Not so many months ago, I thought I had it all figured out. I liked our house, old and small and quirky. It felt hip and appropriate for our stage in life. Our youngest child was increasingly independent, enabling me to take on some fun freelance work. In between interviews and drafts, I connected with my local web community, rich with inspiring like minds. It was invigorating, and addictive. I was almost giddy, working from home, meeting interesting people, finally beginning to feel interesting myself, getting out of the house (at night.in heels.) and coming home to my beautiful, adorable, intoxicating family.
I wanted so badly to be with my kids and foster my fledgling career that I jumped on assignments that, while exciting, necessitated quick turnarounds that I couldn’t possibly meet without prioritizing the work above all else.
So, we endured crumb-coated floors and counters cluttered with the vestiges of takeout and half-sorted mail. I had stationed myself in the midst of our playroom with the belief that I could switch gears paragraph by paragraph (play, write, repeat), but the chaotic environment made me less efficient and more stressed. Hunched over my laptop, I mustered only an occasional nod and ambiguous affirmation when spoken to. The initial endorphin high at getting back in the race began to wear off as I opened my eyes to my trashed house and neglected children. I had believed I could do it all, but finally I confronted my mortal reality. Uh-uh. Not at once.
I suppose new hormones were also at play in this realization. Before I even had the chance to choreograph a new balancing act, I got a plus sign, nearly miscarried and went on bedrest. Between the supplemental hormones and recumbent parenting, I was exhausted. I could hardly type.
I silenced my social web presence and stopped accepting assignments, but I kept my laptop at arm’s reach, lurking my way around the web. I weakly pecked out a few words into google, then lazily scrolled through one site for a while, getting to know it intimately. I found cammaraderie and commiseration, useful tips and inspiration and laughter. hulu. I learned and escaped, and I didn’t go crazy.
Life and death. Just as I was emerging from the newborn fog, and gearing up to use my one free hand to purge backlogged sentiments and introduce myself, my computer died. It was in the shop for months, and the void was immense. At least when I couldn’t type I could take in the web’s offerings. My cosleeping nursling made phone chats impossible and putting pen to paper an exercise in frustration, and we don’t have a tv. I had nothing; no outlet, no input, no connection.
I was in hardcore withdrawal, mourning, even, for a while. A good while.
I got over it, and got stuff done. Even without online tutorials and constant affirmation from my tweeps. I got more done. In real life.
The vast pool of options and opinions can be paralyzing; not having them forced me to make decisions and get on with it. After so many months of mainlining blogs authored by the enviably organized, patient, creative, and stylish, it was difficult to stop coveting others’ perfections and start creating my own. At times I craved Simple Mom’s advice on toy storage, Better Homes and Gardens’ slide show of picture perfect laundry rooms, or Playful Learning’s list of quality art supplies.
But I didn’t have a choice. Unable to search for the perfect playroom shelves, I found a way to make the most of what we had. I cleaned out closets and hung forgotten art and mended well-loved books. Decidedly unglamorous tasks, all, but small improvements that largely impacted our everyday routine and enjoyment of our home.
Unplugged, I plugged in.
The web has saved me at times, freed me in many senses, but I let myself burrow too deeply in its trenches, and I had to get out. Of course, addictions are hard to break. I ignored the whispers until they grew deafening, then silent.
That was almost two years ago, now, and little by little, I’ve crept my way back online. In some ways, I’m more entrenched than ever, with my own little plot here that, like freelancing, allows me to write about my interests and to interact with fabulous people. Especially at this time of year, when there is so much living to do, so much pulling me offline, I am reminded of my ongoing dependence on the web. It calls to be in so many ways, many of them worthwhile, but still distracting from my priority of finding fulfillment in mothering with compassion, creativity, and consciousness. So I crawl through this new frontier, and give thanks for those keeping a slower, steadier pace alongside me.
For those still sprinting, I encourage you to consider taking your own digital sabbatical, in whatever form works for you. In contrast to my ugly crash course, social web guru Gwen Bell sets a good example in mindful severance. For tips on avoiding web burnout in the first place, visit Experience Life.
Have you found a way to balance life on and offline? Still searching?
How are YOU… capturing time, filling your table, making memories, weaving rituals, creating warmth, encouraging deep roots, nurturing creativity, being fully present, and learning to fully inhabit the space you call home?