Mind wandering, solitude and NOT texting you

It’s Sunday morning of a weekend that I am trying to “take off”—the last long weekend of the summer—the last weekend of the summer, really, because are we not really in fall by Labour Day? There may be two weeks until the Equinox still, but September is fall. This year, the grass on the Common has been brown all of August. The leaves of our parched trees are already dotted with yellow and brown.

It’s fall.

It’s also Pride weekend in Calgary, and I was trying to finish a piece this morning that I’ve called, “It’s just a fucking pronoun—use it,” but it doesn’t seem to be gelling, so I set it aside. Because I’m trying to take today “off.”

So instead, I’m sitting on my balcony—a cup of coffee I can’t bring myself to drink beside me… I really wanted it… why, why, why does it not taste good anymore?—watching Ender waste water—er, play with the hose—down below—burning incense instead of smoking a cigar, because it’s 9 in the morning, and hell, even my vices have their shame—and I’m letting my thoughts wander.

NB: Today’s post is illustrated with Prisma selfies.Because I feel vain. And pretty. 😉 Call it self-indulgent. I do; I do it anyway.

They are wandering/wondering about three things:

First: The idea that “mind wanderers” are unhappy.

There is a swatch of research about this apparently. You can check out this Psychology Today blog post (” Killingsworth and Gilbert found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer”); this Ted Talk on Day Dreaming; or this Smithsonian mag article for a smattering of insight on why mind wandering / daydreaming makes people miserable.

But I like it when my mind wanders. I can’t imagine it not. (Ha, see what I did there?) What is the point of having no thoughts?

You: So it’s been what, eight months now, and you still don’t get the point of meditation, eh?

Jane: I like thinking. I don’t think not-thinking is the solution to anything. Nor is thinking my… problem.

Second: Solitude.

I’ve had a hectic week. Month. Full of work and play. Also, people. In-flesh people and cyber-people—the biggest hunk of my work over the last month of so has involved finding people, researching people and emailing them. And I’m fatigued.

On Sunday mornings, I usually read BrainPickings.org, because, brilliant, and today, Maria Popova is teasing out wisdom from Rachel Carson:

I read this:

Writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation the writer cuts himself off from all others and confronts his subject alone. He* moves into a realm where he has never been before — perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.

Rachel Carson

and this:

You are wise enough to understand that being “a little lonely” is not a bad thing. A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer. But there are also rewards that are rich and peculiarly satisfying.

Rachel Carson

And I have this very strange thought that I want to be… lonely.

And yet… also…

Third: I’m thinking about texting you.

It’s ridiculous, really. I have nothing to say to you. I don’t even particularly miss you. I’m sorry, my love—I don’t. I’ve seen you not that long ago, and even if I hadn’t—I’ve seen, emailed so many other people. I am fatigued, did I not say? I want to sit still, alone, smell the incense, drink the coffee—ugh, it tastes like poison on my tongue, I shove the cup farther away—and let my mind wander.

And I also want to text you.

No. I don’t want to text you.

I feel this sick compulsion to pick up my telephone and scroll down this newsfeed, that, ascertain nothing interesting is happening… and then send you a, “Hi. How’s it going?”

Except… honestly, my love? I don’t care. I don’t care what’s happening with you at all.

I don’t miss you.

I have nothing to say to you.

What I want… is to be alone with my mind wanderings. And I have these precious few minutes in which that can happen.

And yet… the phone. The fingers. The thought of contact with you…

I let my mind wander in this direction. Why do I crave, in this moment, something that I don’t actually even really want? I see the text in a similar light as I see the cup of coffee—a habit that doesn’t serve me, the craving of which is more pleasurable than its execution.

You: You fucking bitch, thank you very much for penning an essay about how you hate texting me!

Jane: A) In this case, you are a metaphor. B) I don’t hate texting you. I’m just questioning-examining the motivation behind my desire to text you. When life offers a moment of solitude… that I know I need… and yet… I move to sabotage it by grabbing the damn crack-Phone and saying, “Hi. How are you doing?”

Here is what I have found about texting—with which I have had a love-hate relationship ever since I finally buckled and allowed the iPhone into my life in 2013—which is also my experience with Facebook and all forms of social media:

It fucks up my connection receptors.

Does that make sense?

