be a better human, home, kindness, let it go, meditation, strangers, talking

Called Out/Tuning In

Today, something fun happened. On my lunch break, I made a sandwich, perilously close to the start time of meditation. I debated not “going” to meditation. Instead, I reasoned that being three minutes late and eating a sandwich did not bar me from virtual attendance where I would have my camera and audio muted, so I shuffled back to the computer, finished eating and closed my eyes.

Not long after, the gentleman who guides the meditation paused from his regularly scheduled broadcasting about breathing and addressed the group. Two people had their sound turned on, and he asked everyone to check that it wasn’t their own. Barbara and Aaron did not check. He asked them by name to silence their computers. Another few moments went by, and Barbara still did not check! “Barbara, please silence your computer!” he implored again. And again.

And I loved it.

Now, before you think I am picking on Barbara, or you want to give her the benefit of the doubt (maybe she had stepped away from the computer), no. The default was not to display video or audio (because only one person needs to be talking, and it is awkward to display yourself on camera when all you are doing is closing your eyes), but Barbara had enabled both. I watched her keep her eyes closed despite the guide speaking her name. Eventually she fumbled with the phone and after a bit of phone-fumble-breeze sounds, then a view of her ceiling fan, she was gone.

Nay, it is indeed human to make technological mistakes. Though it is rude to not consider your impact on those around you (especially in a silent setting), this Babs thing made me chuckle more than anything! I appreciated the person in charge for his quick action to resolve the issue. He knew that everyone was in the session to tune out as much noise as possible, and didn’t want to let any extra in on his watch. He defended the peace! Non-judgmentally, directly, and quickly!

I’ve been in many meditation sessions where this is not the case. Even the best teachers may not recognize or know how to handle the conflict of one participant causing a distraction/disruption. And maybe it is easier in the virtual class, because all are equally muted, contrary to, how is someone supposed to police the volume of another’s breathing? (However, one could argue *cough, I would argue* that when an instructor says to breathe quietly, the person taking giant lion breaths and sighing forcefully is knowingly being a dick.)

Or maybe it’s just quieter right now! Ordinarily a cough or other auditory distraction will pull me out of precious silence, out of focus, and make me mad. The bonus of workout/meditation classes from home is that no one has to hear anyone but the instructor. Everyone is free to do their own thing (but should all be paying attention, if this is a work video call ;). In theory, this applies to work, personal life and projects too. Less noise = fewer distractions = more focus. I have a task to complete, and if I need to call or email someone to complete it, I can, but otherwise, it’s all me. Obviously, some days it’s easy to get out of my own way, and sometimes it’s incredibly not. Yes, in the case of meditation, the Equitable Mute was threatened, defended, and ultimately upheld. (Justice!) BUT: what if the loud exhaler is me? What if the loud background noise is coming from inside my head?

Several of my close friends deal with anxiety too. A few of the ones who identify as introverts are having a really tough time with self-isolation. One told me, “okay, yes, I like to recharge away from people, but… now I’m fully charged! What am I supposed to do?” Another is struggling with boundaries; as much as she resented interacting with unpleasant people at work, she has to defend a new boundary of people calling and emailing her nonstop because they can now. Yet another told me she was cutting back on watching the news. THE NEWS! During a pandemic! Where the conspiracy theories, political vitriol, and uninformed opinions are flying all around!

There is such thing as too much information!

I’m typically the last to know everything, and I have been keeping more current with news since rules and standards are changing by the day and I don’t want to get turned away from the grocery store. But no way will I watch the news. A) I don’t like certain people’s voices, and those people are often featured. B) having more information is not going to improve any aspect of my life. Ultimately, I choose to tune out the theories and focus on the facts (what to wear/do when out in public), seeking information that will serve me. As long as I get the bottom line/know the safety regulations, I am tuning the rest out. I donate to charities, I purchased gifts and stamps from the USPS, and I sign the petitions about absentee ballots, incarcerated populations’ release and whatever I can mentally handle.

