A: It’s worse than poor depth perception. I suspect it’s a case of not paying attention. And our excessive use of phones — even when not actually using them — is partly to blame. You see our chronic over-engagement with technology has taken our mind away from the here-and-now, and awareness of our surroundings is diminished. Despite the fact that we’re not texting, we are still not “present.”
I was guilty of this during a recent trip to New Orleans. Instead of taking in the view of the city during the taxi ride, I was rushing to post a clever remark about it on Facebook. In the meantime I missed a good bit of the scenery. To my credit, I realized I was being a dolt and turned off my soul-sucking smartphone in mid-post.
Q: I have these boxes of stuff that I took with me to Memphis when I divorced my husband in 1968. Then I took the boxes to Mobile, Atlanta and now Arizona. I am attractive and people ask me out and try to be friendly but I always tell them, “As soon as I unpack my boxes.” What should I do?
A: Sounds to me like you’re doing what you want to do: Staying inside your box. But if you’re willing to grow, consider donating the boxes to a local museum. By now they’ve become time capsules! Dare I say that you are becoming something of a relic yourself. I hope you’ll begin to “unpack” more than those boxes.
Q: People I don’t know well seem inclined to share their life secrets, personal stories and problems with me. I’ve been in more than one awkward situation with this, mostly because I found myself not really caring about what was being disclosed to me. How do I politely, yet effectively tell someone to stop sharing their personal life stories with me?
A: Just tell them in a pleasant, dispassionate way that you’d prefer not to hear their stories. Leave it at that.
However, your question points to a bigger conundrum: To open up or to close one’s self off? I am of two minds about this.
On the one hand, I’m with Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. “When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept,” he says. “We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”
But then there are times when you must go about your business. I imagine that even Mother Theresa and Gandhi had to cut folks off in order to get their work done. Finding that elusive balance is the pesky part.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.