I sat down to write this week’s column. I propped my very pregnant body up with a few pillows and opened my laptop. I connected to our wifi and logged into my Google Docs account. The blank document and blinking cursor held so much promise.
Then my phone vibrated. 38 unread emails begged for my attention. One of which reminding me that the hosting for my semi-dormant blog was about to expire in a week, putting over four years worth of work in jeopardy of vanishing into some sort of electronic abyss.
I clicked the link to check pricing. The price had quadrupled in the four years since I first bought hosting. I nearly choked on air and asked my husband what to do. I had been considering shutting down the blog. Allowing my focus to go elsewhere. The site no longer fit well and I was not loving it anymore.
Another vibration and my phone reminded me that I had unanswered text messages. Unlocking the device brought a reminder that I also has unanswered Facebook messages, so many emails, and a few other things I had been neglecting.
How did this pile up so quickly and why wasn’t I writing my column?
The answer was slightly ironic. I had unplugged. My oldest daughter was on vacation from school and we have been enjoying our time together, enjoying a reconnect that we desperately needed. We had been making day trips and absorbing all these days have to offer. We had been reading books and dancing to music. I ignored my electronic life and opted to live the tangible one instead.
I had also been allowing myself some quality time with me. Instead of spending a fleeting five or ten minutes of solitude on my phone or laptop I had been reading my library book or simply breathing, allowing myself to let go of whatever it was that was no longer serving me well. Mini meditations were taking the place of emails and private messages.
My husband and I went on a date for the first time in a year. Possibly two years. Long enough that we couldn’t remember when the last time was, making it far too long ago. Having a very young child with life-threatening allergies mixed with a period of postpartum anxiety about leaving my children with anyone made for very few opportunities to go on a date. I decided that we were far too important to ignore any longer and I hired a sitter and surprised my husband with dinner out.
We only had our phones on us in case our children needed us, besides that, we unplugged and had a conversation over dinner. We laughed and connected and not a single emoji or notification sound was involved. It was exactly what we needed.
But now, here I was, at the end of a week of avoiding as much of my online life as possible and it was starting to pile up. And my column was still nothing more than a blank document and a blinking cursor.
I decided to take a moment to answer a couple emails and reply to time sensitive messages. I deleted anything that could be and tried to write again. Just having my laptop open was distracting me to check in with my digitized life, the one I am trying to minimize. Maybe I should write what I know. Tell the story of the week I tried to take a break and only ended up making more work for myself.
This is that story. I don’t have an ending as I am still trying to find balance. As with everything in life, both our “real” lives and the ones that exist online, balance is key and nearly impossible to grasp. I am coming to terms with this. As we approach the arrival of our third child, I realize that my life online is no longer fulfilling. It has become a distraction. One that steals me from my husband and children.
The irony of an email reminding me of an impending expiration interrupting my writing process and cutting into my focus on a more authentic and tangible life is not lost on me. I am thankful for that vibration and those 38 unanswered emails. They are teaching me that life goes on, flourishes even, when I step away from an online presence and turn my focus on right here, right now.
My phone vibrates again, another email and one more private message. My husband has settled in next to me with a glass of wine and the children are sound asleep. There is a slice of cake on the fridge and my column has written itself. That email and message will have to wait, I have some tangible life to enjoy, my digital life will be there, at least for the next week or so.