I can see on the screen the video
playing in a short, closed loop. The leaves go up,
then are rewound into her hands, never falling all the way
into the grass over which they’re scattered now
after she dropped them when suddenly a firetruck blared by,
awaking at my feet the dog I’m paid to keep alive.
-William Brewer | Housesitting
Not long after Rowan was born, I wrote about the conflict I often feel between memory and experience; about trying to make sure that my focus on remembering and sharing doesn't come at the expense of the moment. It's not always easy; my child is beautiful, my family is beautiful, the world is beautiful, and sometimes, capturing feels synonymous with noticing. But it isn't, not really, and it's important to me to make a point of being mindful about the line between them.
My friend M (for those who know, the Dr. Genre of Genretastic) speaks avidly about good screen hygiene, about focusing on one piece of media at a time rather than scrolling while watching or listening to music while reading. I think, because she writes about nerdy movies, that this surprises some people; you will never see M live-tweeting the latest episode of anything. She just doesn’t do it.
I find this a little bit admirable, honestly. In our house, we’ve long made efforts toward the same goal: if we want to watch a show, we watch the show, and if we want to browse twitter, we do that, but we don’t do both at the same time. We don’t generally believe in background television and we try (with admittedly mixed success) to be intentional about our devices.
The effort to focus on one thing at a time trickles down through my life, and I’ve yet to find an area where it hasn’t made something better. If I’m scrolling through twitter or responding to emails while a show is on, I don’t get any sense of relaxation or satisfaction from the story, and I’m not dedicating my attention to the tweets and emails, either. Rather than making good use of my rest time to handle small tasks, I find that I’m really just failing a little at all of those things. So now, as much as possible, I rest when I’m resting, answer emails in batches, and turn my notifications off unless there’s something urgent on my plate.
The notifications have been a major, life-changing thing. The interruptions they bring into my life are pretty much never worth it; with a small number of obvious exceptions that get priority settings, nobody needs me so badly that it can’t wait an hour until the next batch time. But making the choice to do things that way felt super scary at first; in a culture that expects constant contact and constant access, setting yourself to unavailable feels risky. Ultimately, though, the difference between answering emails in five minutes and answering them in two hours isn’t typically that noticeable to anybody else. It is, however, noticeable to me, and the results are better rest, better family time, better creative flow, and better time management. By taking that time, I actually get a lot more done, because I don’t have to stop and restart as often.
In the immortal words of Ron Swanson: don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.