Life coaching column originally published in JEZEBEL Magazine.
It’s dusk at a trendy outdoor watering hole near Piedmont Park. The fragrance of mimosa trees lingers in the air as the six are seated in view of Midtown lights.
Kate Spade, Ferragamo and Armani have all made the scene at this table of gym-toned women and an equal number of buff-bods.
As if on cue, several cell phones ring. Suddenly the others at the table decide it’s a good time to catch up with Voicemail. All at once, every single person at this table is yakking in muffled tones that imply the importance and urgency of each conversation. Not a one is acknowledging anyone else at the table. What’s wrong with this picture?
No, I’m not Miss Manners flogging the rudeness factor, although that certainly plays a role.
I’m talking about the disengagement from each other; the disengagement from the here and now; from life in the present moment with pleasures at hand. The disengagement that is steadily undermining our collective sense of self, of soul and of community.
In a word, disconnect.
Many of you have probably heard of Life Coaching, a process where a trained and registered coach serves as a resource, a rah-rah, an agent of accountability and fellow (or sister) traveler on the journey to your happiest, fullest, richest and most exquisitely balanced life.
One of the keys to that life is connection. Connection to oneself, one’s soul, and others.
What is so enticing about the wireless ‘out there’ that many seem so desperate to grasp–the appearance of being desired by someone else, evidenced by a cell phone glued to the ear?
The China Syndrome?
True story: At a trendy restaurant in one of China’s major cities, cell and non-cell areas are enforced. Upon entering the restaurant, non-cell diners check their phones on a rack.
One evening a fire alarm sounded. In the jostling to escape the rack toppled, scattering phones everywhere. With danger past, patrons returned to retrieve their phones and it was revealed that at least half were fake!
Granted, phones are so cheap and accessible here that carrying a fake would be a true anomaly. But the point remains.
Here, as there, people seek external validation and the appearance of being important, rather than establishing their own validity based on self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-respect and self-love.
Status Anxiety, a book by Alain de Botton on the latest ‘epidemic’ plaguing Americans, declares that we’re not just jonesing for material goods and peer respect. Our main desire is a deep yearning for love.
But we live in a society constantly measuring ourselves against each other.
And guess what? If we’re constantly measuring by an external yardstick–the heft of the boob job; the brand of the cognac, the vehicle or the underwear; the exotica of the latest eco-tour–then validation of any kind will remain forever elusive.
It’s an inside job, friends, and it can’t be bought.
De Botton suggests that originality and creativity are two of the sanest paths through the material maze. Yes, the outer stimulus has its purpose–and that is to trigger the divine inspiration of your own creative gifts.
Finding one’s inner compass requires putting down the figurative cell phone. Stop expecting the true guidance to come from ‘out there’ somewhere. When you feel lost, seek direction within.
Look at the people you truly admire. Do you think Johnny Depp, Beyonce, Norah Jones or Bill Gates would have achieved their creative pinnacles by following the herd?
Your Hairdresser Knows For Sure
My hairdresser is a talented, highly creative and delightful man, whose brother happens to be a talented, highly creative LA/world film director. Now in his 30s, Charley has tapped his inner vision to lead a rich, satisfying and balanced life.
It wasn’t always this way, he confessed in one of those salon tete-a-tetes.
As a child virtually raised by TV and movies, ‘I thought every problem could be solved in 30 to 90 minutes. I spent a great deal of my 20s wondering why I didn’t feel the way I thought I was supposed to feel,’ he said.
When he stopped impatiently seeking answers ‘out there,’ everything began to fall into place.
You can do it too. Hang up the cell phone. Become present to yourself and whomever or whatever you’re with right now–even if it’s your pet, your garden, your watercolor-in-progress.
Listen, and begin to connect. It’s a wonderful world in there.