week fourteen: distraction holiday

deskThis year was my holiday from holidays. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were whittled down to nothing but having a quiet day off and eating pie. This week, my work schedule was mellow. My friends were busy with their own holiday celebrations. On Sunday night, I looked at the lull of the days ahead and knew what I had to do. Time to close the computer.

As a childless, self-employed person who works from home, theoretically, the only time I can’t be on the Internet is when I’m working with a client. In reality, I’m not that glued to the thing. I go into the world. I run errands. I visit friends. I read books. But it’s there. Very much there.

It’s there in the morning when we watch The Daily Show on my laptop while we eat breakfast and sip our coffee. It’s there every time I walk past my desk, which sits smack dab in the middle of my house. I refresh my email. I scan the news headlines on a few different sites. I click on Facebook and roll through a few updates, watch a few videos of someone overcoming adversity, someone falling off/running into/narrowly avoiding something else. I admire, watch and share with my partner anything having to do with cats. I read an article that sends me looking for another article that sends me scanning through my photos from 2008. I check both the pessimistic and optimistic weather forecasts. I read a poem. I look at smut. I look up the etymology of the word “smut.”

It’s easy to fill a day this way. No, fill is the wrong word. Waste isn’t the word either. Maybe glide. Maybe shift. Entertaining, useful, informative things can be found online. Despite the ugliness it can bring out in people and the lowest common denominator it can encourage, I’m more pro than con. But for me, with my nearly endless access to it, I never have to sink too deeply into any one thing. Even the distractions have their distractions.  And so the hours scatter.

It took less than an hour to get over the compulsive clicking as I moved past my computer.  It was a little more difficult to face the darkening afternoon, knowing I couldn’t simply lose a little of that time to the bright and shiny interwebs. I also couldn’t look up anything that I didn’t know and had to exist in that state of unknowing. Which reminds me of this wonderful bit:

So, what did I do? I dug into a few different books, plowing through pages in a way that I haven’t since grad school. I faced the cold and walked into the fog on the top of Mt. Tabor. I came back and wrapped up in a blanket and a watched a movie. I stayed wrapped up in that blanket and started watching The Wire again (best show ever). I even retreated to my bedroom, propped myself up with pillows and whiskey and started to revise a story that’s been sitting dormant for months.

I made only one exception to my downtime. A few days ago, I went on Facebook and posted an update. That was the day my partner and I celebrated 20 years together. Nobody should care even a fraction as much about this as we do of course, but it felt like something that needed announcing. I slipped quickly and quietly onto the site and posted. I didn’t scroll down the page, not even an inch. I swear.

Which isn’t to say I wasn’t relieved this morning as a fresh fix of news and friends and cats streamed out of my computer. But this has definitely shown that an internet holiday is not only good for me, but really much easier than I thought it would be. Over this week, I’ve often thought back to my early days in Portland. No TV.  No computer. Just a crappy stereo and a giant collection of tapes. Just a stack of blank notebooks and a pen. Just coffee and a bagel. Just a porch and a friend. It was always enough. And it still is.

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