Tag Archive | love

Supporting the Front Lines

Tonight I got to take some direct action in the service of protecting the privacy of the people who I serve. We were all at the meet & greet before an open space that’s I’m facilitating tomorrow, a time for people to learn together about how to have stronger, more communicative, and more intimate and trusting relationships.

And someone was in the parking lot, videotaping license plates.

That’s not the most egregious breach of privacy ever, of course. While the person was on private property, these were cars that were easily visible from the street. Still, while there may have been little legal reason not to record the license plates, there certainly was a moral breach of privacy going on. To quote a recent movie about privacy, It’s not that I have anything to hide. I just don’t have anything I want to show you.

My part was simply to do my best to be right in front of the camera, to be recording the person who was recording, and and also to simply continually question Why are you doing this? What reason do you have to be on private property recording people’s license plates without their permission?

The person eventually left, without any physical altercation. And while I am not happy that it happened, there’s a small bit of satisfaction that when my clients’ privacy was threatened, I literally did my best to shield them.

But you don’t always get to be that direct.

The Heroes of the Bench

Recently my partner and I were contacted as possible transport to help bring a child, separated from parents at the border by the recent policies of ICE, to a Chicago court hearing. As it turned out, they found alternative transportation, so we didn’t go. But the attorney involved sent me a note, which I’m going to paraphrase because, in case you missed the first half of this post, privacy.

Your writing helps remind me that in order to keep doing the work my clients need me to do, self-care and family-care have to come first. This blog helps ground me. I didn’t do that much my first year of practice, and that’s part of why many people who do this kind of work burn out and quit. Every day I am mindful of how I can take care of myself and continue to work effectively for the people who need me.

That person is literally fighting the good fight. There are few jobs more noble or essential beyond reuniting a child with their parents. We write stories about this all the time, make movies, thrill to the idea. I think that both my partner and I were a little disappointed that we didn’t get to drive the child to Chicago, because then we would have been part of this story.

But then the attorney gave me the gift of letting me know: I am a part of the story. Not directly – but that’s ok. In fact, that’s better, because it’s centering people like me that got us into this mess to begin with. To know that I can be a support for the kind of person who does this work – that is an honor beyond just about any I can think of.

And it’s much more satisfying than having to dodge in front of a camera from a person trying to invade others’ privacy.

Which is why I’m back, and while I’m late, I’m on schedule to write this blog three times a week. I hope, in some way, it helps you get through the tough times as well.

Thank you, dear reader, for being here.

Finding Time for the Things You Love

Notice the title of this post is not “Making Time for the Things You Love”.

You can’t make time. Nobody can; it’s the one truly egalitarian resource, where everyone gets the same amount and uses it in the same way.

Which means, when I say to myself I don’t have the time to do… and I insert any of my neglected hobbies/skillsets in there, it’s true, but not in the sense that I have any less time than the people who do practice those hobbies.

No, I don’t have the time because I’ve misplaced it.

And what I need to do is find it.

The Simplest Hardest Things

There are a lot of strategies people use for finding time that they’ve lost. You could “just” get up earlier — which works great for some people, and for others (such as the parents of infants) seems like the most ridiculous idea ever in an existence where even a five minute nap (or an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom) seems like a luxury.

Another is scheduling. Personally I’ve found this pretty effective in the short term; I put together a “zero-based calendar” which simply means I schedule every hour of the day, including blocks for “read” or “exercise”. I don’t have to find time, I know exactly where it is! The only problem is that a zero-based calendar doesn’t really have any slack, so when you have the unexpected errand or delay it tends to throw everything off.

One of the big truisms of personal development is: If you need more time, stop watching TV. Of all the ways to find time, that should be the one that’s easiest, right? Just don’t turn it on. That’s too hard? Hide the remote. That’s too hard? Hide the power cord. Or hey, get rid of your TV!

Wait a moment. That seems…draconian for something as simple as “stop watching TV.” Yet many people have done it, or advocate it. Why would it take such a drastic step to reclaim your time (thank you, Rep. Waters)?

The answer is simple to state and hard to solve: it’s not just time that you need.

The Energy Trap

Many times I get to the end of my day — when I normally end up watching TV — and I realize that now is the time. Now is the time to fire up Duolingo and learn Spanish, or open my sketchbook and grab my pencils, or fire up xCode and build that iPhone app, or finally learn to play the blues on my guitar.

