record

January 16, 2014

Post image for record

You know how when a new year rolls around, some people come up with a word for that year? Something that will guide them and give a mission to their year? My online friend Amy of mama scout selected story as her guiding word this year.

I’ve tried this in the past, but apparently it didn’t stick because I have utterly no recollection of the words I picked. They were lost to me by Valentine’s Day.

In late December, I saw friends on Twitter tweeting about words they were considering. I didn’t pay much attention, because guiding words had been about as useful to me as garlic presses. (I fail to see the point of garlic presses. Except for making play-doh hair.)

But then a word kept flitting through my brain. Record.

Not record as in the noun, the circle of vinyl that you spin on a player. Although that sort of record has gotten plenty of play here recently. Lulu got a girly record player for Christmas and has been spinning everything from Frank Sinatra to Childish Gambino. Then my brother got one for Christmas too–although his lacks pansies on the case–and he set it up at our parents’ house on Christmas Day. My parents and my uncle both offered up their old record collections, and we screamed and squealed over them. An original Star Wars soundtrack! (H snapped that one up.) The Carpenters! Urban Cowboy! Car Wash! (Car Wash? Really? My brother and I were a bit dumbfounded about why our uncle owned that one, but we bickered over who got to keep it. Fill up and you don’t have to pay…)

No, the record that flitted through my brain was the verb. Record as in to make note of.

Somehow, in the past couple of years, I have become very bad at recording.

I’ve slowed way down when it comes to taking photos, for one. A few years back, after getting a new camera, I tried to improve at photography by taking a photo a day. It makes me a little wistful to look back at those photos, to see what a detailed story of our lives they told, and to realize that I haven’t captured the past few years in the same way.

I’ve also stopped writing in my journals as much as I used to. I have one personal journal, one about the kids and a notebook for gathering bits for my writing. All have been written in just sporadically in the past two years or so.

I wonder about this. I think that maybe social media and blogging have eaten up time that I once used to reflect. And maybe it isn’t even just the time–it’s that my priorities have shifted. I’ve spent more and more of my life living online–writing and responding to blog posts, hanging out on Twitter, peeking in (begrudgingly) on Facebook. It’s almost as if the endless input of information, the constant conversation, have taken away some of my drive to sit with myself. Oh, I sit with myself, literally, alone, at my computer. But I think I spend less time pondering my life just for me, and not to share.

Just for me. Not to share.

Maybe the word record bubbled up from my subconscious, warning me of what I’m missing. Can you relate to this at all?

So: record.

I’m taking daily photos again. Not just photos of trips and birthdays but regular life. At least one per day. I’m not posting them all to Flickr this time around; I like to save Flickr for my favorite shots. (Although I am sorely tempted by this 365 project resurrected by old Flickr friends. I’ll start by being inspired there; maybe I’ll cave and join them.) I want to capture more of our lives; I want to become a better photographer. I want to record every gorgeous slant of light that glances on my days.

I’ve been dipping into Instagram more and more. Come find me there! I know, I know: I’m writing about how social media has impacted the way I reflect, but Instagram doesn’t feel so sapping, somehow. It isn’t a barrage of read this! think this! make this! buy this! wish you had this! I can simply scroll through the images, learning from the talented photographers, enjoying bits from the real lives of folksI can dash in for a quick fix–feels like popping a piece of hard candy in my mouth. It’s there, it’s sweet, it’s gone. It gives me that hit of connection I crave without making my brain jittery.

At the same time, I’m spending less time on Twitter. Oh, I adore my Twitter: smart people, smart ideas, brief and pithy. But I found myself trying to keep up with Twitter–trying to read every tweet that came in over the course of a day, which is a ridiculous endeavor, more like licking at one of those huge jawbreakers you’d get as a kid, the giant white speckled ones that don’t fit in your mouth and so you lick them them until your tongue feels like sandpaper and you have a mouth full of canker sores. It got to the point that Twitter time was eating up chunks of my day. It also sends my brain pinging all over the place, like I’ve shot up black coffee. Which is good in small doses, but not as a constant drip. I still love it so: Twitter, I can’t quit you! But I’m just dipping in a couple of times a day. In the morning, after I’ve worked on my writing, and again sometime later in the day. Not trying to catch up on all I’ve missed; just enjoying what’s there right now. It’s enough.

