Lessons Learned

Three weeks ago I handed over my phone and computer to a friend for Thursday night to Saturday night. (The time corresponded with Maundy Thursday through the end of the Easter Vigil.) I don’t have a TV or landline, so with the exception of the radio, it was pretty monastic. I avoided showing up at my friend’s doorstep and begging for my phone, although I did whine about it a couple times when I saw him over the weekend.

Some reflections on the experience…

If you can’t be strong for yourself, find someone else to be strong for you
I’ve never been particularly disciplined. I’ve discovered that if I want to accomplish something that’s going to be difficult I usually have to find someone to help or at least tell people, so they can hold me accountable. In this case, I gave my electronics to an incredibly stubborn person (his words, not mine :)) In my darker moments when I was trying to think of ways to get around my self-imposed electronic exile, it was reassuring to be able to say to myself, “There’s no way JR is handing them back to you, so start thinking about something else.”

It’s not the technology. It’s the way you use it
Lo and behold, even without my phone or computer, I was still completely capable of being a master procrastinator. The procrastination though was generally of a more useful manner or at least there were more tangible results. Instead of grading tests, I mowed or read or folded laundry.

Technology giveth time and technology taketh away
The biggest annoyance of the weekend was when I drove 30minutes away to get my hair cut only to discover that the stylist had gotten ill. I’d scheduled the hair cut to give me something to do not tech-related and instead I ended up wasting an hour’s worth of gas. As much as I wanted to be angry or annoyed at the salon, I couldn’t because they had called me 😐

I also gained a lot of time over the weekend. Time I would have spent mindlessly checking tweets or refreshing GMail. The time also felt different. I had a clock, but I think in general I was much less conscious of time than I typically am. It was good preparation for Easter.

If you get away from the internet, the incoming stream slows down
When my gadgets were returned to me, I had about 45 emails that I actually cared about, maybe 20 of those were addressed to me personally. While that may sound like a lot, it was actually fewer than I was expecting. I discovered that when you take yourself out of the conversation, the conversation slows down.

30 Days

I want to get better at writing. Reading Write Beside Them and Linchpin has convinced me that I need to write more often and for longer stretches. I write a lot but mostly in micro-bursts. For the next 30 days, I’m going to shift 15 minutes a day of my tweeting time to writing things that are longer than 140 characters. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Gift of Time

A colleague and I sat in a room with no outside light, affectionately known as the fishbowl, for several days this summer. While this may sound like torture akin to the rubber room, it was actually quite a gift.

Because we had the gift of time to plan, we had the freedom to spend 30 minutes or an hour chasing an idea down a rabbit hole. Some of those explorations resulted in fantastic plans, while others were abandoned because we realized they were too complicated or didn’t accomplish what we’d hoped. This time was made possible by a grant from our school to revise, update, and expand the resources which make up the World Cultures East Asia unit. (If you’re interested, here’s are some of the resources we created/updated.)

Image by LeoReynolds

Image by LeoReynolds

I find that the teaching life rarely offers this kind of time. School starts on Wednesday and time feels nothing like a gift right now. More like a wild beast in hot pursuit.

In Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte quotes a poem by Ranier Maria Rilke containing the lines:

My life is not this steeply sloping hour
in which you see me hurrying….

I am the rest between the notes,
which are somehow always in discord
because Death’s notes want to climb over-
but in the dark interval, reconciled,
they stay there trembling,

And the song goes on, beautiful.

I love that image of being almost over swept by busyness, by Death, but those notes being reconciled in the silence. Here’s to the interval and the song.