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Last week, I received this letter from a dear friend:
I’m a wreck. How many times have I heard someone say, “On your deathbed, you won’t wish you spent more time at work.” But guess what? Today, I wish I could have even gotten to my work. My new saying is “On my deathbed, I won’t wish that I had spent more time online with CenturyLink.”
You write often about prioritizing your creative work, but let me testify that it isn’t that easy. This was the day I set aside for my project, but then tech problems came up and consumed the whole f-ing day, excuse my French. Tech glitches appear to love a vacuum.
You don’t need all the details, but it started with lousy internet service and many calls for help from CenturyLink. Knowing it might be years before we got help, I decided to go to the library to upload a document. Then, returning to the office, my office computer kept crashing, so I called Apple. But the rep couldn’t help me reload my operating system because the Internet connection was too weak. I hoped that I could still salvage my writing day in the afternoon, but …
I started my writing session by warming up with one short how-to video on YouTube (just one!) and aghhh discovered that my websites weren’t “secure” even though I had paid real money to secure them. My website hosting company said they needed to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to make the security work, but of course. I didn’t even own that email. I bit my lip, tried not to scream and set about to acquire that email address. Of course, Gmail was no help so I….[Insert expletive]…I could go on, but you get the drift. Nothing was resolved, I’m a mess, and I feel like I wasted the whole precious day I set aside.
Can you help?
I get it. It was one of those days you got bucked off of your plans. Just hold your horses a bit, and tomorrow you can get back into the saddle.
First of all, know that what just happened isn’t personal.
Remember that story about “how to boil a frog.” You don’t put the frog into boiling water–he’d jump out, but you put him in tepid water and then keep turning the temperature up. I’m seeing a lot of warm frogs these days, living overloaded, computer-dependent, technology-infused lives. We don’t notice how each new upgrade, extension, feature, or device we use turns up the heat just a bit.
But I don’t want to depress you. Let’s tackle the problem. It comes in two parts: you and you. First of all, we have to help you return you to some semblance of the loving, compassionate, balanced person you are. After that, we can figure out what to do differently in the future.
Part one: Here are a few ideas you can use to help you regain you.
Acknowledge the problem. Create your own 12-step program for technology-inflicted rage. Know that this isn’t just about you. Find some compassion for the rest of us frogs.
Breathe. Your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) has kicked in. Tension is high. But you can support your parasympathetic nervous system with breathing and this will calm you down. Seems so basic but so important–even for five minutes. Take some deep breaths and long, complete exhales. Let the breath expand and move within you. I won’t get fancy because you’re in emergency mode.
Break the spell. Don’t worry about being productive. First, we’ll need to break the grip of whatever monster has you in this agitated outside-of-yourself state. Sing, chant, massage your feet–anything that you know relaxes you (and gets you breathing). Meditate. Take a walk. Dance if you have energy. Or just sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Read a book that sends you into another world. Don’t come out until you start to relax.
Gratitude. Remember that technology has two edges: it creates miracles with so many opportunities to work, connect, collaborate and grow; it also consumes our time. Give thanks for the privilege of access. (Isn’t it silly that we get so irritated when our computers need ten extra seconds to reboot?)
Hug a pet. I’m big into pooch hugs these days. My new dog Riley generously allows me to hug him as much as I want; he even seems to like it. My cat occasionally returns my affection, and my horse allows me to breathe into her muzzle even though she isn’t sure why I am doing that. Breathing with an animal is the perfect antidote to computer-induced rage.
Part two: strategizing what to do going forward.
Without any judgment, how could you have protected your creative space a little better?
Protect your time/space. You set aside time to write, (good) but then you watched a short video (dangerous). Marketers are super proficient at dangling shiny objects before you and distracting your attention. And once you saw you had a problem with your website, did you have to immediately resolve it? I know, “you thought it was going to be quick.” But between us both, how often does that prove to be true?
Stop the action. Those technology glitches start snowballing and soon you’re facing an avalanche. You keep hoping that “just one more thing” will resolve the problem. But the real problem is you. You’re fried. Anger has aborted your thinking. Call “time out” when you feel yourself sliding down the mountain. Step away. Take a break. Do your breathing (above) and then reconsider whether to continue down the path that you’re on. It’s probably going nowhere.
Be vigilant about your priorities. Protect your creative space in your overstuffed life the way you’d protect a meeting you’ve scheduled. Exceptions allowed, but double check anything that threatens to pull you off your path. Maybe you want to guarantee yourself one hour of writing before you even peak at the Internet. .
Make lemonade. Sorry for the cliché, but there’s got to be some good coming out of what you experienced. Compassion for others? A funny story for your next party? A piece of writing? A blog post?
Spread kindness. It’s too easy to get upset with the people who, like pawns in a broken system, are trying to help us. When you do anything to acknowledge them or make their day lighter, you are sending a beam of light into the darkness. Call that your daily victory.
Start again. Tomorrow you have a new opportunity. Isn’t that fabulous? Plan now to go forth and create. And thanks for reaching out for help. It’s ALWAYS easier for me to give advice when I’m not caught in the middle of things myself.