Pavlov’s experiments, 21st century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

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?”

Fuck that.

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.

on friday I bought ALL THE FRUIT

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


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)


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15 thoughts on “Pavlov’s experiments, 21st century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

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