I had started this post back when it was still 2021! Whoops! Time does have a way of getting away from us!
Now, where was I?
At the close of a year, the pace always seems to quicken. There are the end of year presentations, graduations and class parties, and those catch-ups and dinners that people always want to fit in before Christmas. It is exhausting. I did my very best to avoid that feeling of rushing because it never makes me move faster anyway. Instead, I take a deep breath and try to allow everything to flow and happen at its own pace and time. However, despite my best efforts, I was left overwhelmed by all of the events and challenges of last year. Sometimes those challenges are bittersweet. Such as my involvement in the winter issue of the Simple Living Collection, which seriously stretched and challenged my natural inclinations and abilities.
It was exciting, nerve-racking and confronting, all at once!
I wrote a piece for the collection in which I shared a few of my favourite winter dishes to help warm the cockles and spread feelings of love and togetherness and celebration of the season. I was fortunate to have had some cooler weather while preparing and photographing the dishes. It was a tad tricky pretending it was winter when we were on summer’s doorstep! I am rubbish at food photography. Oh well, I promise the dishes tasted better than they looked!
I was so pleased to receive an invitation to contribute a piece to the collection. I have been following the Simple Living Collective for some time, as I love their message to live simply within the seasons. Their collections are a curated collation of guides and tutorials, recipes and patterns to help slow us down and lead a more intentional life. Slow living can be a difficult concept to embrace when our to-do list is overflowing, and there are so many activities we have committed to do. Collections such as these are timely and valuable reminders to focus on the small details, live in the present, and enjoy the everyday moments. There is joy to be found in this practice if we take the time to notice.
By rights, I should have been promoting the collection here. But, I don’t feel comfortable with self-promotion and bringing that to this space. It just goes against many of my principles. Promotion is all part of the game. I acknowledge that. But I believe we all have individual strengths to bring to the table, and promotion is not my strength! The winter issue sale is now over, and they are gearing up for the Spring 2022 issue, for which I will be contributing another piece!! If you are reading this and wishing you could have purchased a copy of the winter issue, my bad! I will do my best to let you all know when the spring issue is out!
Because of this wonderful, if challenging, distraction, I didn’t have the mental capacity to share here! I have grown to need this space to help unravel the thoughts in my mind, the things that I have found puzzling or troubling, or that are just commonplace but all-consuming at the time. In the beginning, I wasn’t entirely sure what this space would become for me. Coming to grips with that has in itself been a bit of a puzzle. Paralysed by indecision, I struggled to get off the mark. But I have this message playing on loop in the back of my mind – “just jump!” You can’t progress anywhere until you take that first step.
I believe self-reflection and taking time to be with your thoughts is not only helpful but necessary. I am not much of a meditator. I find it hard work. I much prefer to make a coffee and sit in the grey of dawn and contemplate. Without other distractions or demands, the thoughts can come at will. Although not a conscious decision to include this as part of my morning routine, it happened organically over time. I have found it an incredibly peaceful and powerful practice. Without it, my days were just a string of chores and responsibilities. There was no thought for the present, only what was next on the agenda, and no sense of gratitude or purpose.
This space offers a different kind of reflection. A more thoughtful and invested exercise that has helped me grow in so many ways.
I used to journal when younger. I can’t remember when I let that practice go. Likely, life got busier, and with each day passing without a journal entry, the guilt and sense of failure began to build. I really ought to address my feelings of guilt and inadequacy. It is a recurring theme! But this blog is my personal space, a picture in time of who I am now. When you dare to open the door to your innermost feelings, you can learn so much about yourself. A slow unravelling of the years of papyrus binding us. A tentative start becomes a welcomed revelation. That is the value and sheer joy of slowly and simply working through the process of understanding yourself and sharing that with others.
But life is full of contrasts.
