Summer unplugged?

By isolating himself at Walden Pond, Thoreau hadn’t run away from life. He’d run toward it. Why couldn’t we leave our lives of quiet, digital desperation and do the same?” — Susan Maushart, from The Winter of Our Disconnect

Once in a while, we all need to unplug. Friends who’ve been visiting this site for a while know I spend less time hanging out here in the “Home Office” once summer arrives. Escaping outdoors — sans laptop — restores my spirit and makes me feel whole again. I’m ready to start this week.

As it happens, I’m reading Susan Maushart’s The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and A Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale. It’s a compelling (and often hilarious) memoir detailing how Mausart, a journalist, and her kids made the difficult decision to live without technology for (gulp) six months. Using current research to back her premise, the author shows how limiting our use of technology, including social media, can enrich the quality of our lives and deepen what she calls “real-life” relationships. As soon as I’m finished, I plan to review the book in a column.

But I’m not totally unplugging this summer. Unlike Maushart, I don’t have the willpower to go for more than a week without checking Facebook, blogs, and e-mail. Through August, I’ll continue to post links to my newly published material; or I’ll rerun favorite (previously published) essays in keeping with the season.

Meanwhile, I’m still micro-managing my mother’s life, keeping a watchful eye on her dementia and health-care issues. Trying to find my balance in the midst of it all has been the toughest challenge I’ve faced in a long time. Whenever possible, I follow Thoreau’s sage advice to “Simplify, simplify.” Right now, things with Mom are relatively calm — and I am working to keep them that way.

When you get a chance, please fill me in on what you’re up to this summer … Will you be blogging more or less? Spending more time at the beach or in your garden? Planning a graduation party? Spending less time at the office? Please send me a cyber postcard before you unplug.  –CL

— Top photo: My Japanese garden, a favorite backyard escape. Bottom photo: A clematis arching over the gate in our backyard. All photos by Cindy La Ferle. —

6 thoughts on “Summer unplugged?

  1. Hey there! It’s great to be out in the garden again but with summer in New England comes the full schedule of summer camp schedules, yard work (pleasure though it is) and vacations (which bring their own brand of stress). So I don’t get much time on the computer just by default! Hang in there Cindy – wish there was something I could do to help.

  2. I think all this technology is like a ball and chain, and setting it down temporarily could be rather liberating!
    The summer I discovered blogging I spent the entire 11 weeks I had off just glued to the screen, I accomplished nothing on my To Do list…..nothing.
    I can only speak for myself, but I think blogging is changing, evolving, not sure where it’s going?
    This summer I will spend more time with family, put my alarm clock in the nighstand drawer, and CREATE 🙂
    Don’t stay away to long, we’d miss you terribly 🙂

  3. Bridgette,
    I did the same thing when I discovered blogging. And you’re right about how it’s evolving. The key to successful blogging, I found, is that you have to visit A LOT of other blogs and leave a lot of comments, because it’s a very reciprocal thing. Blogging is about starting and continuing conversations. It’s a big coffeehouse where you can go any time and meet new friends. Problem is, it takes A LOT of time, and you can be swallowed whole by it and forget about your real life. It’s also hard to keep up with blogging when you are writing on deadline for other publications.

    Last summer, when I reduced my time online by half, I ended up spending more time working on my home, getting together with 3-D friends, and getting outside. At the risk of sounding nostalgic, it felt like the old days and I was less rushed, more relaxed.

    Several professional writer friends of mine have given up blogging entirely, as they find that they can’t keep up with its demands while they produce material for books and magazines, etc.

    On the other hand, I suppose it’s different for bloggers who earn income from their blogs, and can consider it a job. Or for people whose blogging is their main outlet for journaling, healing, or creative expression. In that case, daily blogging would be essential, and not a “time eater.”

    Thanks for your kind words, Bridgette, and like I said, I will be floating around cyberspace, but just not as often over the summer. Come late fall and winter, I will be back to the regular schedule as usual.

  4. Cindy, I find I need to tell myself I’ll get off the computer at x time, or else it’s just so easy to tell myself I’ll just check this out or look that up.

    Years ago, after I was laid off from my full-time reporting position in Ohio, I had moved back with my parents and was starting to create a new life for myself back in my own hometown. I read a book called “Sidetracked Home Executives”, and it was about two sisters who were disorganized, and how they organized themselves and their homes using a system that involved using 3 x 5 cards. But the system worked only because the sisters decided to say that they would only do certain things on certain days. I think a modified form of that is a good idea. It limits you in a way, but it also gives you a day for doing things you might tend to avoid.

    Anyway, summer is a great time for getting outside more and doing different things. I’m painting my dining room.

    Enjoy your summer, and keep doing the things that restore your spirit, especially as you manage your mom’s care at this challenging time.

  5. Hi Cindy. I’m not unplugged. In fact this summer I am missing a handful of online friends who have stopped blogging completely. I enjoy the conversations with people through their blogs and mine. I am glad you will be posting now and then Cindy!

  6. Sharon,
    I enjoy these conversations too, which is why I won’t totally unplug! I also plan to visit other people’s blogs this summer, yours included, though I might not always write lengthy comments. For me, the key is balance in all things … and for that reason, I would never stop totally! 🙂

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