Monday, September 19, 2016

A Week Partially Unplugged

I'm in Canada with my Partner and for some reason, my phone died. It stopped taking a charge. My partner Ric is an avid geek, especially with small electronics, but after several attempts he could not troubleshoot the thing. Since my data plan doesn't really work up here anyway, I found myself reliant upon wifi for connection via my tablet. So, I informed my loved ones that they could reach me via messenger or my spouse, and just went with it.

The first thing I noticed about being only moderately connected was the continuous compulsion I had to reach for my phone to randomly scroll through whatever. Like most people, I scroll through the ubiquitous Facebook several times a day. Without my pocket device, I was unable to do this. I went through a couple of days of habit withdrawals, but found that a digital detox wasn't so bad. And, when I did go to check online for updates the items I found in my feed seemed unsubstantial: an uplifting quote, maybe one good joke, videos of animals, and news of Trump being obnoxious and continuing to scare the bejesus out of us all. It was like looking for nutrition at a fast food place. The food there will feed you, keep you going, but you know deep down, it isn't  something that is good for you. I spent  more time on Pinterest where I could at least filter content according to my interests, and engage a little imagination. 

Without a working pocket device, I was forced to notice things around me. I admired pictures on the wall, noticed the sound of wind in the trees, which is one of my favorite sounds, and sometimes sat in quite thought. My brain unplugged and all the distraction settled, and then there it was, a small bit of clear thought. It was lovely.

But, reality of the times we live in set in. I have a kid on each coast, and an exceptionally cautious man who doesnt like the idea of me running around with such limited reachability. After a week, I finally had time and maybe motivation to see about a replacement phone. It turned out I could get a replacement, but that they would not ship it to Canada. So we decided to do a rocket run, (there, overnight and back) to Montana where I would be able to pick up the phone which I had shipped to a motel. Apparently, it's a common practice. 

We set out for Montana a little later in the day than we had planned, and even though it's a full day drive from Saskatoon, we didn't rush. We passed through acres of wheat fields in various stages of harvest. We talked to each other about future plans. Ric pointed out aspects of the harvesting process and told me stories of his experience working at a friend's farm when he was a teenager. I took it all in, the sky that seemed to go on forever, the scenery, the small towns all similar but distinct in some way. We saw old barns and abandoned farm houses that looked as though a good gale could knock the whole thing down. I saw deer sauntering across fields, hawks playing on the wind and the odd snake crossing the road.

In Montana we enjoyed our visit to small town America, dining on prime rib at an old school supper club with red vinyl booths and aquariums that separated the dining room from the bar area. The next day we inadvertently toured a good portion of the town trying to find the UPS office that was closed. I needed to return the nonworking phone, and finally found out that we could drop off a package at the home improvement store. Our path to the store however was blocked by a Harvest Festival Parade, so we enjoyed that too. 

It wasn't until I got my new phone that I realized what I was missing by not having a phone. I was missing simple enjoyment of life. Every time I go online now, I know it's more out of habit, and that its one I should perhaps curb. There's life out there. There are things to be seen, books to be read, and quiet contemplations that I want to hear within the confines of my own mind. I know I can't do these things when I constantly allow crap to litter my head. 

While on Pinterest I looked at a lot of nutrition articles and realized that my mental nutrition is lacking. I don't really believe in diets. I'm more of a well balanced, all things in moderation approach to consumption. What I learned is that that approach applies to digital consumption as well. 

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