What if you had a friend with whom you spent a sizeable portion of your life, yet you treated the relationship like one you could ignore or take for granted?
My relationship with my computer, and the cyber fields in which we travel together, has been one of utility. After all, computers are not sentient beings and hopefully never will be—despite the interesting conversations I’ve been having with ChatGPT.
The computer is a machine, inanimate. But the relationship that lives in the space between us—that has something to do with me.
Losing my desktop
In a season with many losses, I had another one: my desktop computer died. My iMac had been with me for 12 years, which, in the land of personal computers, is unheard of. When I had to call the Apple tech reps for help, they acted as if they hadn’t been born when my computer came out.
Even though it was “obsolete,” I held on to it, kind of like a pet you can’t bear to let go of even when it tells you, “Mom, it’s time.” I didn’t want to lose access to the financial software that couldn’t be upgraded to a new operating system without a huge cost. So I soldiered on until the problems became undeniable. I finally gave in and ordered a new Mac “mini”—a ridiculously powerful small box I could plug into a monitor.
My husband set up my new computer for me and attached the display to a stand. But after, with glee, we turned it on, my old one refused to start. Dead. Powerless—its data buried within. Not even tech support could help me revive it.
I worried that I had broken its heart.
Although I had a lot of data inside the old machine, I had a backup that would allow me to transfer files to a new machine.
Simple. Except that it wasn’t.
It turned out that the size of the backup exceeded the storage on my new machine. I would need to let go of a lot of files or transfer them to the “Cloud.”
I spent a weekend in computer purgatory, confronting years of computer unconsciousness when it came to saving files.
I had lived with my iMac like a homeowner with so many closets that she could keep filling new ones without ever purging a thing. She never had to confront whether she really needed 1) that “little black dress” for special events, 2) a fancy “professional” pants suit, and 3) her wedding dress.
Fortunately. I don’t have many closets at home so that pants suit left during a Covid-inspired fit of cleaning. But I was holding on to a lot of computer files. Was I really planning to spend a day rewatching Zoom calls I recorded during the pandemic? Or reviewing webinars? Or using files and videos from classes I would never teach again?
I summoned up my inner Marie Kondo (the uber-minimalist Japanese organizer guru) and began to ask of my files:
- Do I need this?
- Will I ever use it again?
- Does it bring me joy?
I purged gigabytes. And as I did, my computer felt lighter and so did I. I experienced the beginning of a healthier relationship.
Until trouble hit.
Despite all my supposed attention to data security and backups, I couldn’t find my financial files.
This was the nightmare I dreaded: twenty-plus years of business records had gone missing.
I searched in the folders where they were supposed to be. Nada. Not there.
Then, I hit the panic button.
As I entered “full tizz” or “meltdown mode” it was hard to find anything.
I decided to do the only reasonable thing I knew to do when machines don’t work as they should: I prayed.
(My most basic prayer: Help, help, help, help, HELP!!!)
I can’t say that what happened was cause and effect, but I did calm down a bit. And when I finally found my grounding two days later, the lost data surfaced.
After giving BIG thanks, I realized it was time to become more awake at the keyboard. The computer was responsible for storing files and processing data. I was responsible for the relationship and what happened in “the space between us.”
Why did I think my efforts at enlightenment were reserved for my time in meditation?
What about all the time I spent at the keyboard?
At least I could take baby steps toward being more mindful about the computer-centric parts of my life.
To bless the space between us
Years ago the great Irish poet-philosopher John O’Donohue wrote a book of blessings called To Bless the Space Between Us, a book I treasure. Sadly, he died before he could create a blessing many of us need: one for time at the computer. It would be up to me create it.
So with some humility and a big tip of the hat to John, here it is:
“A blessing for times at the computer”
As I sit down at the keyboard,
May a strong wind of calm and curiosity surround me.
May the forces of creativity rise within me.
May I stay present to the goodness
living in my relationship
with all aspects of life,
the birds and the machines.
May I feel gratitude
As I follow a path toward wisdom and wonder.
Blessed by the opportunity to learn,
and manage the life I’ve been given.
May I never forget that my time here is limited,
so that I may be unhurried,
and enjoy the clicking of the keys,
knowing that even in a relationship
with my computer
as I move through the fields of cyberspace
or wander in a “cloud”
I am here
I am present
It is now.