A picture is worth a thousand words they say. So take a look at this one.Electronics I couldn’t believe it myself. And I can safely say that the pile of electronics gadgets, cables and adaptors seen in this photo did not include everything we carried on our trip to Italy. Not shown was the electric toothbrush, another computer, another Ipod, a Kindle, the cheap Italian phone we purchased in Rome or the Blackberry my husband uses.

I had stuffed most of the cables in a plastic ziplock and after the frenzy of getting ready to travel and unpacking for our stay, I was truly appalled at what I saw. Going public with this is a small way to try to get a grip on how this came to be. Of course I love electronic gadgets and I actually make use of them for my work. I write, photograph and record.  I listen to music, I do research, keep electronic financial records and pay bills online. And of course with an elderly mother at home, I have to be available for checking in or in the event of some emergency. But having rented a substitute “smart phone” that came without instruction and proved rather dumb, (it failed to hold my contacts or reliably download email) the experience pointed up the degree of my addiction. I felt disoriented, unhinged, adrift on a sea with no sight of my beloved cyberworld. No instant Google maps or addresses. No round the clock news updates.  No video clips of the Daily Show or Stephen Colbert when I wanted to laugh at the news .

Of course I had my computer and access to wireless at the place we were staying for two weeks.  I got my Skype going  and accepted the interruptions of intermittent phone connections and power outages during storms.  Throughout the period, however, I noticed how my anxiety about being offline and out of touch began to subside. If someone needed to reach me they would and could and vice versa. What if it took a few extra minutes or even hours?

And what was I doing with that extra time? Having two hour lunches, taking late afternoon swims, writing stories, reading a good book, watching the clouds move across the wide valley,  hiking through  a beautiful countryside, meditating at sunrise, lingering over my tea and toast on the patio or around the kitchen table with our traveling companions. I was actually living. There were no electronic screens between me and my world. Sweet.Clouds From Villa Colletto

Pulling the plug was not so easy.  Being unplugged was revelatory. And yes as I write this sealed in the hermetic cavern of a jumbo jet having watched a movie, written a few blogs and downloaded my photos to my computer, I do look forward to having my trusty old Droid back when we land. But it feels like my internal circuitry has re-booted, clearing out the static and the bugs.  I’ll be watching myself to see how long I can stay unplugged and truly connected.


Postscript: It has been three weeks since my return from vacation. During that time I have removed all the electronic equipment from our bedroom and kitchen- except for a rarely used television. The gadgets have been confined to my desk and study.  They are useful and used frequently- but not without the conscious decision to do so. I have taught some classes without using any meditation music stored on my Ipod. I have reorganized my files and desk.  I feel engaged and productive. Sometimes I find myself away from home with no phone and instead of momentary panic, I just relax and take a deep breath. I set up a Powerpoint presentation and designed a booklet of photos and sayings for my Mother’s 90th birthday- a project that kept me plugged in for hours. I was glad to be done.


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