“I was terribly sensitive to what people would think and feel. But my desire to taste all of life and try to understand it was so intense that I went ahead, regardless of whether or not people were watching me or approving, and so slowly acquired a new sense of freedom and confidence.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I think this quote by Eleanor pretty much sums up my experience of unplugging for twenty one days without real preparation.
My Great Unplug rolled off “accidentally” from my week of being sick with a summer flu in late June. I was forced to stay offline while trying to nurse myself back to health and I noticed how much I savored my time away. Baratunde’s Fast Company article was a catalyst as well as my general interest in the benefits of unplugging. I was devouring every article I could find on people’s experiences with digital detox which slowly brought on this challenge I’ve been wanting for some time. I didn’t really warn anyone. I just left. This was the only way I could do it.
I didn’t have a set time in mind. Honestly, I didn’t think I could make it past a week. I knew that if I broadcasted my absence and set a specific timeline – I would break it, so I moved forward day by day. Unplugging afforded me the time to actually hear myself think. To hear my own ideas, my own thoughts and I wanted desperately to break free of obsessively collecting ideas, pinning pins, favoriting lifehacks, liking productivity articles and only really doing a small percentage of output than I originally planned. I collected more ideas than I acted on and I grew tired of it. I was tired of being so mentally exhausted all the time. And having so little energy left to be creative. I have some big life changes in the works. I needed to learn new habits and change the narratives in my head that made me feel trapped in certain cycles.
The first week was difficult. My dependency on social media to stay and feel connected to friends and family had a very strong hold on me, but I needed to train myself to be okay with missing out. I focused on seeing the time away as time invested in myself and I knew that if a major event was happening, I would get an email, text or phone call. And I did. Those I care about most knew how to get a hold of me and that gave me the confidence to go about my online absence with ease.
After three weeks offline (with only the music I listened to being the only digital footprint I left behind), I learned a great deal about non-attachment. Unplugging felt like another lesson in letting go. Allowing my online space to flow and change without my daily input or opinion was really liberating. Finally having the energy to focus on my next big step is so rewarding that I plan on implementing a period offline every season just to refresh my intentions. Stepping away to process without distraction developed a deeper connection to my goals; and until I allowed the break – I didn’t realize how severely lacking I was in this focus. I needed and wanted the discipline. So I focused everyday in creating that discipline.
“One of the secrets of using your time well is to gain a certain ability to maintain peace within yourself so that much can go on around you and you can stay calm inside.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I’m still wrapping my head around a few more posts related to unplugging. One in particular that lead me to sign up in a volunteer leadership program in response to the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. Head and heart still weighing heavily like many others.
For now I’m going to share a short list of what I loved and enjoyed during my time away:
- Meditating longer
- Exercising regularly and better sleep
- Reading (and finishing!) more books
- Better ideas and work quality
- Not slipping with my intention to leave work by 5:30pm
- Deeper and more open conversations
- Realizing that I have much to learn about mindfulness and I practiced more of it than I gave myself credit for
- Discovering and learning so much about the life and courage of Eleanor Roosevelt
- Finally hemming those pants, booking that car tune-up, buying a new pair of x-trainers
- Gearing up for a trip to Rhode Island and planning new adventures
- Weekend day trips
- Discovering the music of Toumani Diabate
- Cooking better meals
- Reconnecting with old friends
- Brief walks and picking flowers with my work buddy during our lunch break
- Learning to be a better listener
- Avoiding the urge to take photographs of every moment I liked, but enjoying without documenting
- Taking better photographs
- An overflow of creative ideas
- Learning to be more present
- Letting go
More soon. Thank you for reading.