Let me preface this by saying, I know this is a first world problem. But if you're reading this blog post on a computer or, better yet, a smart phone, I would venture to guess that you have first world problems too. Also, this is a long post. You've been warned.
Let's start with my attention span (before I forget to mention it). My brain is all over the place. I sometimes get distracted mid-sentence and have to rely on the person I was talking with to remember what we were even talking about. And if they weren't listening, well, that conversation just fell flat on its face.
Interned does. not. help. my attention span. When I'm at home on a day off, the computer calls to me. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The apartment is in shambles and there are errands I need to run. Heck, I need to change into clothes after breakfast or my workout. But my mind tells me that I need to check Facebook really quick. Or Google Reader. Or Twitter. Or, I'll just glance at Instagram on my iPod. And then an hour's gone and my heart is getting anxious so I get up and perform a small task. But then 10 minutes later I remember I need to reply to this e-mail, or look up that recipe so I can make it right now because how will I live without it?
During the month of June, a lot of things happened in my heart and I was FINALLY ready to slow down, surrender, and listen. I gave in and responded to something that had been weighing on my heart since last fall. But I knew I didn't have the self-control to do that of my own volition. Believe me, I've tried. So, after a week of fasting from the internet in June, I bit the bullet and called our provider to ask for a "vacation" from internet service in July. They granted my request, and suddenly my computer seemed worthless when it didn't provide me access to the outside world.
And yes, it was frustrating sometimes. This directionally impaired girl suddenly had to *gasp* call someone for directions instead of relying on Google Maps. Ross had to look up phone numbers and addresses and business hours on his phone for me from time to time. I went to the library once a week with a list of "internet to-dos" and spent a good two hours there each time. But when I was done, I was ready to look at something besides a screen. And after shifts at work, it was so nice to come home and be quiet or have real human interaction instead of checking e-mail and blogs reallyquick before bed (often, in fact, delaying my bed time).
It took a good 3 weeks for the dust to settle and for me to reshape my routines, but I LOVED IT. My apartment was cleaner. I coveted less. I spent more time making basic meals and less time making (and eating) desserts. Only in the last week was I able to look around the apartment during my free time, time in which I would normally look to the world wide web for entertainment, and realize instead, "I haven't done my quiet time today. I want to do that right now." I don't even think I realized the magnitude of these changes until suddenly, the distraction was back.
Yesterday, I had just listened to a great sermon on prayer while I tidied up the apartment. When I sat down to look at the other sermons I had on my iPod, I noticed that devious imp, the wireless signal. It popped up on my screen sometime between calling the internet company this morning and coming home this afternoon. I had asked them to re-start service August 1, but they must have done it early (although if they charge me for these few days in July, I am going to throw a fit).
It only took 30 seconds.
Ever so subtly and cleverly, the Devil moved my gaze 6 inches over from the Bible and journal I was just sitting down to spend time with, and my eye caught my laptop instead. I thought, "why not?" Then, Just Like That I had to get on the internet. I had to write a blog post. From the comfort of my home. Just because I could!!!
I hate that. Instantly, a number of thoughts rose to the surface and my heart felt funny and unsettled and anxious. These are those thoughts, so please read them with grace:
When you're a recovering alcoholic, you go cold turkey on the Wild Turkey. When you're addicted to drugs, there's nothing good in "just one little hit" of cocaine. When you've been smoking and realize you need that toxic habit out of your life, you can't just smoke here and there without risking losing complete control.
But so much of life isn't that simple. As our pastor says, life is lived in the gray areas. And as our counselor says, if life isn't a battle, you're not doing it right!
If you're addicted to porn, you absolutely positively need a software blocker on your computer. But it's still super easy for a girl to catch a guy's eye, right? Society doesn't pity the guy trying to avoid looking lustfully at women. Especially not with these record high temperatures going on. Temptation to sin exists everywhere.
When you decide to have a baby, you can't always just have a baby. I'm at the age now where some of my friends are experiencing heartache in this arena. Infertility. Miscarriage. Big, scary, dark words. These words leave people asking, "You mean my plans can't just work the way I want them to, when I want them to? What's wrong with me? Why can't I do this one fundamental thing right? Why does it seem like everyone who doesn't want a baby, gets one? And I don't?" People suffer silently everywhere.
In my journey with eating disorders, I've struggled immensely with the idea that I wish I had been an alcoholic instead of an anorexic. I wish I'd been a smoker instead of a compulsive over-eater. What a warped thing to think! I don't really wish to trade one vice for another that, arguably, might be even harder to overcome. But by thinking these things, I was simply wanting an easy way out. An alcoholic can keep a sip of ETOH from passing their lips, but a food addict can't just not eat. You have to learn moderation. It's a daily challenge. Some days I fare pretty well, but other days I lay down at night and I have to apologize to God because I didn't honor my body and mind in the ways I reacted to things throughout the day. I ate my feelings instead of sitting with them or, better yet, bringing them to my Creator. Instead, I abused creation and went to bed with a stomachache and woke up with a headache. "Cold turkey" is powerful, and that has been strongly reinforced in my life this month. But for all its power, it's not always practical.
Wow, I digress. (See paragraph 2). But truly. Do you know where I'm coming from? Do you have a similar vice in your life that falls into these gray areas? My eyes have finally been opened to the fact that the internet is such a vice for me. Since Ross and I begin grad school again next month, resuming internet service was a necessary evil. I'd be lying if I said I'm not worried about having it back in the house, though. As inconvenient as it was, if Ross and I weren't in school, I would've cancelled internet service altogether and pocketed that $530 a year to put toward a nice vacation instead!
I'm worried I won't be able to practice moderation. I'm worried about the temptation to be all or nothing. And you better believe that this weekend, Ross and I are going to have an honest discussion about my heart in this matter. Prayers and deliberation and discipline will be necessary.
I'm not saying everyone needs to quit the internet. I'm not saying it's practical. I'm only saying I'm so glad I went without it for a month! I've learned that there are so many other things I want to do with this one wild and precious life. I struggle with connecting in person. I struggle with being present. So it's no mystery why I have been happier this month than I have been in a long time.
In the last month, I've read more, I've loved more, I've laughed more, I've connected more, and I've been outside more than I have been in a long, long time! I arrived places on time or early! My mind has learned to quiet down! For once, while I agree these summer days are passing by too quickly, I'm not anxious that I missed out on them. I lived them. Praise God, I can account for them!
This sounds really silly on the outside. And kind of dramatic. This isn't necessarily a battle I anticipated fighting, but they never are, are they? Wasting time on the internet = wasting my life. (Of note: wasting time on the internet is different than connecting with others and being productive on the internet. It's not all bad!) But I thank God I've seen the light and I don't want to go back to living in darkness, illuminating my life with the computer screen, and comparing myself to everyone's online portrayal of themselves and finding myself wanting. I don't want to spend another minute mindlessly escaping reality while life is waiting to be lived 6 inches away from this screen.