When I read this passage in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions of Writing and Life, I was sitting at Ironwood, 145 E. Seneca St., Manlius, enjoying a beer before enjoying Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s latest adventure in The Trip to Spain. The film was enjoyed at the consistent Manlius Art Cinema a couple doors down at 135 E. Seneca St.
The thought that crossed my mind was definitely along the lines of: Damn, she’s right.
Lunchtime in school was just that: A bunch of kids spilling their thoughts on the table as they emptied the containers of their brown bags or tin lunch boxes. Of course, in elementary school, we were talking about what we saw in the movie theater or on television, Nintendo games, sports and teasing each other about who we had crushes on or who had crushes on us.
There was also that strange smell of stale, stagnant water the custodians would mop the floor with. It wasn’t really bleach or chlorine. The constant odor was a musk of the messes of “lost lunches” past. It’s similar to being in close proximity to a Subway — that distinguishable smell of their food always pulls at nose hairs.
Split Rock Elementary had a noise ordinance in the cafeteria. We had a traffic light installed in the school cafeteria. Instead of allowing the passage of students in and out of the room, it measured decibels. When a particular loudness was met, the colors would switch to yellow and then to red, which would trigger a din and the attendants would then turn off the lights. We’d have to sit in silence for a minute or two or three, which felt like five. Of course, we’d set the alarm off on purpose. Also, causing commotion during “lights out” would mean a trip to the principal’s office.
Middle school lunch times I don’t remember much, but probably talked about the same things, but upcoming dances were probably the most engaging topic. High school, now that I think about it, wasn’t much different. College talk eventually came into play in the latter years, but the rest of the topics were pretty much the same as in the past. We teased about romance as much as we complimented.
Nah, we teased more.
I digress —
(Yeah, tell us something we don’t know.)
— but Lamott makes a great point. There was much more to lunch time — as well as any time for this matter — than eating food and taking a mental break from classes. We did bare our souls. And this was before the “convenience” of social media.
There is much more to every little thing. (Obviously.)
In other words: Be cognizant, reflect. This is trying to break down the big picture into a bunch of jigsaw pieces that come together or represent a particular aspect of what it is you’re actually doing. That’s one part.
The second part: We’re giving away personal tells without even realizing it. Going back to social media — it makes bearing our selves and our souls much easier. What we eat. How we eat. What we talk about around a person or a particular group of people. How loudly we sing in the car opposed to the shower. Why we post about the most mundane aspects of our daily lives, create a blatantly ambiguous posts to attract attention, rant and overshare. Why we venture out by ourselves or why we do not.
Being more aware will only help in the long run. For me it’ll help with writing, improv, acting, communication and creativity among other qualities — especially personal development.
Also, it gives opportunity for positive interjection and maybe involvement. We can (and should) help each other grow. We should be able to recognize warning signs or red flags, nip an issue in the bud and strengthen our trust in each other.
Like anything: This sense of self awareness gets better (easier?) when you practice being more mindful. Eventually it will become as automatic as putting on that seatbelt.