the piece of cake we had at lunch. Maybe your friend is desperately in need of a cake recipe for an upcoming birthday.
It is the spark of conversation that is needed; it is the fact that in talking about anything you are choosing to share what’s in your head, and life, with the person next to you.
Conversations don’t have to be a competition for the next best idea or coolest story. Connections are unpredictable; you simply have to give them a chance to unfold.
Remember, such a huge part of our connection to life is our connection to other humans.
If we don’t feel that things are worth sharing, do we feel they are worth living either?
Of course we can appreciate things without needing to share them; but if we define what is interesting or not, important or not, by the reaction we want from others, or the number of likes we get, we are pulling ourselves into the danger of having these categories within ourselves as well.
Without learning to pay attention and appreciate these daily occurrences it is easy to feel that our lives are boring or lacking purpose.
We have experiences every day.
This is life. Right here, right now.
So, I encourage everyone to speak up and share it. On the receiving side, we must all be willing to listen. Feel through the connections that it can develop and relish in those little moments. Take the risk of boring someone, in an effort to help them feel more deeply into our lives. This is a movement of vulnerability, and in this way we can all learn more about each other, about ourselves, about life, and about connection.
If you are interested in reading more about my Grandma’s book, Life on a Magic Carpet, it can be found here.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jacob Bøtter/Flickr