Defending The Beauty Of My Kitchen

kitchen window

 

I can’t tell you how much I’m still thrilled with the new kitchen. I’m noticing how the light is changing in there as the season changes day by day. I fall in love  with this new space every day.

Ever since the renovation I have been especially sensitive to clutter and mess. I no longer let dishes pile up. I keep everything in its designated place. I polish the stainless.

I’m zealously defending its beauty.

This concept of “defending beauty” is one I recently heard about on a Gretchen Rubin podcast. It’s the idea that once you’ve created a little piece of beauty in your home, you work to defend it. And in this act of defending  beauty, I seem to be  defending a place of beauty in myself, too.

It could even turn out to be a big part of who I am, or a part of my life’s work: To become a defender of beauty.

When people “Adopt a Highway” for instance, they defend a little piece of public thoroughfare. When Lady Bird Johnson planted wildflowers on median strips, she was defending the beauty of the highway.

There’s a spur of road behind our house that tends to get littered. I notice if I keep the litter picked up, it doesn’t accumulate as fast; but if I don’t pick it up, it gets worse daily. If people sense that someone cares for something, defends its beauty, even only on a subconscious level, they seem to have a different attitude toward it.

I have other little places in my house whose beauty I defend. They kind of function like shrines to different parts of my self. My space chair, for instance, is where I write and read.

space chair

I also have this  bedside table where I pen notes to people.

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When I was a kid I had a battalion of brown plastic Mary statutes I won in school for answering catechism questions.

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I had about 30 of these things and I’d arrange them in various formations on the top of my dresser. It gave me a lot of pleasure to do this.  Nothing else was allowed to be on that dresser top. Maybe it  was a shrine to my dedication, or my effort.

As I defend the beauty of my new kitchen, I feel like I’m am defending the space  inside me that loves food, and food prep, and just time spent chopping and sautéing and tasting and spicing.

Time spent nourishing and feeling nourished. Time spent doing what I love.

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Digital De-Clutter Re-Cap

dog computer

The whole idea behind this project was to help me align my social media habits with my values.

Here is my personal Manifesto which I wrote a few years ago during my Winterlude:

Be human

Be calm

Be mindful

Seek flow

Be kind

Express gratitude

Extend your abilities

Risk vulnerability

Engage with the world

Make conscious choices

Restore yourself

These are the things I aspire to. This is the kind of person I want to become. These things may not be values in and of themselves, but they express my core values.

If I go back to engaging with social media in the same way I did prior to this media fast, I would endanger “calmness.”

If I go back to engaging with media as I did before, I would not be making “conscious choices” but voluntarily submitting to manipulation.

Because I would be in a constant state of agitation and fear all the time, it would be a lot harder to be kind, especially towards people who don’t share my world-view.

I also wouldn’t have time to “extend my abilities” because I would be dithering around, wasting lots of creative moments engaging with info way beyond my locus of control.

Since I am always looking for ways to hack into the flow state, social media has to go because it is flow kryptonite.

Sometimes FB, etc allow me a platform to express gratitude, and if I use it that way (exclusively), it would align with my manifesto/values. But most of the time I don’t use it as a platform for gratitude expression; I use it to confirm my hair-trigger negativity biases.

Is social media a way I might “engage with the world?” Might that be a justification for continuing to use it?

Well, if I’m honest, I really don’t “engage” as much as I simply act the voyeur.

I do like saying Happy Birthday to people, as corny as that is. That one interaction with others has been the single thing I’ve missed the most this month. I also like hearing about engagements, and happy relationship status updates, and seeing pictures of new babies and grand babies. I like extending congratulations when good things happen. I like being part of a crowd of people making a “joyful noise.”

And when someone dies, or needs support, I like knowing about that, too, so I can extend condolences or provide some real-world support.

But that’s it.

I can’t post political junk anymore. I can’t foment outrage anymore: Did you see THIS??? (“This” being some outrageous political decision, or some gut-wrenching planet-endangering disaster.)

No. I just can’t do that anymore.

