I've talked about my desire to write more for months ... years even. I've felt stuck creatively for just as long.
Mornings with children fade into afternoons which even more quickly fade into tired evenings, some days... many days with to-do lists left undone yet camera cards filled from the day's adventures in new creeks, new mountains, new discoveries. Camera cards that get stacked on the shelf until they're needed again, dumped on a hard drive that I tell myself I'll tackle soon that now holds thousands of un-culled images from the past week... now month... now year.
I wouldn't trade this season of life for anything. For now. I'm basking in it, soaking in it, relishing in it. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that some days I'm also sinking in it. A quicksand made of messes and laughter and chasing and impromptu dance parties and bare booties and soaked bathrooms from splashed water and silly putty weaved into rugs and timeouts and tears and muddy feet and tangled hair and mismatched clothes and princess shoes at the grocery store and sneaked snacks and spilled drinks and lots and lots of touching and lots and lots of quiet space filled to the max with noises of every kind.
It's motherhood. Parenthood. Beatitude. Previews of heaven. And constant reminders of my need for Grace and Help.
School days seem like the obvious gifted time for quiet reflection, reading, writing and image culling, but school days are the only time for the gym, grocery store, physical therapy, dentist appointments and hurried one-on-one lunches with humans that time is fighting to turn into long lost friends.
In April - nearly three months ago - I had an epiphany. An epiphany that there was much I wanted to get done, but no time to do it. Is this true?, I wondered. Is there really no time? So, I decided I would shed some non-necessities to see if just maybe the time I was looking for was hiding in a closet or two or five in the crevices of my days.
I nixed meal-planning and passed the baton to Blue Apron. Then alcohol. This one has been tougher to give-up for longer than chunks of days at a time. I so appreciate its ability to unwind me, but that often means it disconnects me, too and to create you need to be and to feel connected. I reason some days need different things and I also reason most days don't need so much help unwinding as I like to talk myself into believing. Then Crossfit. I had this realization that being fit should not be synonymous with nursing injuries so I chose to be kinder on my body and I'm now doing Pure Barre, nursing sore muscles, not injured parts.
Then social media. In fact, Social media was the first one to go because it was the most obvious closet of stolen time, but I'm listing it last because it deserves a great explanation.
I said it in a previous post and I'll say it again: 30-45 minutes a day isn't a long time, but 4-5 hours a week is. And that 4-5 hours a week of scrolling, reading, and engaging with others, for me, did not include the amount of time I was taking pictures on my phone, picking a favorite, editing it just right and pairing it with thoughtful words. I figured if I were to take up someone else's time to look and read I outta put some thought behind it. This means social media, particularly Instagram, was taking more like 7+ hours of my time a week.
It took a solid almost three months, an almost return half a dozen times and two days of complete and utter and oh so beautiful and refreshing and I could almost cry over how much this time has meant to me away from my family AT HOME. Yes, my beloved husband knows my love language of quiet time at home and he took the girls to the mountains for two nights away. It has been during this time of sleeping 10 hours at night and going to a movie by myself and ordering take-out for one and leaving Pure Barre in no hurry to have an incredible insight that has shifted my perspective on social media in a significant way:
I have never used Instagram to stay connected with just friends. My closest friends I am connected to in others ways - a quick lunch, wine night at the lake, daily text messaging updates across state-lines, coordinated Pure Barre classes, etc. I have always used Instagram for two reasons: to promote myself / business and to stay connected with friends that are also artists, in this wild world alongside of me. And, this is where the epiphany was living, waiting to be discovered!
My very favorite feeds on Instagram are all run by thriving artists and here's what I mean by that: A thriving artist, in my opinion, is someone who is creating regularly. They're fighting the good fight, making discoveries and taking risks by sharing their work and their art. They're creating NEW stuff that is from the heart and yes, we all know exactly when someone is creating work to gain others' affirmations and when someone is creating work that is simply seeping from their souls. The latter is refreshing and inspiring. And those are the feeds that gain traction, that gain followers, that inspire others. And that's exactly what they were doing at one time for me. Key words are: at one time.
At some point, when I don't know, they were no longer doing that for me because I had victimized myself to over-consumption. Hello! I teach about this in week 4 of my class! Every day for 30-45 minutes a day I was walking the halls of all of these different and beautiful museums all while searching for what I should be doing with my very own creativity. As if our own creativity could ever flourish within someone else's creativity! Can we glean insight, a revelation or motivation? Absolutely! But where does that go if we choose to leave and enter the door of yet another museum?
It becomes clutter.
Instead, we MUST consume minimally and then be diligent to head straight to our car and back to our home, to our very own empty museum where the paper is white and the pencils sharpened. Where we're forced to draw a really shitty picture, step back, thank our mind and our tools for a launching point, ball the paper up and throw it in the trash and start anew. Again and again. 10,000 hours, Malcolm Gladwell says, does it take to make a master. Can walking others' museums make me a master of my own ability to create? If it were only that easy...