When I feel lonely for people—when I need, want people—and I reach for them in the cyberworld—when I feel lonely for you, and I text you—while we’re engaging, I think I’m with people. And then, when we get off the phone… I’m still lonely. Unfulfilled. I haven’t filled my very real need for connection.

Worse—when I feel the need for solitude—when I need to be lonely (Maria Popova and others go on at lengthy about the difference between solitude and loneliness—I don’t know… I think they’re a little related, but we can talk about that another time)—and you text me or I text you… because I’m alone and you’re alone, and we can’t be together and one or the other of us has forgotten how to be lonely and satisfied with that feeling, for a while—I don’t get my solitude. I haven’t seen you. I haven’t seen, touched anyone. But I haven’t been alone either—I haven’t gotten my alone fix.

Texting/social media contact has the potential to make me feel never alone… and never connected.

And I need, very desperately, both.

This is the point at which Aunt Augusta may, self-righteously, tell me to stop whinging about it and just… unplug. Not text. (Not blog, lol.) Live like it’s 1999 again.

And I do that intermittently—I did it in Cuba. I loved it.

But it’s 2017, and 24/7 connectivity is part of my life, and my task—I direct my mind to wander there—is to make that connectivity work for me, fuel me, empower me—free me.

Not fetter me and damage me.

So I whinge. Reflect.

Take my Sunday morning “off” to be with myself. My—not silence, I suppose, because my Self is very rarely silent—but my thoughts. My self.

You: So you know your thoughts are not your self, and…

Jane: You know what? I get that kind of thinking helps other people. And you can think your thoughts are not your self. And you can think that my thoughts are not my Self, too—your thinking that does me no harm. Really, I don’t even care that much if my thoughts are or are not my self. I just like having them. Even the fucked up, hard ones. I like spending time with them. I like parsing them and dissecting them and feeling them and chasing them. I like thinking!

(interlude)

When I pontificate about writing, I have this line I like to use:

Writing is easy. Thinking is hard.

(end of interlude)

So. I didn’t text you.

I thought about you, though.

You: I thought I was a metaphor.

Jane: Metaphors are grounded in reality. That’s what makes them so powerful.

Wasn’t it better this way? I thought about you and experienced you… and had my solitude too.

I feel better. I am better.

You: I feel neglected and lonely.

Jane: Your problem, not mine.

The morning is about to turn into early afternoon—the sun has climbed over the rooftops and trees and is now flooding the Common with light—definitely autumn light. Ender and his friend are drowning toys in a tub of water, and soaking themselves in the process—I will need to change his clothes before we go to Pride. Flora and her friend are covering themselves with glitter. Cinder is still sleeping, the heavy sleep of the metamorphosing teenager. Sean, fighting nasty cold-it-is-not-the-flu!, is back in bed. The house is a strange mixture of quiet and noise—a metaphor, in this  moment, for my mind.

You: Maybe you should meditate.

Jane: I might. Or, you know, I’ll just sit here a while longer… and think.

I will text you, perhaps, tomorrow. I will maybe have some things to say… about mind wandering. Solitude. Texting.

If you don’t hear from me—it’s because I decided I want to, need to be alone. And I managed to overcome the craving for the fake contact in favour of real solitude.

But if you miss me… come by. Not for coffee—we’ll make something else to drink. I found this recipe for ginger tea with pepper and cinnamon that has a most satisfying smell. Or maybe tea with cardamom?

Come by. I’ll make tea. We’ll go for a walk.

I’ll tell you things.

And when you leave, I’ll settle into solitude—if the kids let me—deliciously.

xoxo

“Jane”

Summer rerun5: Tongues off my Facebook

2014: I’ve got  two new social media pieces in the works right now, one a serious, business-reader audience focus think piece on how to filter what your public relations/social media “expert” people are trying to feed you and one a more candid and personal look at how social media experts are ruining my experience of social media–probably for here, for the fall. In the interm, Nothing By The Book continues its old school un-social media-style rerun summer, please enjoy this oldie, originally published in May 2013.

 

 

English: This is a tongue

I’ve been filling an unusual role the last few days: holder of the Facebook password for a friend who needed a bit of a detox/distance from the social media platform… but neither want to complete total Facebook seppuku nor felt she had the self-discipline required to just stay off—if she knew she could go on.