I’m trying to write in my journals more. What kind of writer can I claim to be if I’m not reflecting away from an audience? Also, the more time I spend writing essays, (Yes! Fist pump! Fine words: the more time I spend writing essays!) the more I mourn the lack of recent entries in my mother’s journal. Why didn’t I get down the details of T turning twelve; that conversation with Lulu about why she’s grown out of dystopian fiction? I think I’ll remember it all, but when I go back to write it, I’ve forgotten.

About a week ago, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard a faint sound. At first I thought it was water dripping, but that wasn’t it. It was muted, almost imperceptible. Familiar. But where was it coming from? I turned my head up towards the speaker above the sink. Finally I recognized it, an old sound I once knew so well: a record that had come to its end, with the needle stuck in that limbo before the label: pop, hiss, pop, hiss, again and again and again. I ran towards my husband’s record player in the living room. He’d been playing the Jellyfish album I’d given him for Christmas the night before–twelve hours earlier. Rounding the corner to the player, I confirmed what I already knew. The record spun, arm at the label, as it had for the past twelve hours. I wondered if needle would be ruined, but mostly I was relieved that I hadn’t left the record going; I think Chris paid more for that needle alone than we’d paid for Lulu’s pansy-covered player. How easily we forget how to do something that was once second nature! How to turn off a record when we’ve become accustomed to digital music that simply stops. How to write in a journal. How to take photos of regular life.

I picked up the needle and placed it back at the record’s beginning. Everything sounded just fine.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey January 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

I do a yearly word, this year it is fruitful, mainly because I need a mantra. But I am also one of the worst challenge participants, I don’t think I have ever kept with one, especially the weekly or daily variety. An inspiring word is something I can keep with. I love your idea of record, in both of its aspects, I recently started a new hand written journal also, it feel both comfortable and weird at the same time. These online habits we all have fallen into can be inspiring and connecting but pen on paper really gets to the internal stuff much better.

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:32 pm

“These online habits we all have fallen into can be inspiring and connecting but pen on paper really gets to the internal stuff much better.” Yes, that’s true. Of course we’re going to get to the internal stuff when we leave the audience behind, right? And I do love my handwritten journals. There’s nothing on a computer that compares. Scribble away in yours, Stacey! Be fruitful!

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CathyT January 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I get it about forgetting your word of the year! A few years ago I decided to ask my oldest three kids for a word each and came up with a word of my own (the youngest at the time was 2). I then got 4 or 5 inch wooden letters from Joannes and painted them. The four words now hang on the walls of my kitchen to remind all of us what we want to do more of. Laugh, Think, Play, and Dance. Those words still fit today so we haven’t attemped to think of new ones. And they are conversation starters for those who are new to our home.

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Suzie January 16, 2014 at 3:33 pm

What a wonderful way to use the guiding word idea and keep it visible. And what perfect words you and your children chose–I can see why you never felt a need to update them. :)

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Oh, what a wonderful way of celebrating your words, Cathy! I am dying to know which of the words came from the 2-year-old. Pretty much any one but think, I’d guess. Thinking is the same as playing to a two-year-old!

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Cathy January 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I had laugh, littlest one had play, my oldest had dance and now he is 19 and contra dances once a week (he had felt he was uncoordinated when he picked his word 6 years ago). He really was just growing as now he is 6’6″! My thinker has just been accepted to college next year!

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Oh gosh, I love this. All of it. Thanks for sharing it, Cathy. Keep laughing!

