Pinterest is a strange place to hang out. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, I used to call it the fridge door of the internet. You’d see an article or a recipe or something you liked online and if it had a photo, and you had a Pinterest account, you could save that article or whatever by pinning the photo to one of your boards. Which was cool. When you wanted to revisit it, the photo was a really easy way to remember what you had pinned and it was a lot more convenient than bookmarking sites.
You can also follow other pinners, if they save stuff that you’re interested in, which was a cool way to find things you might have otherwise missed. But then the marketers discovered it and Pinterest decided we needed algorithms and so only the most popular pins of the people you’re following show up in your feed. Which is where the weirdness starts to happen.
Because a lot of really rich, thoughtful pieces never get pinned because they don’t have pictures attached to them and a lot of the most popular stuff gets pinned because it is total clickbait with headlines like “How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life” and “Why You Need to Be Mindful” and “Three Ways to Be More Mindful Today” and if you follow those links, you can get a little bit sad. Because the mindfulness they take you to has nothing to do with the understanding that life is ephemeral and all we have is this moment, but if you breathe and notice, then this moment is really all you need.
The articles I’m seeing on Mindfulness (and it’s always capitalized) are about seizing this moment and making it work for you. About noticing so deeply, that this moment will never leave you. About optimizing each and EVERY! SINGLE! MOMENT! so that you can Live Your Best Life!
And it’s all just a bit exhausting, isn’t it? Plus, I can’t help picturing us all trying to carry all of our moments with us, held in a great bundle in our arms, stuffed in our back pockets, trailing along the ground behind us.
I can’t be the only one reading these articles. I can’t be the only one being infected by the fear that drives them and wondering if there’s something wrong with me because I let six whole actual moments slide by me just this morning, unnoted, unoptimized, unseized.
FOMO or Fear of Missing Out usually plays out in things like agreeing to go to two simultaneous events because they both sound great and then just stressing because you haven’t actually learned to bilocate yet. Or staring at the menu in a restaurant, completely unable to decide what to order because what if this other thing is even better and I haven’t ordered it, what then?
It’s fear. And fear is a bully. It needs a bright light shined on it. It needs to be faced. It needs to be put in its place.
The popular faux-mindfulness I’m seeing doesn’t do that. It attempts to protect us, to build walls between us and the chaos we fear. To save us from bereavement and confusion and the total raw and random wonder of life on this planet. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but hiding from fear doesn’t actually make it go away. It makes it stronger and bigger. And much more scary.
Mindfulness, true mindfulness, the kind that notices the slight stickiness under your fingers as you type your blog post and the sound of the cars driving past outside your window, is a fine and lovely thing. It’s challenging and frustrating and occasionally rewarding. But it does nothing to keep you from missing out on anything. Because it keeps you in this moment right here, when there are all those other moments that have happened or will happen or are happening somewhere other than here. And then it moves you along to this moment right here. And if you try to take anything from that moment back there, you’re kind of doing it wrong.
And yes, if you are mindful, you will enter deeply into your experiences. You will really feel the love that you have for your loved ones. You will notice the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles and you will breathe and appreciate that when you see it.
And then the sun will go down and you won’t be able to see him because it is dark and you did not document the moment. But now it is time for bed and the sheets are soft and warm and there is a cool breeze coming from the window and his goodnight is gentle. And you notice and breathe and it does not change your life in the way the Pinterest-optimized articles tell you it will.
And it does nothing to help you hang on to the moment because if you are hanging on, you are not being mindful and if you are being truly mindful the moment is ever-changing and one day you will be in the moment where he is not. And that really, truly sucks. And no form of mindfulness, not even the most Pinterest-popular form will be able to save you from that moment and all the moments after so you might as well acknowledge that that is one of the things you’re afraid of and shine the strongest light you can on it. And then you will be able to know that you will, somehow, be able to get through those moments when they inevitably arrive.