I give her access back today, and we’ll debrief afterwards to see what she learned from the experience… if anything. Thus far, all she’s learned is that I’m a “fucking hard-ass bitch,” who won’t give her access early, no matter how much she joneses for it. Ha. I’m mildly shocked she didn’t know that about me before. But. The experiment wasn’t supposed to be about the strength of our relationship—I’m pretty much it will survive the name-calling of the last few days—but about her bumpy relationship with Facebook.

Ironically, as my friend has been struggling to figure out how to make that relationship functional, I’ve been crafting a post about how much I love Facebook. Because I really do. And it massively ticks me off when people dis it—and the social connections people make, have, and preserve on it. It particularly ticks me off when people are contemptuous about how stay-at-home moms and parents of young children use Facebook—and how much time they spend on Facebook.

Time that the detractors believe would be more productively spent—oh, any other way. Cleaning, cooking. Hyper-focused on the children. Knitting. Reading. Canning. Blogging? Maybe not so much blogging…

Now, I won’t deny that some folks run into trouble with the role social media in general, and Facebook in particular, plays in their lives. Others have documented that up the wazoo; my friend’s recent decision to detox is a specific example from my own bubble.

But I find it quite disturbing that much of the dialogue and criticism around mothers and women on Facebook—in the blog world—in social media and cyber-space generally—has this undercurrent:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t talk to others.

It’s there. Ponder it the next time some expert, Luddite or just run-of-the-mill jack ass takes you—or someone else—to task for Facebooking, texting, tweeting or blogging.

This, really is the subtext, almost always:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

Oh, they might fake it by saying “Instead of Facebooking, foster real life relationships.” They don’t mean it.

See, they—you know who ‘they’ are, right? ‘They’; it’s always ‘them’ who do this sort of stuff—have always done this to women, to mothers.

Before Facebook et al.—they took exception to the amount of time women spent on the telephone. Flip through any cartoon collection from the 1940s-1980s, and you’ll see images of women gabbing on the telephone—wasting time—neglecting their duties.

Not connecting, communicating, building community.

No. Always negatively depicted. (Think Sybil on Fawlty Towers. “Oh, I know…”)

Before the telephone… women wrote too many letters. ‘tis true. The novels of the 18th and 19th century—many of them epistolary novels, which is such a beautiful irony—are filled with slags at lady letter writers. Even my beloved Jane Austen, letter writer extraordinaire, engages in this slag-fest (I hope, unconsciously), mocking Lady Bertram’s letters in Mansfield Park even as she describes what a critical lifeline to the people she loves these letters are for Portsmouth-stuck Fanny Price.

Before letters—gossiping in the town square, the market. Getting together to wash clothes in the river—and talking, sharing. Talking while gathering nuts, roots, berries together.

‘They’ have always come down on women talking. Sharing. Communicating.

Think about it.

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

A medium without its problems it isn’t, for sure. And because it’s so new—as is so much that we have deal with these days in the communication world—many people will struggle with it, abuse it, suffer as a result. And we have to figure out how to control it and make it work for us, instead of having it control us and make us miserable.

And we ought to be critical of it, absolutely, if we think its effect on our lives and the lives of those we love is negative.

But for me, as the primary care giver for my children and someone who works from home, Facebook is, very often, a critical antidote to this:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

It keeps me connected to people I love who are in different cities, different countries, different continents.

It continues to nurture important friendships when people get busy, get into incompatible phases that make getting together difficult.

It lets me answer an SOS when a friend needs—a meal delivered, a child chauffeured, a pair of size 7 rain boots. Or, just a brief sanity break or a cyber-hug.

It lets me send out an SOS when I’m out of eggs, milk or salt, and stuck at home with a sick toddler. Invariably, there’s neighbour who’s en route to the grocery store who can help.

It means I get to see and share my nephews and nieces’ milestones as soon as they happen.

It allows me to get a hit of sociability when circumstances force me to, physically, be trapped at home alone.

It helps me build community.

It helps me break isolation—be connected. It’s a tool. It’s powerful.

It helps me ask for help when I need it. Be it a real, physical “do this for me” need–or a more intangible “I’m going crazy here and I need to vent!” kind of crisis.