So here’s the plan going forward:

I’m not going to reload FB or Twitter on my phone. It’s just too much.

I’m also not going to reset notifications. I don’t need to be “notified.”

I’ll check the socials: FB —but just notifications. I don’t need to troll through my entire, often bot-infested feed. I’ll graze around in Twitter occasionally.

I’m going to be happy to reload Instagram, however. I like pictures, and I miss seeing the pics of the people I follow there.

I am going to go back to reading the NYTimes and the The Washington Post online. Unless, I find that they disrupt my equanimity too much, or I find the content I read there bleeds into my life too deeply, or spikes my cortisol to the point that I have trouble down-regulating it.

This is going to be the tricky part.  I’m going to have to be really careful here. But shifting reading news to the late afternoon, rather than the morning, will help. (I hope.)

That’s it. It’s been a revelatory month. I’m glad I did this. Thanks to Cal Newport for suggesting it. I hope he posts his findings. I’m really curious about how the others made out this month.

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my journey. I am super curious to know how other people manage the time-suck of social media, so if you have any tips, or just want to commiserate, let me know in the comments.

Digital De-clutter Week 3: The Big Takeaway

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Yesterday I broke down and bought a paper paper. (Real newspapers are allowed on this Digital Declutter.) I got The Sunday New York Times. It was an irritating and filthy experience.

And I’m not even referring to the content.

I forgot how newspapers make your hands black, and how you can’t adjust the font or the brightness.

And then there’s that whole origami business of folding the damn thing just so you can read it without a full-arm wingspan.

And most stories get continued on later pages, which by the time you finally get to them, you’ve forgotten the whole gist of the thing.

As I finished each section, I dropped it on the floor beside the couch, and then had to to step over the whole mess, gather it all up, and bring it to the recycling pile after the reading experience.

And don’t even get me started on the issue of the dead trees.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to the attractive user interface of online news reading again. I miss the ability to swipe and click.

The other thing I’m missing is the snark of my Twitter feed. I follow some very smart and witty people on Twitter. They make me laugh and they make me cringe. But I find them very comforting.

I’ve also figured out that once this fast is over, I’m going to do all my news reading and Twitter checking between 2 and 3 PM.

This is my My Big Takeaway from all this. I discovered that it’s not the THAT, it’s the WHEN.

After a day of reading, writing, thinking, planning and being a creative ninja, only then will I allow myself to check the media. And I’ll keep to an hour or less. After that I’ll walk the dog, take a shower, and go and teach my yoga class.

The activity of teaching yoga puts a strong arm-bar on any thoughts about political nonsense. There’s no place for that stuff in the practice room. The yoga, both the doing and the teaching of it, is a powerful palate cleansing activity for the mind, the body, and the spirit.

After class, I’ll go home, eat a little dinner, and relax with my honey before bed.

This is the perfect solution. I can max out my creativity between 10 and 2, catch up on the bizzaro world between 2 and 3, and then reestablish my equanimity early enough so that it doesn’t disrupt my sleep.

Bam.

Trouble is, there’s 2 more weeks to this project and I’m extremely itchy to try out my new “Strategy Of Sanity.”   I really don’t think there will be any more major epiphanies coming down the pike, I really don’t.

But since I’ve committed to a month, I’ll stick with it. A big part of me thinks once you get the message, though, it’s okay to hang up the phone.

Digital Declutter Week 2: News Creep

Charming female texting on her tablet after waking up

I’m succumbing to a little bit more  “news feed creep” than is probably “legal.”

It’s hard to escape.

Even when I think I’ve barred all the entrances, I’ll find myself innocently opening a Google Search, and bam, right there below the search bar, sits a tantalizing bit of “Trending News.”

And what do I do?  I hit it. Especially if it’s from The Times or The Post.

I never actually took those newspaper apps off my iPad, just my phone, and now I just don’t open my Ipad at all anymore for fear I won’t be able to resist.

It’s funny, because I’m now reading The Odyssey instead of The Times and The Post and  I just read the part where Odysseus puts wax in the ears of his oarsmen and has them tie him to the mast so he can hear the Siren’s song, but they can’t, thereby saving them all from certain death.

