In keeping with the current trend of updates every ten days, here is my third “No Internet” post! [If you haven't read the first post, you can do so here!]
It’s getting difficult. Weeks One and Two were a breeze. I felt energetic, alert, happy and free. I read a lot of books, wrote a lot of letters, neglected none of my chores or duties, spent time with loved ones. It was quite nice! But, typical of this balancing act called Life, I dropped the ball and let old habits encroach.
My excuse is that I had a fully scheduled week starting with work last Saturday. Every day was packed, and while I was running around from place to place I was also trying to plan this weekend (second Roller Derby Bout today, yay!) and next weekend (trip to Nebraska to visit Jamie, double yay!!). I don’t handle busyness well. I like to have a lot of downtime. When I don’t have plenty of spare time to plan ahead, take care of chores and tasks, and play, I have a strong tendency to want to give up and shut down when I do get a free moment. I was tempted to go back to the same old sites to escape, especially at work (which has always been the place I had the hardest time dealing with temptation… I mean, I’m literally stuck in front of a computer with nothing to do for hours sometimes, who could blame me?). I managed to keep that in check and stuck to the approved list of websites, but all of my coordinating and reservations for my upcoming plans were online, so I quit trying to time myself. It really wasn’t practical to do so, and I don’t regret it.
So I didn’t technically cheat or fail my specific goal of “No Internet”. But, I found an alternative. I still had letters to write and books to read and people to visit, but I chose to watch T.V. and movies instead. I love T.V. and movies. I like to think I choose quality stuff to consume. But I consumed them greedily, to avoid having to think about and face what was coming next and what I had to deal with, to escape. I traded all these good things I was enjoying for sluggishness, sadness, loneliness, “woe is me” depression, just for a chance to turn off my brain for a bit. I went back to default... but don't think for a second that default is neutral. Default is like turning off the engine in the middle of the river. For me (and I would think for much of the human race) it’s much easier to drift with the current than to keep moving forward, but in my experience the current will always dump you in a place you don’t want to end up.
Clearly I have deeper issues to deal with than how much time I spend on the Internet. I was afraid of this… but after all it is good to stop denying the real issue, especially when I knew the solution all along. I knew I had a problem, but I’ve been trying to bandage a gaping wound with a band-aid, because it’s faster and less painful (in the short term) than pouring alcohol on open flesh and wrapping it with gauze and having to change the dressing every day until the dang thing heals.
So what is it I’m actually dealing with? I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis, so I have vices and virtues on the brain, and if you’re familiar with him his influence will be quite obvious at this point. Small disclaimer: when I talk of virtues, don't confuse them with religion, though I am religious and the Church has done most of the talking about them; they are traditional virtues that common society would agree are good to strive for. Unfortunately their names are old-fashioned sounding and often misunderstood. I just hope that the language I’m using doesn’t obscure my meaning or distract from it, because these terms make sense to me and I think describe perfectly what the problem is. That said! Self-diagnosing is dangerous, but I do have Help… plus I think it would be fairly obvious to anyone that I have a terrible case of Gluttony and Sloth, the antidote to which would be Temperance and Fortitude.
I say Gluttony because I am never satisfied, which drives me to consume, and Sloth because I’m too lazy to try to come up with some decent alternative to yet another episode of 30 Rock and I would rather “turn off” (and put off my problems) than just muscle through the stuff that’s stressing me out. I say Temperance is an antidote to Gluttony because Temperance is knowing when to stop, when enough is enough, moderation. And I say Fortitude fights Sloth because Fortitude is having the courage and strength to carry on with doing the right thing, no matter how much of a chore the right thing happens to be.
The bottom line here is that I can’t turn off my brain, ever, because it never ends well when I do. I need to have constant vigilance, in the wise words of Mad Eye Moody. This idea seems exhausting, not to mention impossible, but so does the thought of running a marathon if you’ve never so much as taken a walk around the block. You have to train for it. Unfortunately I have also come to the conclusion that in dealing with these “deeper issues” it’s very difficult to come up with a detailed and specific training program. If I go off into the woods or join the Amish these vices will follow me. It doesn’t matter if I smash my router or turn off my cable. There will always be something I can distract myself with. This is a human problem, not a 21st century problem. So what do I do?
Baby steps. Listen to the tiny voice of my conscience that says, “five episodes of 'Courage the Cowardly Dog' is enough!” or “you don’t need another bowl of Crunch Berries, you are full and you know that much milk gives you gas!” or “you should brush your teeth after that first bowl of Crunch Berries because you just had fillings done and you don’t want to keep paying your dentist for preventable procedures” or “you have a bit of spare time, write a postcard to your grandma or go to practice early for once” (all things that have crossed my mind in the last 36 hours which I usually ignore). Yeah, it seems unfair, like I should cut myself a break every so often (especially after a long day at work because then I deserve a break; oh boy, that's a good one), but these little things are better than the alternative. And I’m getting pretty sick of the alternative.
I guess this isn’t really about the Internet anymore… but then again, it never really was.