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Suzie January 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm

I love this, Patricia, and relate to so much of what you’ve written: from making an effort to record the more mundane aspects of life (I’ve started to use Day One, albeit sporadically) to being more judicious about time on twitter. Thank you for writing.

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I had to look up what Day One is, Suzie. (See, computers are good for something!) Looks neat. I have a new perpetual calendar where I’m recording a line or two about each day. I forgot to even mention that. I love looking back at old calendars to remember the shape of our days, because they change so much over time. Happy new year to you!

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Lori January 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Our word this year (and the end of last) is focus. I find it guides me to stay in the moment and truly BE there. So far, we, as a family, have been benefitting from this in numerous ways.

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Focus is one of my favorite words. I use it a lot. In fact, I always describe my oldest as focused, and then I laugh at myself because he’s studying cinematography. (You know, lenses and all that.) I’m glad to hear that your word is making a difference for your family!

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Michelle January 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I love it! I can relate. I’ve been considering Instagram to encourage myself to take more photos. And I write so much, but yeah the journals don’t get opened often enough.

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patricia January 16, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I hoped some of you might be able to relate, Michelle. (Phew.) Instagram is lots of fun, and it really doesn’t feel like a time suck, like so much online stuff can. Come find me if you get on there! Some of us are starting to hashtag photos #thisiswhathomeschoolinglookslike Should be a fun one to follow!

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sisters from another mister January 17, 2014 at 6:00 am

Last year I went with ‘embrace’ since there were so many changes in my life … and it was too much, too soon.
This year, I went with ‘truth’ because it matters in so many ways. (I wrote about it under ONE Word …)

Love yours xxx

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patricia January 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

I am loving hearing the words of others, Nicole! Truth is a good one. What could be better than being true to yourself? Hope it makes for a lovely year for you. xo.

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Francie January 17, 2014 at 6:42 am

Oh, Patricia, you stopped me in my tracks with “every gorgeous slant of light that glances on my days”. What a gorgeous lilting phrase that dances in my ears.

I, too, love to record our lives in a variety of ways, and of course I can’t do them all full-tilt all at the same time, so I have learned to accept the ebb and flow of each. Of course we will miss some stuff that we would prefer to have caught, but, like you, I’m so grateful for what IS making it onto the page or the into album, and it’s great to recommit from time to time.

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patricia January 17, 2014 at 8:53 am

Yes, you are so right, Francie: all of this ebbs and flows. I just feel like when it comes to recording my life, I’ve been stuck in an ebb for too long! I’m looking forward to a little more movement. Recommit. Yes!

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Francie January 17, 2014 at 9:29 am

Speaking of a little movement, my word for the year is FIT. I’m expecting a second child in June, and I want to focus on staying as fit as possible throughout the pregnancy, and then, in the latter half of the year, I want to focus on finding ways to fit two children comfortably into our condo! I also want to spend time preparing my toddler as best I can for the coming upheaval, with the hope that he will throw fewer fits of frustration when his mama’s attention is divided… :)

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Lisa January 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Hi Patricia,
I nodded appreciatively when I read your comments about Twitter. Twitter can be very stimulating, but at the same time I think it works better in small doses. It’s so of-the-moment that it would such a time-suck to try to keep up with it all. In a way it’s a lesson about acceptance and living in the moment (Look! I made social media into a Yoga lesson!)– just let it flow over you and enjoy what’s there, letting go of what you might have missed.

Because of course when we’ve missed something on Twitter, we’ve not-missed something in the rest of life.

I’m so glad I’ve subscribed to your blog so I don’t overlook your excellent writing.
Love,
Lisa

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patricia January 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

Ooh, I love your social media/yoga lesson, Lisa! I think that even though I’ve spent less time on Twitter recently, I still felt like I’d be doing it better if I were there more often. But, really, it’s meant to be a fleeting thing, clearly. It’s more fun to look at it that way, and just “enjoy what’s there” when you happen to be there. Thank you for the perspective shift!

