Last night in class we were encouraged to think about when and where we take time to rest. I had had a hectic afternoon. The reviews of our latest opera had been posted at 3:00 pm, and it was my task to distribute the information via email and online postings. I needed to be in Cambridge at 4:00 pm, my computer kept freezing, and everyone wanted to virtually chat and celebrate our reviews while I scrambled to get the info up. When asked later in class about taking quiet time, one of the situations that appeared when I was imagining my rest was “any time my computer is off”.
I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of people I try to stay in touch with and a lot of people who rely on my to stay on top of certain tasks. Choirs need to know call times, students need homework posted, BOC needs the website kept up to date. If I make a mistake, a need to respond to a dozen emails sent to point it out. Then there’s the fun stuff: twitter, facebook, my website, this blog.
I take on responsibilities because I care about people. I want to be around people, to collaborate with them, to serve them. But when I am trying to balance virtual contact with too many people I lose sight of persons, and the love I feel for the unique individuals right in front of me. I am reminded that I want to be hyper-involved by the times that I am not, when I have trimmed the distractions to a reasonable amount, or eliminated them completely.
I grew up in what I like to call “the house that technology forgot”. You can still hear a busy signal if you call there (remember the days of taking the phone off the hook?) and the dial-up internet can only handle one thing at a time (and some things it simply can’t handle). From my childhood, I’m used to that sort of isolation. I have a laptop at work that I only bring home on weekends because I don’t want the distraction of a million tasks every evening. If you want an easy way to get to bed early, hide your computer.
I used to get off on the thrill of non-stop productivity, but that thrill has passed. If mental health is built on the balance of introversion and extroversion, then I need to be unreachable for a while to preserve my sanity. If someone really needs me they can call – but if it’s after 9:00 pm, my ringer will be off.