Are You Posing or Living?

At this time every year, with the influx of tourists into New York, I get a little bit more perspective on what it really means to be present in your life. It comes, remarkably, from trying to negotiate the jammed sidewalks and store aisles in the city.

I like the bustle and energy of the holidays. I am pretty unfazed by crowds because if I’m in them it’s usually voluntary. And there is something exhilarating about being in this part of the world in December and witnessing the wonder.

But here’s where I differ from many: I am not prone to take pictures of every darned thing I see. Now, with not only cameras but smartphones and tablets having that capability, it’s like posing has taken over for experiencing. To the tenth power. Chronicling gone wild. Documentation on steroids.

Here’s just one example. As I made my way from one window to the next in front of Macy’s (NYSE:M), marveling at the creative geniuses that spend all year dreaming up a theme and executing it to the delight of millions, this revelation hit me again and again. This year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation was at the center of a poignant display of craft and sparkle, but also message. Reading the dreams that have come to fruition for very sick children was bracing, and I couldn’t help but tear up.

Unfortunately, so many adults breezed right by those flashing wishes and smiling kids so they could pose their children in front of the window to take a picture. Not only do the youngsters miss the message delivered by their peers, but those around the window who do want to take it all in are being jostled by those intent on getting the perfect shot.

This is when I repeat the mantra in my head – “Patience is a virtue. Breathe. Patience is a virtue. Breathe …”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all just stop for a few minutes and let something wash over us? The gorgeous puffy clouds above or the piece of dazzling art or the child giggling at the song on the radio. Just be with it for one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi …

I promise you’ll remember it without the prompting of a photograph. I will never forget the sight of the sculpture Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park on a crisp fall day. Or how beautifully decorated Lincoln Center was for the holidays on my recent visit to the opera. I can conjure up the magnificent Winged Victory in the Louvre in an instant. Those images are etched in my mind.

I’m not suggesting we never take pictures. But should getting just the right shot in front of the landmark take precedence over actually experiencing the landmark?

There are two different mentalities you can bring to this. One says, “Let me capture this moment” and the other says “Let me create this moment.” One is about living in the present, the other is about contriving it.

Social media has escalated the desire to share, which is terrific in so many ways. But don’t we all wonder sometimes if that one friend really is living that ideal a life as is seen in her photos?

Walk the fine line and, if you have to, err on the side of living.

So much of what we do is either consciously or subconsciously impacted by what others will think or say. We don’t have time to sink our toes into the sand and immerse in the calm of the beach, so let’s take a picture that looks like we did. We can say we were there.

Yikes. What are we doing? Shouldn’t that kind of acting be a wakeup call?

This isn’t to say everyone who is documenting life in photos is putting on airs or living less. Sometimes there is nothing like a picture to bring us right back to a fantastic experience – the laughter, the love, the challenge, the camaraderie. Just as long as the smile in the photo is real and the feelings genuine and it is just a matter of freezing time.

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away,” Eudora Welty said.

It’s the rest of the moments I’m talking about. The undocumented ones. They’re what we call life.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to