I’m not checking out, or sticking my head in the sand as if this isn’t happening, but choosing where to look for what types of information. I’m also trying to send out more than I take in (mostly in the form of mood-boosting things like letters and phone calls). This tuning out of non-essential information is helping me to pare down and tune in to the essentials: what I need and how to connect with/be “there” for my friends and family. A wise lady recently told me that this pandemic situation is all about who you are in a room by yourself, and I’m determined to enjoy the company.

 

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Effin Birds for the win again
anxiety, books, librarians

Shhhh!!!!

The 90’s preteen version of the much more profane Saturday Night Live was called All That. Mary Beth Denberg was never my favorite part of that show, but as an adult and a library employee, I have come to love her. Her character consistently screamed, “QUIET!! THIS IS A LIBRARY!!” at people who were not making much noise. (This targeting of the innocent may have something to do with the general fear/distrust of librarians I wrote about in my last post.) She also ran blenders, vacuum cleaners and was a loud phone talker, the worst offender of her own rules.

We were taught in library school not to shush. One school-library instructor was particularly passionate about this: we ought to expand our definition of libraries as silent spaces, and to go out and preach the gospel of libraries as active, vibrant, sometimes loud spaces of learning and discovery.

People still get pissed when it’s too loud.

My response to volume depends entirely on my irritability level at that precise moment, and how angry the customer is who brings it to my attention. Sometimes I cringe, feeling like a restrictive perpetuator of the ‘shushing librarian’ stereotype. Sometimes, people truly are being disruptive and inconsiderate of their neighbors. That category of people responds by: either immediately acknowledging wrongdoing and apologizing or glaring at me and rolling their eyes, resuming the behavior immediately after I leave. The rude ones are my targets and I make sure to pop in multiple times. Part of being in a public library is knowing it is a communal, shared space, and no one group of people owns it–even the librarians! But, like, we are the closest to that so you should listen to us.

I feel lucky to work in a busy, popular, community-centered public library. Sometimes I even like when it is loud there. You know what ISN’T loud? An empty building. Volume means there are people utilizing the space in many various ways, and there are designated silent work spaces for those who visit the library because literally nowhere else in their lives is quiet enough for them to focus.

All that said, my other job at a university library can feel like a time warp. The third floor is dedicated to silent study, and was built at a time when this was the only way people used the library. There is no carpet, no soundproofing, and ANY sound travels in a maddening way. The kids who work up there are the self-isolating, serious students who either need to get serious studying done.. Or they’re the kids who couldn’t find seating on the second floor and will proceed to chatter and get death glares. Students will frequently make phone calls down to the staff and, whispering, ask them to make an announcement reminding their neighbors they should not be speaking.

And I have had the great fortune that my current ongoing project has been to take a label gun (like a stockperson in a grocery store uses to price items) to a selection of 45,000 books.

I want to shush myself.

Let this writing serve as my apology and penance to all the kids who are genuinely confused and almost immediately enraged at the squeaking and click! sound of the gun stamping the labels and pushing them forward, and the tap! when I touch the label to each book. I was never able to study listening to music, but the kids these days can… And I’m thankful for that, because if I heard this repetitive, annoying noise when I was studying, I would have steamed until it was done (possibly an hour at a stretch) and lost all productivity because I would have repeatedly had a conversation with myself saying, “leave, jackass! Go study somewhere else! This is so annoying and it will never stop!” and then talking myself out of it.

Miraculously, I have only had 2 students actually approach to determine what I am doing. I have apologized to several when I am nearby and see they don’t have headphones, and they wave me off, saying it’s okay. Surely they are international students, because their humility and lack of entitlement was startling in its non-American-ness. The non-confrontational tendencies of the students I’ve encountered do not stop my anxiety from causing me major distress. I keep waiting for one of them to snap, take my sticker gun and bash me over the head with it repeatedly. I find myself holding my breath, listening on high alert for the approach of hostile college students.

But, the project is almost done and I haven’t been beaten or verbally abused yet, and there is even carpet in the plans for redesign!

Now all we need is some updated furniture and we will be good to go! That should be easy, right?