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life, thoughts

a week of disconnecting and connecting

Before I took a weeklong cruise to Alaska, I had decided to “unplug” for the duration of the trip. For me, this meant no Facebook, no Twitter, no checking email, no reading blogs, or accessing the internet. (I did allow myself to Instagram — but in hindsight, I think I’ll forego that in future unpluggings.) A small challenge for a girl who normally checks these things at least 50 times a day.

I deleted all pathways I could to any sort of connectivity and put my phone in airplane mode (but ha! I certainly checked for signal every now and then!) Once on the trip and on the boat, it became easy to resist the temptation to connect: cell phone signal was hard to come by out at sea and the price for access to wireless internet was more than I felt was reasonable.

For the first day or two of the trip, I found that being without internet and social media was like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I felt a subconscious pull to periodically check in to see if there was an interesting status update, an article I “needed” to read, or if I had an unexpected (or even expected) email from a friend. If I had to stop and wait for something (wait for the bus, wait in line for the bathroom, wait for the elevator), I wanted to pull out my phone and distract myself by checking any of my old favorites. But since I deleted everything and wasn’t connected, I didn’t have that option. What to do now?

I had to learn (or relearn) to sit and wait. To be present to what is happening now, instead of tuning out reality. I was really surprised at how much I had trained myself into distraction. How much every moment of my life became either doing or distracting, not just being. Disconnecting forced a pause. And by the third and fourth day, it felt good to pause. Itch withdrawal began to subside. Breathe in, breathe out. I noticed more. I noticed the breeze coming in the port while waiting for our ferry to depart. I noticed the tall pattern our shadows made from the crowd of us waiting to leave for our excursion. I noticed the sweet and patient conversation of a mother explaining to her young child what a glacier is. I noticed the quiet rise and fall of my own breath. I really loved noticing.

I also engaged people more. Smiling at the baby in the seat in front of me. Asking the strangers near me what excursions they had done (or were about to do) that day. Admiring someone’s jacket or haircut. Sharing a joke or a laugh with a fellow line-waiter. I got a chance to exercise my conversation skills and practice listening and relating to others. I felt far more connected to the world.

The absence of the itch helped me feel more peaceful, more present, more focused, and ha! more connected. There was nothing to miss online (FOMO!), I was actually missing everything right in front of me. What else had I missed in my quest for constant so-called connectivity? What was more important, paying attention and connecting in my real life or paying attention and “connecting” to some virtual feed of things?

Returning from the trip I felt a bit anxious about how to bring this new habit of noticing and connecting with me. And to be honest, my ability to curb the itch has waned in the weeks since I’ve been back; it’s far too easy for me to get caught up in digital distraction. But what I learned during my brief period of unplugging has stuck with me. I’ve started to carve out periods of unplugged time throughout my week. When in meetings that don’t require internet access, I’ll put away my devices and commit to being fully present to the person (or people) in front of me. I’m working on focusing more in both work and life. And I think I’ll unplug for longer next time, because I think a week is just the beginning for unweaving the mental threads that bind me in digital connectivity.


Sunday morning ritual

I’ve been trying to make a habit of every Sunday morning heading out to a nearby park for a bit of immersion in nature. Something to counteract the busyness and seeming hecticness of the week. I’ve found this to be a very grounding exercise.

Living on a busy street, I’ve gotten used to the sounds of cars wooshing by nearly constantly. But I find I still notice and appreciate the absence of that sound. The woosh begins to dwindle in the wee hours of the morning, around 4am. That’s when the absence of cars becomes greater than the presence, and lasts until about 6:30am on weekdays. On weekends, and especially on Sundays, this quietness can stretch on to a very generous 8am.

During the Sunday ritual in the park, I am in the middle of the woods. I can hear a faint presence of nearby city streets, but over that I hear birds chirping, the chatter of a babbling brook, a squirrel snapping a twig on the ground, Isabel splashing through the water, my shoes crunching the ground underfoot. These are the sounds I look forward to every week. These are the sounds I commit to memory, to conjure in my mind when I need to create a quiet moment in the middle of the rush of the day.

