A weekend unplugged

Several days ago while relaxing with the Spousal Unit, I posed the idea that perhaps we should unplug for the weekend. In other words, no social media (blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc) and minimal use of our computers. I won’t say that I was met with resistance but I did have to clarify exactly what the goal was, and to sweeten the deal I did say we were allowed an hour of internet time since with both of our jobs, unless it’s been discussed with the powers to be and clients in advance not being accessible by email is not an option.

I admit Friday night I was nervous thinking about the often empty moments during the weekend that I generally fill up by being online. What about the gap between when the Spousal Unit puts the kid down for bed and then comes down to hang with me…what if? As you can see I was worried, it’s funny because I have never thought I was addicted to social media but it’s clearly become a time suck which I was aware of. I also had been looking to plug back into my own life after a series of online interactions that have frankly shaken me to my core to the point I had been toying with the idea of just pulling the plug on it all.

So Friday night I signed off and the weekend began. For starters I did in the end use more than my allotted hour of internet time but only because I read both my local paper and the New York Times online and even speed reading it took more than an hour for the two days. Both the Spousal Unit and I ended up working but without the sweet pull on places like Twitter, it turns out that I could churn out a funder’s report far faster than usual because I was not distracted. Funny how a simple tweet turns us into junkies as we toggle back and forth between our work and twitter seeing what is going on, what was 5 minutes then becomes 20 or more. Heaven forbid you become engaged in a good conversation, you can easily be on even longer.

Well I won’t give you a blow by blow, but it turns out that when I am not checking in via Foursquare, tweeting and updating photos to Facebook, I actually enjoy events a lot more as I can give them my undivided attention. When the girl child (I think she is outgrowing the kidlet moniker) asks me something, I found even when I was reading a book, it was far easier to simply put it down and tend to her need. Unlike the times when I am plugged in either to my laptop or Droid, and inevitably I tell her just a moment, baby. This weekend there were few just a moment baby minutes and I loved it.

As the weekend progressed and I felt really good, I decided to change things up for the Spousal Unit and I. Like many married couples with kids our go-to entertainment when the kid goes to sleep is often centered around television, or as I put it yet another screen. Frankly I have been feeling a bit out of sorts with that fact, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with watching television but the idea that what passes for daily quality time is focused on a screen that we sit passively and absorb well it seems wrong. So I asked the Spousal Unit if he would be up for a read out loud project, last night we started with a book of Pablo Neruda poems, nothing sets a mood like some Neruda! We are now starting to compile a list of books that we will read together; looks like the next up will Voltaire’s Candide.

It is now Monday morning, I have been up and hour and a half and while I have peeked into my social media haunts, I must admit I am wondering do I really want to jump back in? Knowing me I will but there was much learned by unplugging (I should mention that I tried to refrain from texting as well instead choosing to talk on the phone in real time) I definitely will be doing this on a regular basis.

That said, it’s great to be back too!

It’s okay to be mediocre

We are living in crazy times here in the US, many of our fellow country men and women are struggling to survive to the point where just keeping food on the table is a struggle. Yet at the same time many of us are still playing our role as the ultimate consumers. Fancy meals, coffee drinks (yeah, I am guilty of this one), standing in line to get the newest and latest iGadget, all the outward signs of success. I often wonder how many of us can really afford these things? Make no mistake, I know not everyone is struggling but most of us are living in denial. If we lost our jobs and didn’t find one in six months or so our world would collapse.

Yet despite the grim statistics that in this new America a permanent underclass is being created where a good 10% of us at any given time will be jobless and many more are underemployed. We still cling to the dream that we must achieve success and that well… success will include climbing the corporate ladder or maybe the non-profit ladder or owning our own business. Success is often defined by what we have rather than by who we are and frankly I think that is fucked up.

Social media allows me to stay connected enough to remind me that the second reason why I chose to move to Maine was that I wanted to get off the hamster wheel. Prior to our move to Maine and the eventual downsizing of our life, the Spousal Unit and I worked hard to the point early on we had a patch where work was fucking with our marriage. A boss who does not give a damn that your wife is sick has a funny way of creating tension in a marriage especially when your presence is requested on a Sunday just so you can sit in the office and be on call for a client. When the Spousal Unit was fired from his lovely well paid position at a Big 4 firm, it was the beginning of a turning point in our marriage that turned out to be preparation for life in Maine. Yet because we made the conscious decision that our marriage and family was more important than anything else I suspect its one of the biggest reasons that we have weathered the financial storms of life.

In many ways we have reached the point where we are okay having less, that as long as our basic needs (and I admit we are defining basic a bit broadly), are met that we are fine. In a world that says mediocrity and settling is bad we are at the place where we are ok with settling professionally and even financially when our personal life is so rich. It’s funny because the past few months have been some of the best times personally for us as the kidlet has gotten older and a bit more predictable (i.e. regular bedtime).

Last night before I drifted off to bed, I told the Spousal Unit that I was content with our life and he replied that he wished he could do more for us, like rehab this 127 year old dungeon we call a home. I won’t lie, it would be lovely to just hire contractors to fix this place but I am happy to just have a home and more importantly a home that is paid off, the rest will come in time.

To my young readers and maybe not so young readers, I guess what I am trying to say is life is too fucking short to spend your time chasing shit that won’t really make you happy. Sometimes we set goals of things we think will change our life and guess what? Those things often aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Instead happiness must come from inside, true its hard to be happy when your belly is empty and you are sleeping on a park bench but the fact is if you got a place to lay your head, food, and more importantly you have good people in your life that is the shit that matters.

I guess in some ways this may seem strange coming from someone who is holding a beg-a-thon to get a new computer after all if I had a better job I could just go out and buy the damn thing. But while that would be nice, the fact is even this blog is a labor of love that I could not do if I were tethered to some high paying gig, thus not having the chance to meet all you fabulous folks who read my ramblings. So don’t let others define who you are by what you have or don’t have, know that you are fabulous no matter what!

Living Simply…what does it mean to you?

I have noticed lately that folks talk a great deal about living simply. Yet when I think about that term I wonder what the hell does that mean exactly? For some folks it means living within their financial means and not accruing debt, for others it means getting off the grid and living off the land, for others it means  crossing the country in a veggie fueled RV and taking whatever job they find to put food on the table.

Right now for me living simply means struggling with getting out of debt, yet I still succumb to a daily iced coffee on the way home from work…this is down from the multiple espresso drinks I used to buy daily, yet it still involves spending cash, just a lot less than I used to spend.

I no longer visit malls unless I know exactly what I need, I go in, get what I need and leave quickly before I buy something just because it was cute or on sale. Yet I still get weak in thrift and consignment shops, hence the second vintage dress I bought recently that no one in my family likes…what do they know?

I cook a lot more from scratch, yet I still eat the occasional meal out especially in the summer time when I just don’t feel like cooking. However it tends to be an inexpensive salad or tart from a local eatery. Gone are the days of the $75 lunches. Though I know there are many that would say that I still waste money, true but I strive to find my balance between living a lot more simply but not feeling deprived. Drugstore lipstick probably could work at $5 a tube but MAC lipstick at $14 a tube definitely works and if I save 6 empties I get one free.

So what are you doing to live more simply? Do you even think about living a more simple life? Let me know…I can always use ideas to streamline my life.