There’s only one problem: I’m tired.

Sure, all those things are things I’d like to do…but by the end of the day, the thought of doing them after all the other tasks and problems I’ve dealt with is exhausting. And that makes sense; an active life is tiring.

It’s easier to scroll through Facebook than play with Duolingo. It’s easier to binge on a TV series than it is to practice guitar. It’s easier to play a video game than to — no, actually I take that back. I find video games at the end of the day very tiring as well.

As it turns out, finding where I’ve misplaced my time is easy. What’s hard is finding my energy there as well. We’ll talk about strategies and tactics for doing that in another post, but meanwhile this post (like pretty much all of them I write) is simply a reminder to my overachieving workaholic self:

It’s not that you don’t love those things. You’re not letting them down. It’s ok to be tired, and it’s ok to not do the things. Rest.

The Unintentional Gaslighting of the Soul

One of the few good things to come out of this particular year is a greater awareness of the problems of narcissistic behavior and emotional manipulation. I’ve had more contact with that than I’d prefer, on a variety of levels, so it was nice, in a way, to be able to have conversations and not have to constantly define the term “gaslight.” While the roots of the term lie in the malicious manipulation of perception to undermine a victim’s confidence in their reality,

There’s a lot of stuff written about that, and I’m not going into it here.

Instead, I want to bring your attention to something you might be doing: gaslighting yourself.

What Does Gaslighting Yourself Look Like?

Here’s an example: a friend of mine recently kicked ass on a major project. Not only did she solve an ongoing and pervasive problem, she did so using a uniquely original solution that not only worked but was almost immediately adopted by others in the industry. It wasn’t an easy process; there were weeks of work prior to the deadline and a literal all-nighter the day before it was rolled out. The response of the clients was almost universally excellent, and those of us who actually saw what she did were awestruck by her abilities and felt fortunate to be her friends.

If you mention it to her, though, the most common reaction she’ll have is to say “I’m sorry.”

The reason why is related to the narrative habit we all have – we like to make up stories about ourselves. However, in this particular narrative, in spite of the external evidence that the project was an amazing success, she focuses on the parts that she feels she could have done better. The fact that her effort in the reality wasn’t what she imagined it should have been overruled the evidence of her senses: the reactions of the people at the event, the accolades of her peers, the creation of a system that others in the industry want to emulate.

Please note: I am not saying she is wrong. That would be gaslighting. No, instead I’ve just suggested to her – on multiple occasions – that she approach it like a scientist. If you learn how air pressure and clouds and weather work, then even if you feel that it is a Great Thunder God battling it out with the Lightning Demons, you may have to challenge that belief in light of the evidence.

Now, I used her as an example because it’s uncomfortable to pick out my own moments of gaslighting myself. But I can give you an easy and quick example: at the same event where my friend’s system was unveiled, I worked my butt off. Literally, I have my Apple Watch telling me how far I walked, how many pieces of performance equipment I lifted, how many stairs I climbed and hands I shook (Ok, maybe it doesn’t get quite that granular, but it tells me an awful lot). I also have a good idea of how much sleep I didn’t get, and I know exactly how far Natasha and I drove to get there and back: 16 hours, from Madison to New Orleans and back.

At the end of that wonderful week, I came home. The work of the last nine – no, really, the last eighteen months had paid off and it was done. We got back late in the evening, and I sat on my couch, reaching for the remote, sure that I had earned an episode of Gotham, at least.

Couch potato, the little voice in my head chirped. You’re going to become fat and lazy because you don’t do enough.

“Everybody’s on your team except you.”

That’s what happened. Luckily, I had two things: one, a framework to identify this as self-sabotage, and two, a partner who had been with me throughout the whole experience, who assured me that contrary to that evil voice, I had done enough and I did not need to get up and go work out.

My friend has a husband who does that, too. He’s the one who uttered that gaslight-banishing phrase up there, and I think it’s a great tool for getting past those moments when your feelings don’t match your reality. It may be a “fake it til you make it” situation – that is, you may have to just act like you believe the evidence, even if you don’t. I’m currently in exactly that situation with my morning routine.

But it’s worth asking yourself, every once in a while: Is this really the way things are? Or is it only how I’m telling myself they are?

 

What Can Love Do?

