I’m reading a book set in 1936. Some of the characters have a bungalow in “the country”—this is Great Britain in the 20th century, so “the country” is an hour’s drive away from London in “bad” traffic—less by train. They don’t put a phone line in the bungalow, because part of the reason for having this retreat in the country is to get away from the phone. “It rings night and day in the London flat,” one of them says. “One can never get any peace.”
One can, of course, turn it off or simply not pick up. But it’s hard. We’re social, communicative and CURIOUS creatures. It is very very hard for us to give up social connection and information when it’s readily available.
So. Sabbaths, retreats, cottages without phone lines and wifi.
I have been struggling with this issue of constant connectivity ever since my mother bought me my first smart phone in 2013. (Mom, I am so very grateful, and I don’t know how we would have coordinated the post-flood clean up without it.) I had had a dumb cell phone more than a decade before that—I was an early adopter, I suppose—but then I lost it on a train between Toronto and Montreal in 2006, and decided to let it stay lost. Yes, it let me conduct interviews wherever I was. But it also made me available to clients and editors wherever I was. Fuck that. They did not need to have access to me on a Sunday afternoon when I was at the playground with the kids.
Now, of course, everyone expects to have access to everyone else 24/7 and freaks out if they don’t get an immediate response.
“Did you not get my text?”
“Are you dead?”
“Do you not love me anymore?”
I’ve been guilty of getting infested with this anxiety myself. Fuck that. I don’t want to. I refuse.
I am going to use this connectivity, connection, communication and mind-blowingly unlimited access to information to my advantage. I’m not going to let it use me.
selfie with audiobook
headphones connect to phone
phone connects to ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD
This isn’t a manifesto, really. It’s just reflection. When something keeps on making you unhappy… unhealthy… why would you keep on doing it?
it snowed in yyc this week
So if I don’t return your texts right away or don’t enter into the panic mode of your email within an hour—it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s because I’m reading books about the 1930s and writing books for the 2020s, and also, teaching Ender to read, braiding Flora’s hair, buying Cinder winter boots, and also, making soup and walking the dog and sitting in my studio with a book of Shamlou poems in my lap staring into space.
And all of those things need and deserve my attention. They world in my pocket, and my connection to you at a physical distance, is wonderful but it can wait and get its focus and attention when the world around me doesn’t need it.
on wednesday my Ender was sick sick sick
and my job was to sit beside him and hold his hand
I’m not flushing the cell phone down the toilet. I know I can’t—and I know we can’t go back. But, we can go forward, in a consciously chosen, intentional way. Not in a panic driven by pings, FOMO, texting tantrums, midnight email exchanges that could really have waited—should have waited—until tomorrow afternoon.
I’m going to use this device, I’m not going to be its drooling Pavlovian bitch. You understand?
on thursday I missed yoga and meditated here instead
—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA
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