SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue
Dawn, Sunday morning, sitting at my desk in front of my computer screen, a thought crossed my mind. I’m beginning to resent the electronic tether.
Truth is, I didn’t want to be reading the news online or perusing the blog posts of my online friends. Or posting my own blog link to various groups, so friends remember to read it. I didn’t want to be tweeting and retweeting and commenting.
Instead of reading emails and deleting junk mail, I wanted to sit in the purple fabric chair in my airy living room, book in my lap, and watch the sun rise.
I wanted the day to stretch out before me in all its natural wonder. To sit peacefully on the patio with my little dog, enjoying the colorful spring blooms and the whistling of the birds that live in the red bougainvillea.
Why was I instead sitting in front of a brightly lit electronic screen reviewing social media before the sun had even crossed the horizon?
As much as our connectedness brings us — an expanded social circle, the ability to be instantly in touch and to beauty of communicating quickly — it can also attach us to our devices and platforms, and that’s what I’m reacting to.
It’s no one’s fault but my own, really, this irritation I feel. There’s no real obligation for me to be chained to my online life. Being retired means no clients who need instant answers. I’m mostly done with that tempo.
And yet, I feel the pressure of our instant-access world, the pressure of expectations that I’ll get every email seconds after it is sent, every text instantaneously, every comment just after the friend hits “send” — and that I’ll respond in the moment.
It’s a knee-jerk response that has now become the standard way I interact with the world — and it’s not healthy.
As much as I love the way online access has expanded my world, I’ve lost the ability to, as Ram Dass first said years ago, “be here now.” To feel the sun’s warmth, to watch plants grow, to notice wind chimes tinkling in the breeze.
A Vow to Change
So I’ve decided to take back my treasured time — at least for a bit.
I’m reclaiming the time to hear a train whistle in the distance and ponder where it might be going and for what purpose. I’m going to take more leisurely walks and be entirely in the moment, noticing all that is going on around me. I want a mind empty enough of burdens that I’ll be able to notice an insect on a single blade of grass if I’m so inclined.
There was a time when the beat of my life was very, very fast — prestissimo is what musicians call it. It’s now time to slow that down to adagio, or moderately slow, and I’d be thrilled to have some days when my metronome beat was largo, or slow.
It won’t happen without effort, I know, without consciously acting to break my old habits. To start a morning without checking social media. To leave emails for later in the day. To take a day offline, even.
Relaxation is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and I think it’s one workout I’m really going to enjoy.
If you’ve tried loosening your electronic tether, please tell me how it went in the comments section below. I may write another article using your answers as I track my own experience in stepping back.