And it ticks me off when ‘they’ dis it—because I think they dis it because they want me—us, women, mothers, parents—to be alone. Isolated. Disconnected.

They always do that, you know. They always have.

Don’t let them.

I’m tempted to end with a list of 10 ways to make Facebook (and social media generally) be a positive and not soul-sucking experience. But I’m sure scores of these already exist out there. So let’s just end on this note:

Washing clothes on the riverbank together. Chatting in the market. Telephone conversations. Facebook exchanges.

All examples of women—mothers—striving to make connections, build and maintain community. Break out of solitary confinement.

Which these days, too often, is a perfectly comfortable, beautiful suburban home.

“Wow, what’s with the heavy? I come here to laugh!” OK, babe. Then go read House Rule #713, or why we don’t hold a lot of dinner parties or He’s not evil, he’s a toddler. Or last Friday’s post about penises.

I supported my friend during her detox by staying off Facebook, Twitter and Gmail and Google+ through the long weekend, so I have no idea what cool and fascinating things the blogosphere put forth this weekend. But I’d like to introduce you to my blogging friend Deb at the Urban Moo Cow (awesome blog name, awesome mama, awesome writer) whose last post, The Asshole Brigade Coming Soon, is sort of about building community. The challenges of building and maintaining community. Anyway, that’s the spin I’m putting on it to make it fit with my Facebook rant.

P.S. Was it hard staying off social media for a mere 72 hours? Yes and no. No pain, no shakes, no jonesing… but it made a few things harder. Had to walk around the neighbourhood looking for someone for the three-year-old to play with on Sunday, with not much success, instead of posting a Facebook SOS/play invite… Couldn’t invite random people to share a meal with us Monday night… couldn’t share this awesome link from BrainPickings.org on Good Writing versus Talented Writing even though I really wanted to… didn’t find out that my neighbour had a washing machine meltdown and needed to use someone else’s washing machine in time to help her… and I’m sure there’s a new puking cat video out there that I need to see to make my life complete.

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. Miss me? I am keeping up with Instagram—NothingByTheBook—and occasionally throwing stuff up on Twitter—  or/and .

Tongues off my Facebook

English: This is a tongue

I’ve been filling an unusual role the last few days: holder of the Facebook password for a friend who needed a bit of a detox/distance from the social media platform… but neither want to complete total Facebook seppuku nor felt she had the self-discipline required to just stay off—if she knew she could go on.

I give her access back today, and we’ll debrief afterwards to see what she learned from the experience… if anything. Thus far, all she’s learned is that I’m a “fucking hard-ass bitch,” who won’t give her access early, no matter how much she joneses for it. Ha. I’m mildly shocked she didn’t know that about me before. But. The experiment wasn’t supposed to be about the strength of our relationship—I’m pretty much it will survive the name-calling of the last few days—but about her bumpy relationship with Facebook.

Ironically, as my friend has been struggling to figure out how to make that relationship functional, I’ve been crafting a post about how much I love Facebook. Because I really do. And it massively ticks me off when people dis it—and the social connections people make, have, and preserve on it. It particularly ticks me off when people are contemptuous about how stay-at-home moms and parents of young children use Facebook—and how much time they spend on Facebook.

Time that the detractors believe would be more productively spent—oh, any other way. Cleaning, cooking. Hyper-focused on the children. Knitting. Reading. Canning. Blogging? Maybe not so much blogging…

Now, I won’t deny that some folks run into trouble with the role social media in general, and Facebook in particular, plays in their lives. Others have documented that up the wazoo; my friend’s recent decision to detox is a specific example from my own bubble.

But I find it quite disturbing that much of the dialogue and criticism around mothers and women on Facebook—in the blog world—in social media and cyber-space generally—has this undercurrent:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t talk to others.

It’s there. Ponder it the next time some expert, Luddite or just run-of-the-mill jack ass takes you—or someone else—to task for Facebooking, texting, tweeting or blogging.

This, really is the subtext, almost always:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

Oh, they might fake it by saying “Instead of Facebooking, foster real life relationships.” They don’t mean it.

See, they—you know who ‘they’ are, right? ‘They’; it’s always ‘them’ who do this sort of stuff—have always done this to women, to mothers.