“Because of course when we’ve missed something on Twitter, we’ve not-missed something in the rest of life.” And thank you for that even more.

xo.

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brooke January 18, 2014 at 5:27 am

I get too grandiose and wordy about my New Year’s resolutions usually ending up waving my arms around trying to explain what I am talking about! I love the one word too. Mine is, stasis. Oh, if things could just stay. Enjoyed the post and I just love the way records sound. They are just so much warmer.

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patricia January 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

Hi Brooke! I imagine that your desire for stasis and my need to record are rooted in the same feelings. Capturing moments before things spin in different directions, right? Congratulations on your new Sense of Story project. Looks inspiring!

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Carrie January 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I totally hear you about Facebook posts and other social media interactions taking up time once spent on journal-writing. Those sorts of communications are so ephemeral compared to a good old notebook full of handwritten musings that you can pull off a shelf and dip into again. And you’re so right that you can access a whole different level of truth when you’re writing for yourself alone rather than for an instantaneous online audience.

I haven’t kept a regular hand-written journal since, oh, maybe 2007? Sad, really–and I do think the shift coincided with the beginning of me blogging years ago. I also miss the habit of hand-written letters to other people. I cherish the notes my old high school, college, and grad school friends sent to me back in the Eighties and Nineties–my guess is we were the last generation to communicate that way.

These days, I do find myself wanting to dive down more deeply into my thoughts without getting so distracted by the arcade-game bells and whistles of social media, but it’s hard–I’m so very addicted to those little hits of connection and novelty throughout the day. Like you, though, I’m re-assessing my social media habits and trying to figure out how to keep those habits in balance with my longterm intentions–to be mindful and present with my family and friends, for instance, and to follow through on projects that are important to me. Good luck to you with your own ponderings on all this and your resolve to “record.”

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patricia January 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Carrie, my husband and I had a long-distance romance in the mid-eighties, and we each have a box of letters from each other. I grabbed it when a fire got dangerously close to our house early in our marriage, and we got evacuated. Crazy that my kids will never have that. I guess they’ll have other things, but it’s kind of neat to be part of the generation that straddled both eras.

Good luck with your habits and intentions too, Carrie. I have to say, things have shifted for me, so it is possible to make change. We’ll see if it sticks!

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Kristin January 24, 2014 at 8:32 am

I enjoyed the skillful way you used the metaphor ‘record’ to tell us that you’ve renewed a few of your favorite interests. I look forward to what you share.

I hear you, but I also think you judge yourself way too harshly. It’s not like you haven’t been doin’ and accomplishin’ stuff. One of the things I admire about you is your self-dircted learning, which is always taking place from what I can tell.

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patricia January 30, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Hey Kristin. I’m not meaning to judge myself; I just want to do a little more for myself. Keep better records just for me. I’ve been having a blast taking photos this month, I will tell you that! Got a few good ones of those elephant seals, which I’ll share when I get around to it…

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Kirsten February 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Patricia! I just found this, and I’m so glad I did. For the first time in my life, I too feel that I want to record things. I’ve never done this before, but it seems so right for just now. And I too have that love hate relationship with Twitter. Frankly, I couldn’t do without it. But I often try to scroll back through to where I stopped reading last time, and it’s just daft. Too. Much. Time. I’m better with it now, and am there a lot less. But I need to try harder still. And spend more time recording.

Keep writing, Patricia. I always enjoy reading it.

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patricia February 5, 2014 at 7:25 am

Hi Kirsten! I think it’s so good to record–I know I love being able to look back at what I’ve written in the past. I’m sad to be on Twitter less often, but it’s working for me. I pop in when I feel like it, read back over the last hour and that’s that. I miss being more of a part of the conversations there, but having more time for my own writing has made it more than worth it for me. Thanks for reading! xo.

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