Those icons for The Times and The Post are my Siren songs. I have voluntarily tied myself to the mast, so this means I can just as easily untie myself, so it’s best if I just don’t open the iPad at all this month and risk seeing them. I know I wouldn’t resist.

The latest missive from Cal was about leisure. He’s assuming that we all have more of it now that we’re not dinking around in social media all the time.

He had this great line about, “rediscovering the types of old school, dirt-under-the-fingernails, defiantly analog activities that used to fill our most satisfying leisure hours.”

Among the list of those kinds of things he mentioned as “defiantly analog” was starting a book club.

This is something I have been thinking about for well over a year now, but have never acted on. I was talking  to Nicole Parsons after yoga the other day about this new Odyssey translation and she said, “You should really start a book group, Kath. If you did, I’d join.”

So yesterday I spent a good amount of time moodling and scribbling  about this: how it might work, what the rules should be, etc. and  I got it pretty much nailed down to the point where I think it would be an unquestionable new source of joy for me. I now have a rough draft of an email I’m going to send out to my peeps soon, and start to make it happen.

I think without this media break, I might have thought: I don’t have time for this. And I would have been right.

For me, this whole experiment has been all about reclaiming my time.

I still have worries about where news reading is going to fit back into my life after this, though.  I need a slot for it. A place. I need guide rails, or bright lines, or constraints, or whatever you want to call them, where I can just relax about the news knowing that it all can wait. I’ll get to it, but it will be have to be on my terms.

This is still to be worked out.

  

Digital De-Clutter Update: Week 1

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The good news: Instead of trolling Facebook, I’m reading Homer.

The bad news: I’m still sneaking into news feeds.

But here’s the thing: Instead of wallowing and rolling in that dirt for hours, I’m now getting in and out as fast as possible so I don’t get “caught” hanging out in there.

And as nuts as that sounds, and as nuts as it is, it’s working.

I’m getting back at least 2 or 3 hours a day to do stuff I can really control. And that feels incredible. Two to three hours a day. Think about it.

Plus, my mind doesn’t feel all polluted with garbage I can’t control. It feels clearer to work on things I can control.

(See above reference to Homer.)

My Findings So Far

1. Facebook and Instagram are not addicting for me. I can check in once a day for 10 minutes or so, and get off. No problem. I could go a few weeks without missing either.

2. My addiction is news. First, online news in the form of the Times and the Post. Then, Twitter. I am really jonesin’ for both.

At the end of this experiment I am going to fall back into the arms of both of these bad-boys, for sure. I know it.

But I think what I’m learning now, is that my problem isn’t news, it’s when I consume the news.

My peak hours of cognitive productivity are from 10 to 2, so if I give any of those hours to news reading, I’m giving my best hours away.

If that’s prime time, I definitely shouldn’t let news in there anymore. So now I know: News and coffee first thing are a no-no.

Somebody in yoga told me she reads all her news feeds at night before bed. That would be okay, except for the small matter of sleep. I would never get any if I did that.

I remember my father read the newspaper, in his chair, before dinner. But I don’t have that kind of a life. It can’t be during primetime, and it can’t be too late at night.

Something I have to work out.

In the 2 to 3 hours a day I was able to save by not reading news, I read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. A-mazing.

I also read another novel, not as good, but decent, called The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj.

Now I’m sailing into The Odyssey, a new translation, and the first translation by a woman.

This feels good and right. The struggle is still real, though, I cannot lie. Proof? I bought the Wolff book. It’s a book, right??

Digital De-Clutter Day 1

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I’m sitting here suffocating in calendars and planners. It’s not a bad way to die, actually.

Today is New Years Day and I’m a little hung over from too much champagne last night, but before I went to bed I remembered to delete from my phone: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I also deleted The New York Times and The Washington Post apps, and stopped all notifications to my watch. I will not get a haptick everytime Trump tweets something dangerous or insane.  Probably for the best.

