"I yearn to be more serene and tranquil. I truly want to listen deeply to my friends and family. I long to not feel frazzled or stressed by the challenges of running my home and parenting my children. I desire to live with gratitude; appreciating the gifts of my life. I wish to be nurturing and spread good feelings to others."
The above thoughts emerged frequently in my introspections and discussions during Elul and the 10 Days of Teshuva. After further thought I began to realize that while I truly wanted to become calmer, more patient and serene, my busy overscheduled calendar and the many emails that I receive kept me “sped up”. I often felt I had too much to do and too little time; which inhibited my ability to be fully present and serene with my family and friends.
I began the work of teshuva and sincerely regretted these habits and how they have held me back from being the person I yearn to be. I contemplated, “How can I do something different this next year? How can I make sure I don’t fall back into the same routine of frequent preoccupation with life’s details, thereby ignoring what is truly important? How can I ensure that my priority of being calm and living with consciousness of Hashem truly guides my life?”
On Yom Kippur I decided I wanted to do something practical to formalize this commitment. It occurred to me to stop using email and internet; but panic set in. How could I possibly do that? People email me about things which are truly important. I usr it for personal coaching nad to organize community programs. How could I possibly drop it? Nonetheless, I determined that if I gave up email and internet for two weeks, it could be a useful experiment; and I could take the next steps based on what happens.
“If not now, when?” was my next thought. I longed to get the most out of the spiritually charged time between Yom Kippur and Sukkos. I also had a lot of family coming for Sukkos (my mother, brother and in-laws for the first days and my mom, other brother and his wife and kids for the second days); and I wanted to be focused on them and not on other distractions. Therefore, the timing made a lot of sense.
My kind husband, albeit reluctant at first, gave his haskama to this experiment. He also helped me with a very simple way to inform people that I would not be answering the email. He set up ab auto reply to say, “Please note that I will not be checking my email until October 24th. I apologize for any inconvenience. Please feel free to contact me at on my home or cell phone.” This way anyone who urgently needed me could reach me and people would not get upset that I ignored their email.
I am happy to report that this experiment was a real eye opener and success. The first few days I found myself frequently thinking that I should be checking my email. Once I reminded myself of my plan, I was surprisingly overcome with relief. Email was no longer a worry; it was just off limits. This freed me to be able to cook, clean and prepare for Yom Tov with a calm mind and more awareness of Hashem.
Admittedly, there were a few times when I missed the convenience of looking up phone numbers or the hours of a store, but it really was nice when my teenage daughter wanted to shop online to be able to say, “Sorry but I really can’t this week.” Overall, I found I was more tranquil and nurturing, and I was able to better juggle the many challenges of hosting a lot of guests.
I am really curious as to your thoughts and ideas- How do you deal with the challenges of email and internet? Do you enjoy being plugged in all the time? Do you find it keeps you busy and takes you away from becoming the person you yearn to be? What solutions have you found to maintain balance in our modern world?
So now what? That is the question I am still working on. It did amaze me yesterday that I was able to go through over two weeks of emails in 30 minutes- and see I really didn’t miss much. I am thinking that it probably will be best for me if I have a few days each week that I don’t use internet or email at all and a few days when I have limited specific times when I will check email and use the internet. Maybe I will start with an hour a day a day, four days a week and see how that goes for a few weeks. Either way I want to be in control and not that flickering screen.