I’ve been very sturm-und-drang since I’ve come off of hiatus, and I realize that for a lot of people that’s not what a personal development blog should be about. There’s supposed to be cheer, and comfort, and inspiration coming off of the screen. Things that make us feel better about ourselves, even if only a little.

Well, I promise, I will try to do that. But I’m back doing this simply because the message that I thought was well and thoroughly understood by everyone was not. That message was simply that we can make everything that much better through love – love of self, love of others, love of the world. It’s a common theme, from Buddhism to T. Harve Eker…but apparently it wasn’t as commonly known or accepted as I thought.

Just under half of the nation voted for a leadership that was grounded in the idea that some people were less deserving of love than others – and most of the time, the “some people” were defined by “people who don’t look or act like us.” Kind of a weird premise for a country whose main symbol is supposed to be about people free to act how they want no matter what they look like…but that’s neither here nor there. The person doesn’t really concern me, to be honest; as someone tweeted, we don’t need to worry about him building a wall since he apparently can’t even build a cabinet…

It’s the Rest of Us That Worry Me

I’m as guilty as anyone of letting things slide. Of letting people drift out of touch, of letting the seduction of the couch or the ease of text take the place of actual physical contact. It’s easy, especially when things seem ok; you’re sure that they’re doing fine, and it’s been a long day, and really, it’s easier to just sit here.

Except now you really can’t trust the “highlight reel” that is social media or text messages. That person who you “check in” on who says they’re fine may be hanging on by a ragged edge…and not want to burden you with that knowledge. The one happy picture that you see on Facebook with the delicious hamburger may be the only meal the person is having that day – not because they can’t afford it, mind you, but because the depression only gives them enough energy to do that much, to pretend to the world that “everything’s fine.”

That’s why I say Love Has Work to Do.

That work is to reach out. To gather your tribe, to check on people, over and over. In person where possible. Have lunch, have coffee, meet for MasterMind meetings, go to see music, take each other shopping. Have contact. Look people in their faces, share the fears.

Because if things do get worse, it is that personal contact that’s going to support you. The tech world is a house of cards delicately balanced on a happy coalition of government and business; if that coalition stops being happy, or stops being friendly to a particular group – it is those personal touches that will be more essential.

I know, we’ve been conditioned to be, as Ms. Turkel put it, “alone together.” That’s not going to cut it, not now. In the past 24 hours, one of my friends has been banished from her family’s holiday gathering because she was honest with them about her (completely legal and healthy) life. Another friend and colleague, on her way to L.A. from her home in Canada, was stopped at the border and told she is banned from coming to the U.S. for ten years because they suspect her of illegal activity. The fact that their only evidence is her completely legal occupation doesn’t seem to matter. Another friend has had to cancel sponsors for an event that she runs because their political alignment makes the attendees feel unsafe.

This is the world we live in and, as my lawyer mentioned to me today, “…it’s not even 2017.”

There’s your work of love. Find someone important to you this weekend and make contact. As in physical contact, so that they can see that you are a real person, who sees them, who cares about them, who they matter to.

It’s inconvenient work, but it’s not hard. And it may be the most important work that can be done in the days to come.

Love Has Some Work To Do

Hi there! It’s been a while. I’ve been pretty busy the last few months, but things have been good. What have you been up to?
Oh.
Huh.
Wow. I go on hiatus for less than a year, and this is what happens?
Well, ok. Time to roll up my sleeves and get back to work…

Remember the old “Dunning-Kreuger Effect”? Where you don’t realize what you don’t know, and assume that you know more than you actually do? The funniest aspect of that is when people talk about how they overcome the Effect, ignoring that they are proving it with that very statement. I kind of wonder if there is a corollary of that effect, where you assume that other people know more than they actually do, or that they have more compassion and awareness of others than they actually do.

…the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment. – David Dunning

I’m not going to get political on this blog, because that would be redundant. Writing it is a political act. I’m not scared of Donald Trump as the President; I’m terrified of what his presence in the White House seems to inspire in many of his followers. As one commentator put it, when the KKK is having a victory parade after the election you know there’s something wrong.

I’m fortunate, through the accident of birth, to be one of the least affected by his policies. I won’t be profiled based on how I look, I won’t be laid off due to his economic policies, and even my health care is likely to stay thanks to my status as a Veteran. That’s what privilege looks like, and it’s a powerful thing, and that’s what I mean when I say there’s work to do.