The last email from Cal came on Thursday. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Don’t log on to any social media accounts during the experiment.
  • Don’t read news online.
  • Don’t use the internet for entertainment. (no web surfing, YouTube videos, etc.)
  • Restrict Text messaging if you’re a heavy user.
  • No blogs, but you can live-stream movies and listen to podcasts.

Here are my adaptations. Social Media is gone, except for a daily Facebook check-in (notifications only) so see if anyone has inquired about yoga classes.

Today, Day One, I already had to jump on FB briefly to promote today’s Power Yoga class, and upload my monthly newsletter, but I got off quickly without checking anything else.

(So proud.)

Online news reading is gone, and I have to confess I missed it with my coffee this morning, but I’m into a good novel, The History of Love, so the pain of not having an Opinion piece to seethe over was assuaged. Somewhat.

I have decided to allow myself the Morning Joe podcast. It’s only 40 minutes and it will meet my need to know what’s going on in the world a little.

I’m really happy this cleanse allows podcasts because they’re the source of so much intellectual stim for me.

I’m not a big TV watcher anyway, nor do I use the internet for entertainment, (if you don’t count FB and Twitter and Insta) so that’s no hardship.

I also don’t read blogs, but I have committed to posting to this one every Monday for the year, so I’ll allow myself this indulgence.

When I got up, I checked my weather app. I looked at my Gmail inbox. And that was it.  It took me like, 5 minutes.

I can do this. I can.

 

Do You Need A Digital Declutter?

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The other day I got an email from Cal Newport. He’s proposing to his email list the idea of doing a “digital declutter” in the month of January. It’s part of a study for his next book.

Here’s how he defines a digital declutter:

…you take a 30-day break from optional technologies in your personal life (social media, web browsing, etc). During this period, you clarify what you really value and experiment with how best to serve these values. At the end of the 30 days, you then add back technologies to your life in an intentional way with the goal of supporting these values.”

I signed up for it.

I don’t know all the fine print yet, but there goes Facebook, Twitter, and  Instagram for sure.

I don’t know about online newspapers, or podcasts yet either, but for sure he’ll paint bright lines around “constant email-checking”.

I am a little terrified of this.

That’s because I am currently under the zombie spell of media. Particularly political stuff.

I read my Twitter feed first thing.

I scroll Instagram.

I’m on Facebook.

I read the online versions of both the New York Times and the The Washington Post daily. I don’t watch Morning Joe, but I listen to the show’s 30-40 minute podcast every day.

 

And what do I get out of this?

Thousands and thousands of micro-hits of dopamine. All. Day. Long.

And I’m totally addicted. Rage and indignation are powerful and exciting drugs. A dark force inside me eats this stuff. And this force is hungry.

So I’m going cold-turkey for a month. The month of January.

It’s gonna be hard.  That kind of “giving up sugar” hard.

But the hope is by month’s end I’ll  have learned how to align my values to my social media habits, and not just use them to distract or enrage me. I want to learn how to be conscious in my use of it, not just get dopamine hits all day long.

I don’t want to get riled up, either good or bad, by media. I want to use it to support, collaborate, or connect with other people– not do whatever it is I’m doing with it now.

It’s very clear I need to take charge of my own eyeballs again. And also full responsibility for how I spend my time. I can’t let Twitter and Facebook, and Morning Joe hijack my attention, which is to say, my life, anymore.

I think this will be a good way to start the new year.

G says she want to do this, too. I’ll  be nice having a fellow sufferer. But even if she doesn’t do it, she understands why I need to, and will be there to root me on.

And this is not just me. From what I’m picking up from the people I talk to in real life, and follow on Facebook (hah), I’m not the only one feeling the need for this.

A lot of people struggle with social media..  If this “digital declutter” in January sounds interesting to you, here’s what you do: just follow this blog, and I’ll pass along any instructions and tips Cal passes on to me. We can do  this together if you want.

We can share stories and struggles in the comments.

(Now I just hope writing and reading blogs is allowed.)

Hm.

Stay tuned.