I apologize for the quiet interlude that has befallen my blog here. The moving ordeal has proven to be longer, both in its lead-up and in its execution, and I am still working to get my desk tidied and the things cleared off my kitchen table. The past few months have been of an unexpectedly challenging nature, not a poetic melancholy but a dry thinness that defies even my best attempts to allegorize and, thus, soften it. I am slowly chipping away at a million and one humdrum things in the hopes that, soon, they will start to look cheerful again.
I have found a surprising source of solace in this season: our newfound lack of Internet access at home. Jonathan and I have just moved into a 100-year-old, 500-square-foot apartment, from which we will wage his final year of seminary. Our budget was projected to be somewhat lean, and we decided that we’d rather have the money that would otherwise be spent on Wifi on groceries, so we have decided to do without. Jonathan doesn’t much like working from home anyway, and we both thought this might encourage us to be a bit more intentional about our use of computers.
We got rid of our smartphones about a year and a half ago, which shocked us into realizing how much time in our lives we had the ability to reclaim. We figured out which burning questions that hit us on our walk through the park or our ride to church were actually burning enough that they remained with us until we got home to our computers. We’d quite enjoyed our experiences with our “dumb phones,” and so we thought this might be an interesting experiment as well.
It really has been. This is probably the least amount of Internet access that I’ve had since I was a child, whenever we got rid of dial-up. We still sometimes use the data on our phones to hotspot at home, when we need to look up an address or something, but most of our time at home is spent doing other things. This also rules out streaming music and video, but we’ve been slowly downloading or purchasing the movies, television, and music we’d like to have access to. We play the radio. We listen to CDs. I just bought an opera on vinyl. I have to plan out what I do with a lot more intentionality: I need to go to the library or get to work a few minutes early if I need to check my email. I am writing this blog post at home on my laptop, without the distraction of the trillions of bits of info on the Net, and will post it up on my blog at some chance I get tomorrow. The added thought and planning really helps make it obvious what things I really like, what I really want to spend my time on, and what I was doing just to “fill dead air.”
Perhaps more important than what has been added is what has been taken away. I was a bit nervous about telling people that we weren’t going to have Internet at our house. I imagined people’s mildly-horrified responses when, asking for the Wifi password, we informed them that there was no Wifi to be had. I was sure people would think I was a crazed Luddite, forcing my poor husband to go without. I’ve been shocked at how many people have said something along the lines of, “Wow, that sounds really nice, actually. I wish I could do that.” A friend told me her thirteen-year-old son had a reaction along those lines—a boy who is just as plugged in as any of his peers liking the idea of getting unplugged. But I think I know why. The people who want to reach me still reach me, by texting me on my cell phone (even if it is in those uncouth “green bubbles”) or calling me on my phone, or they wait until I see their iMessages on my laptop when I am once again reconnected to the World Wide Web. But work and news and all those niggling little things that have made my patience just a little more strained, my melancholy a shade or two deeper, my mind a little more addled—they have to wait until I choose to deal with them, at my leisure and on my terms. Work doesn’t follow me home because it can’t. I’m not as up-to-date on what’s going on online because I am, for the majority of my day, offline. I have no choice but to deal with the problems that are in front of me—the crate of tea that I need to unpack, the flowers I need to put in the case, the absence of the two living room reading chairs that are currently trapped in a friend’s apartment without a working elevator—and leave the problems that aren’t in front of me for another day. It’s a stark, but oh! so freeing, reminder that I am entirely limited, incapable of even keeping up with my daily chores and to-do list, let alone the everything everywhere all the time always of the Internet.
My upstairs neighbor is exercising; I think she is doing burpees, or something like that. The fridge is making a sound kind of like a Star Trek special effect. I need to start the fan going before I get in the shower so that the bedroom is nice and cool when I go to bed in an hour. My laptop is charging, and it should be ready to go in the morning when I walk over to work in the morning and the library in the afternoon. I’ll be able to check my email and my messages then, when I have Internet connection. But until then, I’ll be here, unplugged.