If you’re not scared – I’m glad! The world needs less fear. That might give you the space to breathe and pay attention to the millions around you who are scared. That’s what compassion looks like, being able to grasp the idea that just because you don’t feel a thing, someone else might feel it. Understanding the idea that the world you live in, where you aren’t worried, where you just think “Oh, it’s only four years, I’ll survive it” may be true for you, but may not be true for many others.

This is not where I tell you that you have a duty to comfort and protect and care for those who are already feeling the persecution that Trump’s victory has inspired. I can’t tell you that; but what I can tell you is that history tends to honor and respect the protectors, if that’s important to you. If you’re looking for more immediate rewards, well, compassion can give you that too: “Volunteer work improves access to social and psychological resources, which are known to counter negative moods such as depression and anxiety.

Personally, it’s just hardwired into me, from generations of family members who step up to help others, whether for religious or simply practical reasons. When my father’s law-enforcement job gave him EMT training so that he could help counter hijackers back in the ’70’s, he didn’t just sit around with that training. He volunteered with the local EMS, delivering babies, carrying people out of burning buildings – and that’s on top of being a great father, an active member of the lay clergy, and enjoying his hobby of building muzzle-loading rifles.

In other words: choose to help others, or don’t. But saying “I just don’t have time” is not going to be a valid excuse.

If you are scared…

I hear you. I’m scared too, for my daughters who are part of the demographics that are currently targets of this administration, for my grandsons who will have to deal with the effects of a Scaliaesque Supreme Court, for my friends and neighbors who are now wondering more than ever if they are going to be shamed, harassed, beaten, or worse.

Like many white males, the first response is to want to Save the Day. In my daydreams I step in between the Bad Guys and the Victims, and my steely gaze and broad shoulders cow the bullies into submission. In the White Knight scenario I am somewhere between Batman and Mr. Robot and Donnie Yen in the Rogue One trailer.

That’s a trap. That whole White Knight idea was part of the toxic masculinity that got us into this mess. I’m always going to love that fairy tale – but in reality, the way to be part of the Alliance is to listen.

What do you need?

I’ve heard from some people. They tell me they need spaces where they can feel safe. They tell me they need to know that they are not alone – through passive means that don’t draw attention to them, such as a simple safety pin. They tell me that yes, they do need people like me to call out the harassment if and when we see it – so hey, I might get to use my steely gaze after all!

I’ll do those things. I’ll keep listening, as well. What do you need to make it through this? 

These are the things I’ll be doing both in practice and here on the blog. Turns out I was wrong; just because I was saying things that other people were saying, it didn’t mean that people were listening. Meanwhile, my readers seemed to draw some comfort and inspiration from the words here – so I’ll keep them coming as well.

When I say I am part of the Resistance, know that I’m not talking about anything as simple or transitory as a political movement. I’m resisting ignorance, cruelty, and most of all, fear. The best tool against all of these – not the quickest, not the easiest, but the best – is love.

Love has got some work to do.

Let’s get to it.

DontBe.blue: The Ultimate Online Cheer-Up

I’ve mentioned in some past posts how sharing a moment of joy can actually make your own day better – even if it’s only to someone imaginary. I’ve also talked about the other factors that can improve mood, like shouting “hooray!” or watching a victory dance. It’s better if you do the victory dance yourself, of course, but it’s still beneficial even if you’re just watching.

Thanks to the dedicated coding skills of my Middle Daughter, we have created the ultimate online cheer-up tool: The Hooray! Page. On it, you can share your moment of wonder, click “send” (it’ll come to my email) and then you’ll get a Hooray! and a victory dance.

dontbe.blue is the URL.

Yes, you can include your email if you want…but I promise, it’s not going to save it, or add it to any lists. You can go to http://lovelifepractice.com if you want to be on a list. All it does is send me an email, anonymously if you want.

Here’s a chance to actually see if what I’ve been writing about works. Let’s try it for a week – especially if you’re depressed. I’ll share what it’s like on this end in a later post, hopefully sharing (with permission) the “Hoorays” that I got.

Feel free to share it with friends, too – think of it as a status update without any fear of FOMO, because you’re sending it to an audience of one – me – and I guarantee I’ll like it.

What Kind of Tires Do You Have?

Seth Godin is a master of the concise and meaningful blog. I am in awe of his ability to take a hundred or so words and convey a concept that leaves one going hmmmm… for hours afterwards.

His post “Tires, Coffee, and People” is a good example of that. Read it yourself (it won’t take long).

Don’t have time for another click? Ok, you can save it for later. Basically, he’s saying that it’s the tires that make the car, it’s the beans that make the coffee, and it’s the people that make an organization work well – or not.

I’m going to extrapolate that and say it’s the people that make a relationship.

The problem he identifies is that “…we spend money on 4 wheel drive instead of snow tires.” In other words, we invest in the gimmicks rather than the solid ingredients. How does that map to relationships?

Well, maybe you’re busy reading blogs about ways to spice up your relationship rather than actually talking to your partner about what they want.

Maybe you’re busy reading blogs about parenting rather than rolling on the floor with your child.

Maybe you’re reading another book about zen buddhism instead of putting your butt on a cushion – oh, sorry. That last one was me.

But you see the point? Take a look at your relationships, especially the ones you’d like to improve. What are the actual necessary ingredients? What is distracting you from them?

What are you going to do about it?


One thing you can do: send this blog to a friend, and see what they think…
Thanks for reading!

 

Keys to Self-Compassion

“As a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enoughist…” – Brené Brown

I mentioned in my post about the FIP that one of my tragic flaws is that I fail to give myself credit for the things that I accomplish. It’s a lack of self-compassion for the reality that I am actually human, and if (like me) you were raised and enculturated towards unrealistic archetypes, it’s a difficult habit to cultivate.


Thankfully there are people like Brené Brown who are identifying both this issue as well as identifying methods of dealing with it – not just saying “You should be more self-compassionate” but also talking about the things that get in the way. There are a trio of books, starting with The Gifts of Imperfection, that do a great job of talking about the obstacles – both social and self-created – that can keep us from making the allowances that we really require.

Three Tools for Self-Compassion

Dr. Brown references the work of another researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff, in coming up with a few ways to help build self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness: When we suffer, there can be a tendency to criticize the pain as weakness. Pain is a communication; it’s the way our body and mind tell us that something needs attention. Being kind to yourself means listening to the message, instead of just ignoring it.
  2. Common Humanity: Something that is often forgotten in the world of FOMO and status updates is that everybody suffers. No matter how much you think someone is together, has it all, couldn’t possibly be unhappy – the fact is, they also have pain that is communicating something that is wrong. You are not alone, you are not the bottom of the heap, you are here in this beautiful messed-up world along with the rest of us.
  3. Mindfulness: This is almost certainly the most powerful skill of self-compassion. Dr. Neff defines it as “balanced experience of emotions without over-identifying.” That means saying Hmm, yes, it hurts and avoiding the followup voices because I’m not tough enough to take it, I failed again, I don’t know why I ever thought I would be able to do this. The first part is true; everything else is a construction that tries to drown out the message the pain is trying to communicate to you.

Now, I’m not telling you to work on all three of these at once – that can lead into the trap of Oh, no, I’m just no good at self-compassion! I’m so awful I can’t even be nice to myself! Instead, how about just looking at one a day – maybe have a list of the words up on the fridge – and every day, in your 5-Minute Journal, trying to find one example of that principle?

This isn’t a project – it’s a life-long skill that can be developed but that needs to be maintained. I’d love to hear the little moments you find that are successes – or, for that matter, the places where you realize you might have done better.

After all…we’re all in this together.


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I, Notebookist.

Oh, my, how I do love me some notebooks. It started way back in 2005, when I decided to take up journaling the old-fashioned way, writing Daily Pages every morning. At the time funds were very scarce, but I took advantage of a friend’s store discount and splurged on buying a Moleskine – “the notebook of Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso…” Like many, I fell into the worry of this book is too nice to soil with my banal scribbles. I remember the fansite Notebookism recommended a particular solution for this feeling: hurl the notebook, as hard as possible, against a wall.

