Unlike many of you who are in way different seasons of life, mine is not a blur. It is not filled to the brim of this and that, unreasonable deadlines, impending due dates, multiple meetings, and pressing committee responsibilities.
That is not to say that I never hustle up to be ready or that I don’t run right up against that very last minute to submit articles on time. It isn’t that I don’t feel a bit pushed when there is a day with too many obligations and promises made.
But, by and large, I live a life on my own schedule – and even that I have trouble following.
So why is it that I feel pressure and anxiety when I haven’t checked email since last night? And when I do, the mental race begins.
- Maybe later…
- Oooooo, interesting. But …
- I should unsubscribe…
- I’ll read that one this afternoon and answer her right after I (fill in the blank)…
- I won’t “delete” that one because maybe I’ll need it , or read it — someday???
What about the notification from a fellow blogger? Let’s review: I’ve put my email address in the little “Follow me” box on their website (just like I want to happen on mine). I’ve told them: I will make time for you because I am intrigued by your words. I’ve asked them to let me know each time they dare publish little windows into their lives and souls. I’ve asked them to let me into their world, support them, connect with them. And I’ve done it all on purpose.
Yet I find myself feeling too rushed to (1) open the email, (2) click on the link provided, (3) read what is usually a short, well-written piece, and (optional, but quite important) (4) make a meaningful comment. A comment I would appreciate if I were the writer. Just a few words of affirmation that what they have shared made me think or feel or consider.
Honestly, Facebook is no different. I currently have 281 “friends” – to which you may respond, “Wow!” or (more likely) “only?” I “follow” a few people and pages, and I “like” several more.
But when I head down the FB rabbit hole, I am oddly distracted by what I’m not doing, and feel as if I must hurry, so I can get to the laundry or kitchen or something else yet to be determined. I zoom down, rarely stopping to read or look carefully.
Perhaps the occasional meme or misspelled word will catch my attention for a moment.
I might think I’ll come back to that video or article.
I’ll make a fleeting mental note of bad news or click a thumbs up or heart under the new baby’s picture.
But I do not often savor the bits of sweet news or stop to say a meaningful prayer for those I know – those I love. Good golly, Miss Molly – what’s wrong with me?
Not only have I wasted at least 5 or 10 minutes, but I am no more connected or informed than I was 10 minutes ago. I may have been insulted by a political headline rant or amused by the bath-time bubbly Mohawk… But I’m no better a friend than when I started.
And this is just one example of how I rush through my everyday, distracted by what I will do next – or what the next post or email or “like” will be. I’m so busy making time for things in the bottomless unknown, I miss out on everything that is real and right here. I miss out on the updates, words of wisdom, questions, requests, cries for help, and “hallelujahs!”.
Right there in front of me, patiently waiting for attention.
And the ironic part is this: I opened a Facebook (and Twitter and Instagram and email) account – again, on purpose! I filled out all those boxes and picked a name and a “unique” password, started taking photographs and devising witty, heartfelt, opinionated posts to impress the world.
But primarily I did this all to stay informed and connected. Which is clearly not happening. Not at all.
Because so often, even while doing something I choose, I feel distracted and unconnected to it.
This is not because I always say “Yes” and find myself swamped with doing. It’s not because there is so much tugging at my shirtsleeves or time. It’s not because I haven’t said “No” to people and events and ministries that are too much. It’s not something “out there” that I need to avoid. It’s not the struggle of “being present” that plagues so many of my friends.
It’s because I’m living an inch deep and a mile wide.
I don’t know why or what keeps me anxious or looking for the next post. Why I keep buying books I want to read, but waiting only for the next recommendation. Why I can’t linger over the updates, words of wisdom, questions, requests cries for help, and “hallelujahs!”
However, my lovelies, I may have a solution. It’s not genius and does not involve significant sacrifice. In fact, it’s pretty simple.
Pare down and focus.
In other words, opt out. And I’m going to do it slowly, because haste is what got me into this mess.
For starters, I’ll opt out of “following” people and organizations I don’t really know, or bother to read about, or perhaps even care about. Opt out of “important” business email notifications that I neither use or need. Opt out of distant connections to writers who are “friends” only because they know her or him and it may lead to something else, as in “it’s all in who you know”.
I’ll cut ties with anything that, for me, offers nothing but a brief moment of wading ankle deep in the shallow end of friendship and caring.
And then I’ll use that time and energy to dig deeper into relationships, and business opportunities, and a writing community where I can serve and be served in real ways, consistently and with meaning. And read the books, both old and new, that will feed my soul. And the blog posts that challenge me to look beyond the title or tag line.
I’ll say, “Oh, I read that!” – and not, “Oh, I saw that, but…”
I’ll add to the conversation instead of clicking a phony “like” after I skim briefly over hard-won or painful words. Or words that make me cringe or clench my fists.
So, here’s my plan: No distracted rushing. Opt out of the rubble. Create time and space to “encourage … and build you up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)