Shallow: Day 90

I confess, 100 Days is a very, very long challenge. I can see why people relish the 30 or 40 Day Challenges. I chose a longer time because I wanted to create my own narrative about this particular season in my life.

I am about to begin my very first Academic Sabbatical. I am 4 years late taking my sabbatical. How can I be late in a Sabbatical you might ask? When the concept of Sabbath was created, it was set to occur every 7th Day. The idea of a day of rest was extended to land, which was given every 7th year to lay fallow and restore its fertility. Plowing a field year after year depletes it of vitality and slowly, but surely, reduces the yield from the land. The addition of chemical fertilizers or rotating crops might delay or forestall the effects of continuous farming, but eventually, only a rest will prevent the land from drying up and blowing away. This concern is one of the reasons that to this day, farmers are paid to allow parts of their land to lay fallow each year. The Dust Bowl was the largest human created environmental disaster and it was created by plowing up fields that had lost their fertility.

Preparing for a period of rest? Doesn’t that just involve putting a message on the answerphone and turning out the lights? Not in my case. I am not resting from reading and writing, I am resting from the continual distraction from reading and writing. This distraction is first and foremost created by EMAIL! Yes, I have named the beast in my life. Despite the junk and spam filters, and partially because of my own habits of responsiveness and curiosity, I have close to an hour of work each day just to manage my email. This is a huge increase over the situation when I began my career at Texas State. Yes, some of this increase is because of my changing roles and visibility but some of it is because of the changes that our entire society is experiencing when it comes to the internet.

I can only dimly remember buying my first smartphone. I purchased a Galaxy Nexus because it would run “pure” Android and was recommended by my brother. I picked it up on “sale” when the Nexus 4 was released in late 2012. This is only 5 years ago. But what  5 years it has been! I, like everyone else, have been battling the distraction created by this device ever since. Because I live with a person who has steadfastly refused to use a smartphone, I can see, each day, how my life is different that it would have been. Being available to email and “news” all the time is not good, not good at all if you are a person who is paid and promoted to think deeply about things.  I have to change my relationship with these devices.

I began this 100 Day Challenge so that I could experiment with what I needed to feel happy, productive and comfortable. I have been asking myself about all of the various distractions in the world and how I can reduce them to become a better version of myself. I have discovered several things.

  • I look great in black. My scarves look great on black.
  • I don’t need Facebook.
  • I have an addition to reading.
  • If I am not careful, I will spend my time reading shallow, poorly written “news” instead of deeper, more meaningful material that will benefit my thinking.
  • I don’t need a smartphone but I like having one.
  • I enjoy writing but I don’t need the audience of a blog to motivate myself to write.
  • I overwork, overcompensate and overexplain because I am anxious.
  • It only takes 3 deep breaths and the memory of standing on
    Lāʻie Point while thinking “I don’t care what they think” to stop feeling anxious.

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