What rituals and habits are you creating?

interesting finds, life

things you find along a new path

I’ve noticed that since the early summer, I’ve gotten out of the habit of biking or walking to work. This is an absolutely ridiculous thing to have happen because I live a mere 1.5 miles from work, so it’s a snap to hop on my bike or shimmy down the street. I could go on with a list of excuses, but suffice to say that I’m working to change back into a non-car commuter. So this past week things worked out and I walked to work on a frosty morning, which was ever so delightful because it gave me a chance to slow down and view things from a different perspective. I got to take an up close and personal view of this guy:

And this guy!

And these little ones!

And a frosty hedge!

I mean, do you see how the light is hitting that hedge? And imagine some glittery frost business with that? Unbelievable. I would have totally missed out on this if I had traveled by car. (And even by bike, most likely. I’m usually eyes forward.)

Last, as I neared my destination, I found a frosty rose bush that looked so beautiful, shimmering.

It was a great way to get to work and it really put a smile on my face. It was a much nicer way to start the day than to be scraping frost off my car and waiting for the light to turn green.

How are you getting to work this week? What little things are you noticing?

life, Think Kit, thoughts

the think kit

We’ve just launched a fun thing over at SmallBox called The Think Kit, which is an inspiration kit in the form of  30 days of prompts that help you reflect on your year and consider what’s next. The Think Kit prompts start today, and the first one is so easy, I couldn’t resist sharing.

Prompt: Have a snapshot that encapsulates your year? Or one that represents a great moment? Maybe it just looks dang cool. Show ‘n tell time — let’s see those pics!

This would be my favorite photo of this year:

It’s not a perfectly composited and shot photo in any sort of professional photography sense (in fact, it’s a little blurry), however, this photo encapsulates so much for me. It was taken in one of my favorite spots in Indianapolis, a place of peace and rejuvenation. It is a visual representation of the spirit and the attitude I have focused on embodying this year: letting things flow like water. Paying attention to that flow and getting to know the feeling better. This photo is a gentle reminder.

Want to participate in Think Kit? Head on over here to get started!

Indianapolis, life, running

and running, running

Last weekend, I ran a half marathon. (Says the girl who never thought she’d run even a 5K.)

Granted, I ran about the first 10ish miles, then walked/ran the rest — but I crossed the finish, which was my ultimate goal. It helped to have a good friend next to me most of the way, and, oh yes, having trained for the whole deal didn’t hurt, either.

Speaking of training, you know, in retrospect it really wasn’t that difficult. Aside from the usual “I have to run HOW many miles?” on long run days, — and oh, that one day when we did 10 miles for the first time and couldn’t put sentences together, our brains so busy with the mental energy required to keep going — it really wasn’t difficult to train for. I suppose if I had been shooting for a specific time, I would have felt more pressure, but this was a nice way to go about it.

So once again, life affirms for me that nearly most of the battle is in just showing up and taking action. Some days I did not want to run, even just 3 or 4 little ol’ miles. But I told myself, well, I’ll just put on my running shorts and see how I feel. Then, I’ll just put on my running shoes and see how I feel. Then, well, I’ve got all this gear on, and Isabel is looking at me like this would just be the best thing EVER, so let’s just go. And then suddenly I am running the whole distance I need to run (though, half of my brain is all “Ugh! I just want to WALK! This is so HARD! Can’t we just stop? I think I feel a pain in my leg? Oh, there’s too much sweat on my forehead, that calls for stopping, right? Please?”) and mostly ignoring that whiny self and just DOING.

There is a lot to be said for doing. Doing is the hardest and usually the best part. Doing is living. There’s a lot in dreaming and thinking because those things can lead to doing. But not always. Going from dreaming/thinking to doing sometimes feels like a leap over a very huge chasm. I think one of the puzzles in life is to figure out how to make that chasm smaller and smaller, so that there is more doing (thoughtful doing) and less just thinking about how nice it will be to do something.

At the finish: