I couldn't use my computer for most of the week and I survived.
I know how melodramatic that sounds, but honestly, I felt pretty melodramatic for the four days that I was unable to sidle up to my laptop.
Due to work that required me to island hop (a fanciful way to describe flying around in a nine-seat propeller plane/tube of doom, that flipped the switch on my air sickness and fear of extreme heights) around Hawai'i and run around strange and beautiful neighbor islands, I was for the most part disconnected from my computer until nightfall and it freaked me out.
You see, during a regular week, my fingers are pretty much glued to my keyboard from the moment I jolt myself awake in the morning, to the time when I drool myself to sleep at night. As much as I bitch and moan and forsake smart phones, I've become accustomed to an almost constant connection to all things posted, tweeted, or typed. Hello, I'm a hypocrite.
This is how a normal day goes:
My alarm goes off (I set my alarm everyday, day off or not, otherwise I will sleep until 1 pm and hate myself a little bit) and I cling to a few more minutes of sleep until my brain kicks in and I start wondering (stressing) about what's happening on the interweb.
I check in with my bladder and toddle my way to the bathroom. I've recently made a rule for myself that I have to attend to nature before I open my laptop for the day. It's my small attempt at putting space, however minuscule, between the start of my day and the start of the rest of the world's day.
Then the frenzy begins. In this order, I check my e-mail, my Twitter (I'm relatively new to the beast and fending off a full blown obsession), my Facebook, my OTHER e-mail account, then a work e mail account.
I continue this checking, responding, and re-checking -- three to five windows open at once is standard -- until I'm either late for work or my cat threatens to eat my face off if I don't feed her.
If I'm working at the pet store that day, I scuttle around getting the store up and running before hitting the keyboard again. They chose to let me have free run over the Internet at the both the manager's desk AND the cash register -- their grave.
I split the day between petting dog-customers and simultaneously obsessing about e-mails I need to respond to, the reported goings on of my Internet friends, and rotating between various things I'm writing at the time.
The last thing I do before departing the store is turn off the computer, and the first thing I do when I get home is flip open my laptop. I then spend the rest of the evening juggling human and feline contact with my husband and cats, watching my stories, perhaps reading my book, and of course, attending to what the computer begs of me -- more e-mails, more writing, a rabbit hole or two, and more Facebook/Twitter stalking.
My day ends with my husband, a cat, my computer, and me, tucked into bed where I fall asleep to something geeky. Lately it's been almost anything on the Nerdist Channel.
Lather, rinse, repeat, and you have my life as of late.
If I have a day off from the store, no matter where I go my laptop is almost always at my side. I do partake in non-computer-related activities, but upon completion of say, a yoga class or lunch with friends, my brain starts flipping through it's internal GPS of where I can find the closest wireless connection. The evening hours remain the same.
Seeing this written out in black and white concerns me even more than I thought it would.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been a walking, squawking ball of anxiety lately. Despite my life being admittedly pretty damn positive lately, all I do is look for things to worry about. I really think my computer is largely contributing to this.
My computer is the conduit through which all my stresses are filtered through. Like a pigeon in a lab, it both gives me my pigeon kibble when I complete the puzzle, and shocks me when I don't. But the search for the kibble treat is all consuming.
In the past couple months I've found that my computer is the first place I turn when I need to give my brain something to chew on, and it's almost a relief when I find something on it to flip my stomach for a day or three.
But this week my laptop was reluctantly ripped from my hands.
I'm touring a show around Hawai'i, and between performing and shuttling around to various venues, I either don't have access to a wireless connection or I don't have time to feed the frenzy. At first this was like weaning myself off meds -- initially I was panicky and all I did was think about when I could get my fix. But after a couple days I was able to abate my one-track mind and actually relax a bit.
Today I even placidly left my laptop at home in favor of "enjoying the experience" of being unplugged. I know how it sounds, but for me it was a big deal.
And yes, I did seek out a library computer in the lovely town of Lanai City, Lanai, today. But when asked if I wanted to, you know, GO OUTSIDE AND DO SOMETHING FUN, I logged off and stepped away.
In the back of my mind I feared I might get bitch slapped by a dose of computer-related panic at any point during the day, but the only reason my heart raced was from my third cup of coffee.
I admit that as soon as I got home I went to my computer to make sure the world was still intact and missed me, but it didn't feel quite so urgent.
And yet a new anxiety has reared its head: can I keep this up?
So much of my life exists online, but still, I don't want to go back to being that absent-minded yet oddly nervous person who hasn't blinked in five minutes because she keeps looking back and forth between her computer screen and her TV. Somehow, as much as technology baffles me, my default has become technology overload. When people tell me I NEED to get an iPhone or something, I can only imagine the horror that will come from basically having TWO computers -- one of which is darling, pocket sized, and possesses online Scrabble.
Right now, what I can look to is the fact that for the first time in months I was calm for the majority of the day. Granted I was in a beautiful, quiet, island oasis, doing something I love, but I know that the reason I was actually able to enjoy the day was because of my lack of a three-pound sidekick with a 13 inch screen.
I'm aware that the root of my stress comes from the fact that I hate anything hanging over my head. My computer has allowed me, with a few clicks of the mouse, to achieve what I always long for, instant gratification. However, my idea of an acceptable response time has been so greatly reduced by the speed at which the Internet runs, that even an hour feels like I'm slacking off.
It's simply a really uncomfortable way to live.
So I'm going to attempt to unclench. A new week looms, and I've come up with three simple rules for myself:
1. The first 30 minutes of the day are for me. They are for me to enjoy my coffee and CALMLY prepare for my day. The rest of the world can, and will, wait.
2. Work is not an all day, everyday thing. My computer is for work, but that's not all it's for. If I'm reading or watching something for fun on my computer, I must shut down gmail, or at the very least not read incoming work e-mails. Commit to being off the clock.
3. SHUT IT DOWN. If I'm hanging out with my husband, or anyone for that matter, I must be present and close the laptop. If I'm reading a book, I will not stop every page or so to see what's happening in cyberland (do people still say that?). It will still be there in an hour, or GASP, even tomorrow!
BONUS QUEST: No computers in bed. The bed is for humans, cats and late night calisthenics.
I'll let you know how it goes. Until then, I'm shutting this down.
Is your computer, your iPhone or the Internet causing you anxiety? Do you also have rules for yourself? If so, what are they?