My anxiety has been through the roof lately. Some of my people say this is because of everything I have on my plate – full time job, full time school, running a business, parenting, managing family life… and the list goes on and on and on. But I feel like that’s not it. I’ve always been a really driven person, the type that thrives on activity and forward progress. And then I realized the other day what was eating at me. It’s the screens. And I realized this, and am exploring this now, while tethered to a screen – no, the irony does not escape me.
So many waking hours are dominated by screens. The incessant ding of notifications from the phone. The work day – an office job almost cannot function without being parked in front of computer. In fact, it’s almost beyond belief (and I’m not being trite) that society managed to do anything before laptops ruled our world. My job; my entire company – wouldn’t even exist in a world without computers. Imagine having to do something like produce a newspaper using the movable type printing press! Imagine having to read a newspaper to get news! Even my education is dominated by the computer, as the bulk of my degree is being completed as a distance education student, cramming school into an established (or is the word I’m look for entrenched?) adult life. And back to the phones for a minute – we cannot cope without having those tiny little screens within arm’s reach at all times. What if we miss a call, or even worse – an email? What if we have nothing to do while waiting somewhere for five minutes? What if we can’t check and see what time it is?
And then there’s television. We don’t watch “television” in the traditional sense of mainstream network trash or cable. But we watch a lot of shows. We trend toward PBS, BBC and Amazon Prime documentaries and educational fare. And they’re wonderful – we can travel to Europe without going there, or live a day in the life of a Formula One driver, or live vicariously through the participants who get to do the living history experiments (those are my favorites). But instead of judiciously enjoying a show every now and then, we voraciously consume them on a daily basis. We are chained to the screens.
So screens are my problem, but what of the root cause? I think, for me, it is rooted in the lack of physicality. I largely lead a sedentary life, in front of screens. I often feel like a cog in a wheel, or worse – like I am trapped inside a little box (built of screens, naturally). I feel disconnected from – and this will sound very melodramatic – reality. I certainly don’t mean this in the sense that I feel like I’m losing a grip on mental acuity, but more in the sense that I miss having a kinetic life. Lately, I feel this loss keenly – the fiber of my being seems to be craving movement in an almost visceral, primal way. The other day I wanted to play the piano so badly – to create something real, and move, and feel deeply the rhythm of sound – that I very nearly cried. I am anxiously counting the days until it’s warm enough to be in the garden – moving and pulling out dead plants, digging in the dirt, planting seeds. But the irony is, I also feel like the screens paralyze me. At the end of a long day of screening, I am so mentally tired, that movement – though I crave it so – remains only a craving, an instinct. And so it’s this vicious cycle of wanting something different (dare I say better?), but being unable to break free.
Well, that was personal. But now that it’s out there, I’m getting off the computer. I’m going to do something with my hands. It’s about time for the spring cleaning tasks, so there’s no time like the present to start some. I must find a way to rid my life of the clutter and the screens and the shackles of modern day living, and to make technology work for me, instead of the other way around.