Between the ages of 7 and 17, my parents owned and operated a fly-in fishing lodge in the remote reaches of northern Canada. This meant that I spent a large portion of every summer virtually cut off from the rest of the world. Until I was in my mid-teens and wanting to spend more time with friends, and also be more independent of my parents, I don’t remember feeling particularly phased by this annual period of isolation.
During the early years while my parents were building up the camp and the business, our family shared a one-room cabin that lacked indoor plumbing. Electricity was generator-powered, but at night we lived by the light of our trusty Coleman lanterns. My younger sister and I spent our days exploring woods and beaches. We fished and read and played games. I think we each had a walkman and I had a film point-and-shoot camera. We were living out the creative, curious childhoods I desire for my own children.
“the ebb and flow of each day was free from distraction, hurried schedules, and…technology.”
“I let technology override my natural rhythms.”
Now that our family has been mostly at home for the past month during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed that life has still felt stressful in terms of the amount of things I expect to accomplish on a daily basis. While most external obligations have fallen away, the internal pressure to ‘keep up’ with school, cleaning, meals, relationships, exercise, yard work, extracurricular activities, and my own business, have almost seemed to ramp up.
Since I haven’t been busy with things like errands or playdates, I haven’t been entirely sure why I’ve been so overwhelmed. We already homeschool, sit down together for three meals a day, and consciously keep our schedules free from too much ‘programmed’ activity. And yet, something felt distinctly ‘off’. Yes, we were without the support of our normal community and were thrown off our typical rhythms, but we were experiencing far less disruption than many of our friends and family members. So what was triggering my heightened state of overwhelm? After taking some time to reflect, here’s what I’ve concluded:
I have let technology override my natural rhythms.
Since being in isolation, my online presence has increased tremendously. During the first couple of weeks, my inboxes exploded with texts and emails, and online shopping carts bulged. I had to limit time spent on Google or news sites because my brain felt like mush and my nerves were frayed. But then I moved on to courses and conferences, Zoom hangouts and sermon streaming. All good things to help my mind stay engaged and stimulated. And yet it felt like too much because I wasn’t maintaining a healthy dose. On top of this, I still had to work, which required me to be in front of a computer and on social media a fair amount.
In response to the technology consumption that has made me feel so distracted I couldn’t tune into my own needs as well as I would have liked, I suggested we return to something we tried two summers ago. Saturday technology sabbaths.
And so, we recently returned to Saturday sabbaths that include a break from technology. Our first one was incredibly restorative and not near as difficult as I anticipated. I’ll share more about what those Saturday technology sabbaths look like in the future, as we plan to keep them going even once the quarantine is over.
What I’m most excited about, is that I realized a one-day break from technology is enough to shift me back to a place of listening to my internal cues. And because right now we work and school from home with very little external expectations placed on us, I have a unique opportunity to try and live every day according to natural rhythms. My guess is that once I am more attuned to these cues, my kids will also feel so much more stable and settled.
I want to thrive during this time of isolation, and I want that for my family too. I know not every day or week will feel upbeat or pleasant, but I don’t want something I can control (my use of technology) to prevent me from living as abundant a life as possible, one full of beauty, purpose, and adventure. Just like the one I experienced during my rural, remote, childhood summers.