Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stress and Convenience

In life there are a lot of things we can't control - and so we worry. But what about the things we can control? What about the clutter that is entirely unnecessary? When our minds our full of trivia, doesn't that promote a sense of overwhelmedness?

Three weeks ago, my cell phone contract expired, and I decided to try living without it. What I felt, almost immediately: less stress. No worrying what that missed call was. No groping for the phone while in the check-out line. No wondering whether I'd left my phone on in a class or a meeting. Shopping, errands, car drives, began to feel more calm, focused. There was a new quality wherever I went: the quality of silence.

Many of our conveniences ultimately add to stress rather than take it away. The technology that enables me to always be reached, always be available, can also make me feel vulnerable and prone to interruptions.

The idea of always being available is an illusion anyway. We all have moments when we can't answer the phone, or hold one more thing in our hands, or stop a conversation, or ignore the highway on which we're driving.

And being more "available" can also mean being more exposed. I see this with my Internet connection. I can always be reached by email, but I can't always respond, and checking my mail when I don't have time to reply simply makes me feel bogged down. Through Facebook and my blog - my thoughts are out there, available to everyone. But are my thoughts available to me?

As a sensitive, creative individual (and I do think creatives tend to be more sensitive), I need time outs from such exposure. Confirming this, I've noticed that weekends at our new cabin - without Internet - give me a sense of protection, of breathing room. I don't have to talk to the whole world, and it doesn't have to talk to me.

To be honest, it's hard for me to kick these fun little buzzy little habits of connectivity. I could use the alibi that I need these things. That I or my kids might have emergencies, for one thing. But what I realize is: the most urgent thing is to be calm and present. That is the greatest protection against emergencies. (And I do check phone messages when I'm away from the phone during a school day.)

So now I'm wondering, what are the other stresses in my life disguised as conveniences? What else can I train myself to cut down on?

I'll keep you posted. (Unless I'm offline, that is.)