It comes in stages. A step here, a mistep there. Learning that even when we are retracing our steps we are still moving forward, not back.
Understanding that contentment comes from being in the moment instead of anticipating the one to come.
The Lord was good to tell me to Be Buoyant this year. The waves have carried battle after battle during the first half of the year. Currently it seems as if there has been a dramatic shift. The waves have been silenced and I find myself looking out on waters still as glass. Gently shifting to look in all directions and in awe of the clarity that is left in the absence of waves.
What I observe is how I drifted from a particular way of living and thinking. I find myself among varying levels of clutter. Too many things had found their way in to the home. Too many distractions had found their way into my time and my mind.....occupying way too much space.
Again I find myself purging our home of all manner of useless things. Things I thought had some sentimental value but really just sat hidden in a cabinet. Did I think I would be thought heartless to discard something simply because it belonged to someone? Did I think that somehow a piece of them would live through my ownership of an item that had no other use?
There was a time when "things" were only as good as their practical use and service. I lost that somewhere along the line. Time to find it and look at things differently. It is so much easier to let go of things when you can see them simply for their usefulness. The openness in cabinets, closets and under beds is freeing. Soon our home will be pared back down to the basic necessities. The children will make their own choices in their rooms but for the rest of the house...back to basics. No more holding on to materials from the 70's simply because I have fond memories of my mother connected to them. Frankly they are hysterically hideous and I'd never make anything from them. So why do I keep them? Some lie that I'd somehow be tossing my mother aside by no longer owning them? It's silly really but grief is an odd creature full of strange habits and ways of thinking.
Time to be done and rid of the ridiculous. Some call it Minimalism or Simple Living....I guess I don't care what it's called, I just want what I know it comes with. Freedom. Time. Space. Gratitude. Clarity. Joy. Availability. Authenticity.
When stuff clutters my home it clutters my mind as well. I've known this always but here I am realizing all the sneaky buggers that have crawled into my life, mind and space.
The biggest revelation I've had has been the hardest one to come to a conclusion on how to handle. I can easily toss 'things' in the garbage, this is not the issue.....it's the digital clutter I've become aware of.
The irony of the fact that I am blogging about discovering digital clutter is not lost on me.Every time I recall when I was at my mental best, my most productive, when I was most content and happy, when my relationship with the Lord was at it's most deep, clean, clear and in an intensely personal place....I go back to the little yellow house. Tiny and old with the barest of necessities and our finances were just as bare. I've wondered time and again what it was....the season in life?....the desperate times?.....the horrible, no good, frightening neighborhood? I've never really been able to put my finger on it....until the last two days.
I've spent the last two days home alone, for the first time in perhaps a decade. The Lord, I feel, has been easing me into this place. The last few weeks have been absurdly peaceful, quiet and simple. Stillness has been a big part. Stopping to just listen, evaluate life, why I do what I do, how I do what I do, what I want life to be and feel but also the pace at which I not only want to live but the pace at which I need to live. A pace that allows the freedom to be available to others but also feeds my spirit, rests my mind and body and allows me to function at my personal best. A pace that allows me to recognize when I am speeding up or drifting off course to please someone else's expectations. To recognize when that same pleasing pulls me in a direction that is not authentically me. When joining the masses of what is cool, normal and trendy tap the temple with temptation and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by things and quite discontent. So where did that come from? When did it start and how do I shut it off?
Suddenly I found myself staring quite clearly at the difference between now and then. The birth of a digital life. That little yellow house had never met Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. They had not been born yet. There was email and land lines. We had no cell phones. The highest percentage of my day was spent in silence with only the noises of children and perhaps the soft sounds of the local christian radio station coming from the kitchen. There were no iPods or MP3 players. We kept in touch with real people in our lives.....not people we used to know, people we don't see face to face. Effort was placed on relationships in the here and now. Cards, letters, emails, phone calls....not tweets and posts to boast of our latest meal or random tiny endeavor for the day. Is opening or closing the windows really newsworthy?
Suddenly it all seemed a crazy ridiculous lump of clutter. It was visual, tactile and mental. Suddenly I wanted to delete it all. Then I realized that it had actually become impractical to do that. There had been wonderful things that had come out of digital interactions. Relationships that benefited and grew through that digital media. It wasn't all bad. So how to move forward from here.....
I decided I needed to approach this purge a bit more slowly. First I recognized that this was a legitimate habit that needed to be broken and it shouldn't be simply cut off cold turkey because it involves more than just me. My first step was to go through facebook and unfollow pages and some people. Break it down to the first level of basics. I did the same on the other sites too. Next I turned off all notifications that didn't involve direct contact. That means Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - notifications were shut off. iMessage, Messenger, Voxer and Email were left on - these are digital connections like a phone call, they must be done with personal, direct and intentional action on the part of the sender, so it stays. Next I moved Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest into a file on my iPod touch (I do not have a cellphone) titled: Digital distractions and placed it on the second screen. Therefore it takes at least two intentional actions to access them as well as seeing the words Digital Distraction to remind me.
The benefits are already being felt. I'm also seeing posts in a new way. Sadly I'm seeing so much less real stuff than just junk....complaining, attention seeking....general negativity. Suddenly I'm very aware that I want to go back to a time when everyone's life wasn't in my face so much. Its funny how you can get so sucked in to something and not see it for what it really is. How we can become so engaged in something in an oblivious way. I confess I've been a Facebook addict. I've refreshed my screen I don't know how many times just waiting for then next interesting tidbit to scroll on by. Perhaps its the voyeurism of glimpsing in a window to see how someone really lives, looking through photo albums of a stranger until you've seen so many snapshots you feel like you "really know them". We don't of course because we edit ourselves and post in a way that makes us appear one way or another.
Now I seek to find my balance between a full digital exit and just enough to stay conveniently connected with those who I want to stay connected with. I have a feeling there will be more editing to come...there has certainly been a lot of "hiding" individuals. I've made no grand announcements and probably won't...seems silly to announce to the world that you'll be voting them off the island. They probably wouldn't notice anyway.
Maybe I'll be back to update you.....or maybe......
Blessings from the digital detox trenches,