I'm grateful -- truly truly -- that my subconscious (synonymous with my heart which I believe is synonymous with the Holy Spirit) knew something long before my conscious mind did. It was time for a cleanse.
This idea of discovering the lies laced within social media is not new. I've been deeply inspired by several people who have left it completely in the past.
My friends, The Parsons, wondered what life would look like on the other side of one year away. With much trepidation, since their livelihood depends on the business social media brings their direction, they choose to give it a go. They were planning to return April 1 of this year, but the changes in their lives were so astounding they've kissed it all goodbye for good. I highly suggest checking out their podcast, The Boredom Experiment, on all that they have learned, good and bad.
Another inspiration to me was a girl I don't know personally, but whose feed was light and always entertaining. She was a single mom, raising her two boys, living on a farm, rehabbing an airstream and traveling the country. She, too, relied on social media to run her business of hand-sewn goods. On January 1 of this year she announced it was time to "start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings." Her hand-sewn good site is still active, but her personal blog has since been turned private. Both of these feeds had tens of thousands of daily approvers that they had to say goodbye to in order to open the door to something new... something greater.
Others, including myself, have left social media momentarily, but have returned like a fly to a venus trap. Social media is impressively addictive.
"On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically. Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively."
Why else do we not only prefer, but work so diligently to create feeds that are so thoughtfully curated. We are highly intelligent and a little bit of our own research shows what gets rewards and what doesn't and it's the rewards... the comments, the double taps, the new followers... that keeps us coming back for more.
Two nights ago, while Corey and the girls were in the mountains, I went out for Mexican food with one of my dearest friends. Two hours into our dinner we got onto the subject of my absence on Instagram and somewhere in my drivel I mentioned the "double tap." "What's a double tap?," she asked. "You know... when you double tap a picture on Instagram so that it likes it." She quickly replied, "Oh gosh... I don't know if I've ever liked a picture. I mean surely no one's looking to me for a boost of confidence are they!?"
Yes, they are. I certainly was.
Me alongside a bajillion others that are sharing themselves on social media are in fact looking to you, quite possibly a stranger, for approval, praise and maybe even permission.
Earlier this week I received a surprising text from a friend I've worked with a lot in my previous business, but have only met once. In fact, it was at a bar in Vegas, but that's beside the point of this story. She texted me commending me on going absent off the only channel that gives me a boost of daily affirmations. We conversated back and forth with energetic fingers and she humbly and vulnerably shared her own desire to do the same, but her inability to just do it already.
I resonated with her deeply. Like I said, I've almost returned half a dozen times now. But, my heart is catching up with my head and during the two days of quiet I have found it impossible to argue these proofs:
I have more free time. I am taking pictures and editing them within weeks, not months. I am teaching myself how to make videos using my DSLR. I am reading again. When there is nothing good on TV instead of pulling out my phone I am digging up old favorite movies and watching them for an invited dose of inspiration in a direction of my choosing. I am less mentally torn, more mindful of friendships I wish to give my time to, less affected by others' emotion-filled news, more in check with how I'm feeling which is no longer affected by my perception of how others feel about me. My attention span even feels as if it's reversed for the better. I am less analytical, less resentful, and less ... bored. Because I had gotten in such a bad habit of not allowing myself to experience boredom I was filling all of the empty spaces - and non-empty spaces if I'm honest - with mindless scrolling that was in fact boring my brain to a state of paralysis.
My brain is slowly coming back to life.
I am re-learning that I need solitude, yes, but I need uninterrupted space that allows my thoughts room to organize and for some to leave through the back door while others are folded and left on the shelf.
I am also re-learning how to appreciate other artists. Like really truly appreciate what they are doing and not just rushing through their museum and into the next because there are so many damn museums to visit before time runs out again. I am also re-learning that I can only appreciate other artists when I am able to appreciate my own self as an artist. This may sound selfish to some, but it's not at all. We are made to live in communion with one another, not to watch from the sidelines.
I am also re-learning how to appreciate the fact that we are all so very different. My girlfriend sitting over Mexican food is not the least bit affected by Instagram. Some days she enjoys it and lots of other days she doesn't even think about it. She doesn't have to take a good hard look at her relationship with social media because she doesn't even know what double tapping does!
I on the other hand was receiving less than I was giving. I was making excuses. (Oh, the excuses are never-ending! I guess that leads us back to the fact that science has discovered that social media is addictive. I apparently really like dopamine.) My time was often given away instead of spent wisely, my mind operated frayed, my heart was filtering emotions that were not all my own and my creativity had grown regrettably dim. Not to mention the affects this all had on those sharing the same room as me.
I take full responsibility.
Which means I can also take full responsibility for making a change.
Motherhood. It's a love song actively being written as the second hand speeds past the 12 again and again. It requires much and it deserves much, largely protection from outside thieves looking to steal from its richness. Allowing our creativity a place and the space to come alive deserves precisely the same.