Having one’s full attention when talking is a rarity. What would have been rude just a few years ago is now the norm
I used to go to Nail Tropics Alabang quite often. Although primping and spending hours getting pampered isn’t something I enjoy, I went there because the nail technicians were great, the place didn’t smell like nail polish, and it had O (Oprah) magazine.
I first read O as a guilty pleasure at Nail Tropics and appreciated that it carried new issues of the magazine because it was pretty pricey. O’s target demographic are women in their late 40s (which makes me an early adopter). But I liked reading it because it’s free of gossip and full of good vibes, something I need to proactively replenish in my system.
To offer such reading material (along with other business/non-fiction books) in a salon was a reflection of how Nail Tropics valued its customers.
I also liked its quiet atmosphere, as it forced me to clear my current head space and fill it with new things. I felt recharged.
After giving birth to Jack, my visits to Nail Tropics have been more sporadic (and I have since subscribed to the much more affordable online version of O).
But I continue to connect positive feelings with the salon, converting even my aversion to parlors.
As is usually the case, you crave what you don’t have. I miss having the option of self-imposed solitude. For someone who writes, this is extremely precious.
In grade school we were required to write and submit “reflection papers” for Christian Living class. Some classmates’ vocabularies stretched to flowery lengths to satisfy the one-page requirement, but I secretly enjoyed it. There was no right or wrong answer, no problem solving, no analysis–just relevant feelings on free flow.
My toddler’s Google
These days, I am my toddler’s Google. Whenever he has a question, all of which are equally urgent to his 3-year-old mind, he asks his omnipotent (though not wholly competent) Mama.
Sometimes I feel like going crazy trying to answer yet another odd question: “Why is there a house?”
I shoot back: “Why do you think so?”
Then he goes: “It’s for the people, Mama. They live there.”
Sometimes I don’t really know the answers to his questions, and I say so.
He demands, “Find out, Mama!” (This is why I now know different kinds of helicopters and how to fly one, at least in theory.)
There was a time when I had a lot of questions about my faith. I approached different sources (this was pre-Internet) and mainly got dead ends because most intellectual discourses end up that way.
But I didn’t mind not getting all the answers; the learning was in the asking, the fleshing out and the sharing.
I appreciated those who didn’t take offense at my near-heretic queries and expressed their sincere beliefs instead of being defensive. I learned through their stories.
But somehow, in between being an inquisitive child and an adult, the trail of questions goes cold.
In the corporate world, asking means risking sounding stupid. You sometimes need to preface your questions with an apology for possible waste of time (“This may sound stupid but…”).
Genial bosses would allow such frivolity and open a discussion, or at least direct you to the answer. Arrogant colleagues would heckle and bash because it’s fashionable to disguise your ignorance instead.
It seems that the older we get, the less we ask–at least each other, even ourselves.
Where have all the questions gone? The Internet, with its privacy and anonymity, seems to be the only safe haven. While indeed a rich source of information, its facelessness and selective, fragile attachments contribute to loneliness and a growing, glossed-over sense of shallowness.
These days, restaurants and homes have families and friends, old and young, together but not quite; all are engrossed in their smartphones or gadgets.
Eating out has become one large awkward pause instead of a smattering of periods when we can thoughtfully chew on what has just been said.
Eye contact in conversation is nearing extinction, and having one’s full attention when talking is a rarity. What would have been rude just a few years ago is now the norm.
“Have you noticed that questions prevent us from settling for less than we deserve?” reminded author Katie Arnold-Ratliff. “Can it be said that asking questions is what keeps us honest, drives us to aim higher, and is the very thing that makes us human?”
Yes. But questions are messy; they open up cans of worms, heighten defenses and spur debates which threaten points of no return.
But I realized that it is from these little inconveniences and annoyances that I’ve had some of my best life-altering moments–such as when my little one challenges me with questions of why we can’t fix what’s broken (sometimes); why the neighbor has a blue water tank and we don’t; what being dead means; or if I’m happy (which the strange creature asks when he knows I’m upset with him).
I once lost my parking ticket in a free parking zone, so I had to pay the maximum penalty. On the way home, I couldn’t get over my carelessness and was beating myself up about it, forgetting about my little passenger at the back. Jack asked what was wrong.
“I lost our parking ticket,” I said.
“It’s okay, Mama,” he empathized. “The guard will give you some more.”
The tables sometimes turn, and my toddler has become my life coach.
In the seemingly small daily decisions I make, he forces me to look at my life another way.
I now allow myself to feel and soak in experiences instead of getting numbed with endless distractions at my fingertips (which I sometimes still do, damn you Scramble/Hanging/Words with Friends). I actually get needed closure and perspective, and the satisfaction of having accomplished something instead of just endless busyness.
An oft-passed-around quote on Pinterest boards resonates a lot with me: “Your children will become who you are; so be who you want them to be.” It’s currently my wallpaper, because it helps remind me that my life is bigger than myself.
I love how Jack bravely asks about anything that he’s curious about. I hope he never loses his sense of wonder in his ravenous search for answers, as he learns to be more appropriate in his interrogation.
As a timely read in O magazine reveals: “Explore the ways in which grappling with life’s big questions can push you toward new possibilities, reveal your deepest truths and put you on the path to your right life, which, as you’ll discover, is yours for the asking.”