We have been on this small-scale digital detox for only about a week and I can tell you I am pretty surprised. Surprised that there is not much on my mind ha ha…No really, when in a space of solitude, I imagined all sorts of amazing ideas would be springing forth and so far, a whole lot of nothing has popped up.
Without the seething swirl of my Instagram feed or YouTube go-to’s, music or TV shows, I am finding myself drawing some blanks on what to do with my mind (surprise?). It is as if I have forgotten how to think about things on my own. I know this isn’t the complete picture, I mean, here I am writing about it, so at least that’s one thing going for me but hear me out…
I have been cooking and cleaning and playing with the kids more, and maybe that is just it. My moments of solitude are so short that perhaps, deep thought is just waiting for a better time to bubble up. I have so far, gone to the library and checked out 3 books on gardening, two on herbs and one on general gardening. I love them, I cling to them a little like a shy kid in grade school. Hoping I’ll be able to steal a chance to peruse their colorful pages throughout the day. Most of the time they sit and stare at me, and I hope to absorb their knowledge telepathically, but that has not occurred just yet (I’m sure I’ll keep trying). This morning I read about herbs to my 4-year-old, so maybe I’ll get through them after all…
No, the days of listening to YouTube gardeners while cooking or while the kids watch a mind-numbing, saccharine parable are over for now (this is so nice). We are doing things one at a time. And even though I long for longer stretches of solitude to delve into the books, I am not sure the longer stretches would be helpful. Every time I sit down and crack one open, I am barraged by intrusive thoughts…should I buy some more overalls for work in the garden? I need to get more seeds for the fall. I wonder if I should go harvest more green beans…And on and on.
My mind has been messed with. For a long while. Now, I am a relatively smart person (though my typos and sentence structure here and in other posts may lead you to believe otherwise). But I cannot concentrate. I was recently exposed to this idea that all the tech in my life has rewired my brain for “shallow activities” in preference to “deep” ones (Deep Work, Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism Cal Newport).
The news on the research is not great. We have less and less people capable of sustaining periods of time where they can accomplish deep tasks due to our addictions to our technology. Our brains just simply were not designed for the Las Vegas-style dopamine hits we are constantly receiving throughout the day.
But here’s something new, my phone is starting to annoy me. Even the text messages. I will be happily engaged in a creative activity that is requiring more thought than tapping a screen and the buzzes and dings will start to come through. And the thought will come, “I am busy, why is it acceptable to just ding someone any time of the day? I have things I am doing over here, leave me alone.” And I am shocked. I am starting to think like a person who has not had a cell phone since she was 14 (and it had texting too). I have had the thought, “how nice it must have been to not be able to be reached by phone all day at one time.” I hesitated to use the term “elderly” because it is ageist and I’m trying to make this PC. Also, I am 38, and some might consider that “old” already…
I feel like my alien status is reaching new heights. Pretty soon I’ll be growing my own food, going around barefoot everywhere, and listening to flute music while I sit for meditation... Oh wait, I already do all that! Who am I? It is getting pretty strange over here in Florida (what else is new). Part of why I write is an effort to find my people (Hello, is it me you’re looking for…)
An action step that I will soon be employing is the Do Not Disturb feature on my phone for scheduling uninterrupted work. I will need to start informing the dingers that I will not be available during my precious time alone. And it is precious. We walk around acting like our phones are an appendage like there isn’t anything wrong with that and yet our society is the loneliest and most anxious it has ever been. Our poor brain computers need more processing time.
I do not like the cold, but in Florida it heralds a wonderful time of year. The time of year when I can go hiking or trail running. You see, though everything may be bigger in Texas, the bugs in Florida are the meanest. Have you ever been attacked by biting flies? Hoards of the tiniest ticks you’ve ever counted? No? A) It shows. B) Well then count yourself lucky because you would need serious trauma therapy afterward. I have not been so lucky. I have dumped an entire month’s worth of adrenaline on many a trail run swatting and evading the blood-sucking tiny monsters. I have harmed people I love in an effort to dismantle their life force (the flies, not my loved ones).
All that said, cooler weather sends them away to whatever darkness they escape from in the warmer months and the trails are a lovely place to be.
I mention it because one of the ways to recoup some of my brain’s capacity for deeper, more meaningful creativity and bandwidth is spending time in nature, in solitude. Which can easily be negated by an omnipresent phone and all of its trappings (read, don’t bring your phone with you, I’m mostly talking to myself).
Each year, the more I learn and explore, the more I tend to simplify my life. Peace and Serenity for me really has been more a shedding of things that do not fit me versus adding new systems or dogmatic schemas to my life. I keep learning or unlearning. I keep taking steps in both directions, forward and back but at least I know I have an adventure either way. I wish you all peaceful walks in the woods with minimal to low bug interactions.