If social media platforms have severed our ability to connect face to face, they have possibly gone even further towards desecrating genuine human interaction. Instagram is huge. There is no denying it. To me, it represents an abbreviated version of a traditional blog post where, despite the limited word count, users can still post material that is thought-provoking and engaging, albeit in miniature. But recently, the platform has prioritised reels in its algorithms. I have never understood or followed the rules of algorithms – what are they even? I am not knocking anyone for posting reels. For the self-employed or small business, you need to use every bit of arsenal at your disposal to attract your target audience. Plus, they can be fun. But this move towards reels, exploiting our internal reward systems, has resulted in scrolling of Netflix-binge proportions.
While Instagram has undoubtedly thrived on this addictive behaviour, it has seen many users move away from traditional posting to retain a presence. Without the thoughtful presentation of photos and words to express a feeling, thought, or experience, what is there to learn; how do we benefit each other and grow. I fear the value of reels is entirely monetary. We don’t need to move further away from genuine connections, but the tide is strong, and we are all, seemingly, at the mercy of marketing tactics.
I think most of us have fallen prey to the seductive and clever (if underhanded) lure of the ‘sell’. Even those who protest the loudest against it are not immune. While we can all take breaks from social media to reset, we can do more to develop the connections humans have thrived on for millennia.
One obvious step is to get out there and talk to people. Not just those in our inner sanctum, but store-keepers, strangers at events, newcomers etc. I appreciate some cultures might find this suggestion rude or invasive, but if not, reach out and show interest in others. This practice benefits the recipient who feels valued and acknowledged and the giver who develops empathy and a concern for their fellow man. The written word also has immense power in building connections and deepening our understanding of others and ourselves.
This past year, I have resumed the age-old practice of writing letters to dear friends and family. It has been a slow start, but I plan to use letter-writing more as a means of engaging in deep conversation. And we can not overlook the value of reading, reading all manner of material. This past couple of years, I have been re-reading the classic literature of my early uni days, extending the reading of other titles by the same authors. It has been a revealing and altogether surprising experience discovering that many of the thoughts, emotions and issues that plague us now have plagued us for hundreds of years, if not longer. It has made me feel strangely connected to our history as humans.
I’m not sure if this was the original intent of my post. Thank you if you have stayed with me thus far!
Communication and building genuine connections, reflecting on our thoughts and developing a sense of who we are and what we stand for – are vital to the health and strength of the human race. The quickening pace, the disconnect and the disingenuous nature of our digital engagement is not a natural part of our evolution. Taking deliberate steps to return to the time-honoured practise of conversing face-to-face, writing letters and reading books will help us survive this blip in history.
If I have wandered and fallen down a rabbit hole, excuse me, it happens sometimes!
Until next time, take care!
6 thoughts on “Connections”
I’m just catching up with your posts after being away, Paula, and this one – as always – has me doing a lot of reflecting, so thank you for yet another wonderful, thought-provoking read! It’s funny that after several weeks without internet, one of the decisions I had come to is to start writing letters again so we are obviously on the same page with that one! I agree it’s time to communicate and connect properly and where letters to our grandchildren are concerned, I’m planning to include all sorts of little ‘treasures’, too.
Hi Lis! And welcome back to the internet!! I think a lot of us are wanting to slow down and recapture some of the simplicity we felt a couple of decades ago – I know I was busy then, but never felt hurried along or out of the race. Letters are just such a lovely reminder of the past and slower days. I love your idea of throwing in some treasures! I shall be borrowing that one!
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This post spoke to me. I’ve discovered the joy of instagram, but I miss the longer stories there. Snapshots are great but I love the little vignettes, the glimpses of a life put in words, a story that unfolds and brings us rabbit holes. I love yours!
Thank you for your beautiful words, Elvira! I love how you have captured the beautiful side of Instagram. You have a special way with words – vignettes, love it!!
By the way, I am enjoying reading through your posts on your blog and am looking forward to reading more! Curious to know if you have always lived in Belgium?
Yes, I was born and raised here. I live in the Flemish-speaking part of it.