Day 1: I get up earlier than usual--which is pretty early (insomniac, remember???). I head downstairs and on auto-pilot, sit at my desk to check email, my author-site, my author page on facebook, and my author account on Twitter...but oh, that's right, I'm "off the grid." Nothing to check.
Thoughout the day, I found myself wondering what was going on in cyberspace--even as I went about doing errands, cleaning, reading, cooking--I found it difficult to be mindful in my tasks, and, in myself. Even without being "on the grid," I was still somehow attached, as if tethered by some invisible electrical cord that every once in a while sent a little zapping shock to my system to initiate a reboot. But all my system read was "error" as I continued on, determined NOT to fail in my daunting task. Eleven days off the grid should be easy, right? Right???
Day 2: I get up, again, earlier than usual. I decide that if I'm going to be off the grid, I'm going WAY off the grid. I spend the rest of the day distracted by my new plans and in preparation for what's next: A road trip.
Day 3: On the road again...just like the song, but without the charm of the Southern drawl that so endearingly accompanies those lyrics. I haven't thought about the "grid" at all--at least, not in two days. It's refreshing. I'm able to be more mindful...at last. I have meaningful conversations with my family. It's nice. But by the time I get to bed that night, I find myself thinking of several of my beloved student family who I keep up with on Facebook and through email. I'm worried about a number of them and felt a twinge of guilt that I would somehow miss something terribly important in their lives and forever regret it. That night, I dream that I'm a healer and my actor-friend, Jill (who I also keep up with on Facebook), introduces me to people who need my help. One of the people in the dream, an older woman, asks me to lay my healing hands on her--she doesn't want me to help her verbally, she wants me to physically connect with her in order to find and heal her inner wounds. The dream strikes me as odd but is consistent with my new venture of trying to connect while off the grid.
Day 4: I baptise myself in the ocean. For hours. I don't want to leave. I feel safe and warm and alive and...totally connected to the natural world. I don't think about the grid at all. Later, we visit with family and friends and laugh and talk with ACTUAL people for hours upon hours. It's a good day. I see the sunset. And later, I look up at the night sky with my family and see a meteor burn up in the dark heavens above, among other shooting stars.
Day 5: More time with family. Still rising early--excited to live a full day of actual life, not virtual life. I feel stronger, healthier, more balanced. I'm not sure why but it feels too good to question. In the evening, after a wonderfully full day connecting with people I care about, a passing thought strays from a far corner of my mind that I'd almost forgotten about...almost.
Day 6: We're halfway there, not that I'm counting; I am conscious of the fact that I will have massive anounts of emails to catch up on, I'm concerned about my blog audience, about publicizing my work, about getting more work...it's impossible. I can't do it. But I have no computer. Wait! What about the iPhone? No, out of juice. I don't have the power cord to recharge it. Thankfully. Strategically placing myself WAY off the grid was a GREAT idea. I go about my day connecting with people, nature, and being fully present in every moment thereafter. That night, I dream about my grandmother. She tells me she's getting ready for her coming out party and has to find the right outfiit. No, she wasn't gay. She died last November. Her unveiling is in October. We just had a family conversation about it six days ago. I'm processing grief--without the distraction provided so aptly by the grid, I'm able to think and feel more deeply. Live more deeply.
Day 7: Always one of my luckist numbers, seven. Still getting up early, my husband and I go to breakfast. I eat blueberry pancakes. I'm not worried about getting back for my self-made schedule of computer-related work. I'm not worried about much...well, there are a few things, of course, and I find that one of those things...a rather big thing that left me extremely damaged...is in my immediate consciousness. I fret about it most of the day. I go to bed feeling angry and sad. I have terrible nightmares in between drifting in and out of semi-sleep. I "wake up" at 3:30am and begin the next day more tired than ever.
Day 8: Dog-tired, I go about my usual activities--cooking, cleaning, organizing life for my family. I'm not connecting fully with anything because I'm distracted by my anger and sadness--something I fought hard to push to the back of my mind, using distractions like the grid as a means to lull me into a cyber-stupor. Without my cybor-valium, I'm thinking and feeling a bit too much. BUT, because I'm not on my cyber-valium, I recognize it. Having diagnosed the "problem," I refocus my energies and become more present in the moment. I connect with people, nature and my family. Later, we all go out for ice cream...even our little dog. She likes vanilla, and for the next 24 hours, she smells like vanilla, too.
Day 9: I take a walk. I meditate. I feel good. Whole. Wholesome. And worthy of the gift that is my life. I know there are only a few days left before I go back to the grid and I mindfully decide to not think about it until day 11 comes to a close.
Day 10: I watch the sunrise. I take time to think about my goals and how to pursue them...all. I review my ten-year plan and make mental tweaks here and there, hoping to improve my own efficiency toward meeting those meaningful ends. I breathe deeply. Perhaps for the first time in almost 23 months.
Day 11: I pop up like a daisy after sleeping (mostly) through the night. I shower, get ready, organize a drawer, take out the trash, write 11 thank-you notes, and head out for some errands. I watch and rewatch episode 3:8 of True Blood--having taken myself WAY off the grid, I did not get to see the show last week and know that I need to watch it to prepare for tonight's new episode so I can review both on my blog...and there it is. The rather sad end of my social experiment. Having taken myself totally off the grid, I spent every moment of the last 10 days reconnecting to myself, my family and others, along with the natural world. Now, I find myself taking hours of my time even BEFORE I sit down at the computer in preparation for reconnecting to the grid.
Perspective is everything, dearest readers. And now, I've gained some. I hope this experiment gives you the courage to do the same at some point. You can live without email, without Facebook, Twitter, MySPace, LinkedIn, or whatever it is that tethers you to the invisible world of the grid. You can live without it AND you'll even LIKE it! You can LIVE a REAL life with REAL people. Technology is not meant to take up most of the waking hours in a given day. It's meant to only aid us in our efforts to financially support ourselves, our families, and connect and reconnect with far-flung friends.
When Facebook is your homepage, you have a problem. I know because I had that same problem.
Hopefully, my perspective will be a lasting one--I won't allow myself to get distracted by the grid in the same way again. The grid is a tool, that's all. It would be weird to walk around with a hammer all day, wouldn't it? You wouldn't wander the streets with a wrench, would you? But we think nothing of whipping out our blackberrys, droids, iPhones, iPads, laptops, cell phones, pda's--part of it is a show of status or ego, but there's another part, a more insidious part--the part that takes us away not only from the people and things we care most about, but from ourselves. We lose ourselves to the grid and justify it with a myriad of reasons, only a few of which are even remotely reasonable and none of which require the kind of time, energy, effort, and frankly devotion, we all give.
When we find ourselves loyal to cyber-space, we betray everyone and everything else around us. Be true to yourself. Shakespeare said it more than 400 years ago, and it's still relevant today. For, the person who can be true to the self, will always be true. Whatever you get out of cyberspace, out of the grid, it's not worth the loss of you--of your integrity. Try to limit your time to an hour a day--if you can't do that, go cold-turkey...like I did.
Speaking of which, my hour is up...what about yours??? Until next time, dearest readers, until next time....