Since then I’ve always had a notebook – in fact, usually I’ve had more than one. There have been times when I’ve had, either in my pockets or in my satchel, up to six notebooks total. Why would I possibly need all of these? Well, let’s see:

  • In my breast pocket was a small Fieldnotes memo book, usually graph paper. This was my ubiquitous capture – for the notes that had to be written down NOW. The gift of a Colors subscription to Fieldnotes was one of the best presents I’ve ever received – I highly recommend it.
  • In my jacket pocket was a homemade midori-style leather notebook with two more Fieldnotes memo books tied into it. One was blank-page style, filled with sketches. The other was lined, designed for more deep thoughts, lists, etc.
  • In my satchel, if I was traveling, you’d find my daily journal – an acid-free archival paper notebook held in a leather cover. I’ve had a lot of versions of the daily journal – my progeny are going to have fun with that – but this one seems to be the most satisfying.
  • If I was at a convention, I would likely have my Sketchnote Book with me – a laboratory notebook that a friend who worked for SpaceX gifted me. It’s giant, it feels totally scientificky, and I love the space it gives me to sketch workshops or ideas.
  • After a memorable talk with Mike Rohde I decided to give the Baron Fig notebook a try. This is my daily notebook – filled with notes from my coding class, meetings with life-makeover partners and mastermind groups, brainstorms, class outlines, and occasionally more sketches.

While I do like a lot about the Baron Fig – and the very-similar but totally-purposed SELF journal – I suspect when it’s full I will be going back to the moleskines. Why? There’s just something about the feel of them that I love, the way the cover goes from black to covered with stickers over the months that I use it, and the feel of the paper and binding that appeals.

How about you? What are your favorites for writing, drawing? Do notebooks have a special place in your life? If not…I heartily suggest you give them a try. They can change the way you look at the world. As the Fieldnotes slogan goes: I’m not writing it down to remember it later…I’m writing it down to remember it now.


 

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Three Apps for Making Distance Shorter

I tend to travel a great deal. It makes it kind of tough, at times, to maintain a connection with the ones I love. That may seem strange in the age of so many social media connections and such, but that’s only if you forget about the idea of signal-to-noise.

Yes, I can post an “I miss you” on Facebook to my partner, or an “attagirl” to my daughter via twitter. I can sit there and take pics of my travels using Swarm and have them automatically post to Instagram and echo to Tumblr.

But all of those apps are designed to be scrollers – they actually hire people specifically to find ways to keep you looking at content, post after post and pic after pic. That means that my “attagirl” comes right after the rescued pit bull taking a bath and right before the diatribe against the latest presidential candidate faux pas. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

The Gift of Focus

That’s why I’ve kept on the lookout for applications that cut through the signal-to-noise and re-create that feeling of “special”. Here’s three that my partners and I have found work pretty well:

  • Without– This was one of the first apps of its kind, and it is pretty much as simple as it gets. You pair with one other person (not terribly useful for polyamorists, sorry) and it will use location services to figure out when you are together or apart. While you’re apart, it has a built-in camera that is configured to automatically take selfies that are sent to your partner. You can add a brief message (or kissy-face emoji) to the message, and even pre-configure them so that you can send off that “I Love You” with just a couple of swipes.

    It doesn’t do much more than that, but it really doesn’t have to; it’s basic and that means there’s very little that can go wrong.

  • Avocado– I have no idea why the name was chosen, but Avocado is like Without with bells and whistles. Like Without, you “pair” the app with one other person (app developers, take note: there’s a lot of poly people out there who would like some attention). This is also the only app I describe that works on both iOS and Android, by the way; sorry.

    However, there are both more and less features. Without stores pics on the phone, but Avocado has its own picture gallery – a nod towards privacy. It also provides some fun little animations where you can “give kisses” to you partner (on their picture) or otherwise write on or manipulate the image. The killer feature for me and my girlfriend, though, is this: when you want to send a “hug” to your partner, you have to actually press your phone against something (presumably your chest) and it gives you a little vibration. That haptic feedback may not seem like much as you read about it – but thanks to our narrative natures, when my phone buzzes against my body the story I hear in my head is this is from her. It never fails to bring a smile.

  • Postagram– This is the dark horse of the list, because while it is an app on the phone, it is used to send physical postcards using the images you take with your phone. You can include a brief message with the picture, but the object of your affection gets a physical card from you. Not quite as personal as a hand-written letter (always better) but still with a tangible presence that feels more intimate than a simple message, email, or e-card.

    Each postcard costs $0.99 or more, which is more costly than the e-version of an image, but that also helps make it a more exclusive means of communication. Oh, and the picture on the postcard pops out into a polaroid-size print that is easier to keep.

Many of my friends have used things like WhatsApp and SnapChat to stay in contact, but I’ll be honest – I don’t find them terribly intuitive. How about you? What have you used to stay in touch with loved ones when you’re apart? Any secrets to long-distance romance you’d like to share – or questions you have?


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