Before Facebook et al.—they took exception to the amount of time women spent on the telephone. Flip through any cartoon collection from the 1940s-1980s, and you’ll see images of women gabbing on the telephone—wasting time—neglecting their duties.

Not connecting, communicating, building community.

No. Always negatively depicted. (Think Sybil on Fawlty Towers. “Oh, I know…”)

Before the telephone… women wrote too many letters. ‘tis true. The novels of the 18th and 19th century—many of them epistolary novels, which is such a beautiful irony—are filled with slags at lady letter writers. Even my beloved Jane Austen, letter writer extraordinaire, engages in this slag-fest (I hope, unconsciously), mocking Lady Bertram’s letters in Mansfield Park even as she describes what a critical lifeline to the people she loves these letters are for Portsmouth-stuck Fanny Price.

Before letters—gossiping in the town square, the market. Getting together to wash clothes in the river—and talking, sharing. Talking while gathering nuts, roots, berries together.

‘They’ have always come down on women talking. Sharing. Communicating.

Think about it.

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

A medium without its problems it isn’t, for sure. And because it’s so new—as is so much that we have deal with these days in the communication world—many people will struggle with it, abuse it, suffer as a result. And we have to figure out how to control it and make it work for us, instead of having it control us and make us miserable.

And we ought to be critical of it, absolutely, if we think its effect on our lives and the lives of those we love is negative.

But for me, as the primary care giver for my children and someone who works from home, Facebook is, very often, a critical antidote to this:

Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.

It keeps me connected to people I love who are in different cities, different countries, different continents.

It continues to nurture important friendships when people get busy, get into incompatible phases that make getting together difficult.

It lets me answer an SOS when a friend needs—a meal delivered, a child chauffeured, a pair of size 7 rain boots. Or, just a brief sanity break or a cyber-hug.

It lets me send out an SOS when I’m out of eggs, milk or salt, and stuck at home with a sick toddler. Invariably, there’s neighbour who’s en route to the grocery store who can help.

It means I get to see and share my nephews and nieces’ milestones as soon as they happen.

It allows me to get a hit of sociability when circumstances force me to, physically, be trapped at home alone.

It helps me build community.

It helps me break isolation—be connected. It’s a tool. It’s powerful.

It helps me ask for help when I need it. Be it a real, physical “do this for me” need–or a more intangible “I’m going crazy here and I need to vent!” kind of crisis.

And it ticks me off when ‘they’ dis it—because I think they dis it because they want me—us, women, mothers, parents—to be alone. Isolated. Disconnected.

They always do that, you know. They always have.

Don’t let them.

I’m tempted to end with a list of 10 ways to make Facebook (and social media generally) be a positive and not soul-sucking experience. But I’m sure scores of these already exist out there. So let’s just end on this note:

Washing clothes on the riverbank together. Chatting in the market. Telephone conversations. Facebook exchanges.

All examples of women—mothers—striving to make connections, build and maintain community. Break out of solitary confinement.

Which these days, too often, is a perfectly comfortable, beautiful suburban home.

“Wow, what’s with the heavy? I come here to laugh!” OK, babe. Then go read House Rule #713, or why we don’t hold a lot of dinner parties or He’s not evil, he’s a toddler. Or last Friday’s post about penises.

I supported my friend during her detox by staying off Facebook, Twitter and Gmail and Google+ through the long weekend, so I have no idea what cool and fascinating things the blogosphere put forth this weekend. But I’d like to introduce you to my blogging friend Deb at the Urban Moo Cow (awesome blog name, awesome mama, awesome writer) whose last post, The Asshole Brigade Coming Soon, is sort of about building community. The challenges of building and maintaining community. Anyway, that’s the spin I’m putting on it to make it fit with my Facebook rant.

P.S. Was it hard staying off social media for a mere 72 hours? Yes and no. No pain, no shakes, no jonesing… but it made a few things harder. Had to walk around the neighbourhood looking for someone for the three-year-old to play with on Sunday, with not much success, instead of posting a Facebook SOS/play invite… Couldn’t invite random people to share a meal with us Monday night… couldn’t share this awesome link from BrainPickings.org on Good Writing versus Talented Writing even though I really wanted to… didn’t find out that my neighbour had a washing machine meltdown and needed to use someone else’s washing machine in time to help her… and I’m sure there’s a new puking cat video out there that I need to see to make my life complete.