“When we say “No” to one thing, we say “Yes” to something else…. rather than thinking you need to do more, what can you stop altogether, if only for a while, in order to discover what would fill that void instead?”– Timber Hawkeye
I’ve always loved the “Happy Pappy”. The older man on the edge of a crowd, fully present in the moment, observing all that is going on, despite the fact that he does not always participate. The one with wise eyes and a knowing smile. The one who actually listens when in conversation and, while he may not always have much to say, people stop what they’re doing and listen when he speaks. He knows that less is best, so he keeps his insights short and poignant. He’s not trying to change anyone’s mind or shatter any one else’s beliefs. He is comfortable in silence and confident in himself. He needs very little and wants for even less. He is content with his life and the lessons that he’s learned from experience. He is happy. He is at peace.
There was one full month this past summer where the path of one particular “Happy Pappy” regularly intersected with mine. We both noticed it, we both acknowledged it and, pretty soon, we both began to look forward to it. Before we knew it, we were talking and laughing like the oldest and best of friends. Despite the large gap between us in age, we had quite a lot in common. From similar family experiences and memories from the days of our youth, to very similar career choices and unfortunate experiences that we’ve each gone through as adults. He and I rarely ever ran out of things to talk about and, as our time together quickly came to an end, it was hard not to feel sad. I offered to keep in touch, as I often do, through social media – like Facebook or Instagram. He waved his hand in the air and laughed, “Blah! I don’t get involved in all that noise,” he said, “but I looked up your blog and will be following along.” This man was not so “old fashioned” that he was oblivious or resistant to technology. He wore an Apple watch and carried an iphone. He was fluent in tracking his physical activities and monitoring his health stats. He used his phone for direct communication with friends and family through texting and phone calls, but knew how to keep it in its place – out of sight and out of mind when spending time with people.
We’ve since parted ways, but his words have stayed with me – as has the depth of this unique and unexpected friendship.
In the months since, I’ve taken a big step back. A sort of “social media experiment”, if you will – away from all the “noise” of this world and, let me tell you, it has been such an eye opening experience. To have so much going on in your life, yet to not always “share” it with everyone online and only your closest of friends in private is actually quite liberating. And, while I’ve never really been victim to getting “sucked down the rabbit hole” for hours upon hours of continuous, mindless “doom-scrolling”, I have certainly noticed the energy draining effects of being so regularly “connected” to these technological advances while, subsequently, feeling so disconnected in real life.
For me, social media had become a bit of a time suck. A minute here, a few minutes there – pretty soon, I had accumulated an hour or so of my life on-line, mindlessly posting and occasionally interacting, yet creating nothing substantial or worthy of the expense of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love strong connections and deep conversations with friends – but superficial small talk drains my energy, and ordinary, back and forth banter are counterproductive to my goals. So I took a break. I shut it down. I silenced it – unfollowing people and pages, removing notifications, and even setting up a cumulative time limit so as to lock it down. Because I needed to. Because I wanted to. Because I can. And because it was the best thing for me at the time.
I mean… have you ever wondered exactly what Life is really all about when you take away all the things that are designed to distract or enslave us? That is, in and of itself, another very deep, dark “rabbit hole” of spiraling questions and never ending possibilities – none of which I plan to address in this particular blog. But, since silencing the majority of the noise from social media in my life, I have made significant progress in so many other areas.
I have now “graduated” from disc regeneration treatments and continue to make great strides forward in physical therapy each week. We’ve finally begun to incorporate some easy running intervals multiple times per week, and I have been back in the gym, rebuilding my strength, as well as increasing my flexibility. I’ve been hiking a lot and I absolutely love hitting the trails! I participated in a very educational (and eye-opening) self-publishing class, as well as, completed a creative writing program. My attention span has increased dramatically and my ability to focus clearly has returned. My first book, “Chasing Boston”, is just about ready for publication, and I have found the time to read several of the books which have been on my own “wish list” for quite some time. I truly enjoy living my life without people knowing exactly where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing 100% of the time. I’ve noticed that my relationships are much more intimate, meaningful, and fulfilling when they are predominantly kept this personal and private.
I may not always know what’s going on with all the people whose names I know but whose lives I am not involved in. I may not always know the current state of world affairs or what the latest outrage is in the media headlines. I don’t know which celebrity wore what on whatever awards show, who they talked about, snubbed or slapped. I have no idea what fashion style is “in” or “out”, nor do I care. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the weather forecast is for whatever day this is until I step outside and see for myself! But I can tell you this – I am a whole lot happier, a lot less stressed, and way more productive than I have ever been.
I love my newfound autonomy, and the protection of my personal life from outward influence and “views”. I don’t need the “likes” or “loves” or “laughs” from the outside world in order to like and love and laugh at my own experiences and adventures. It’s not that I don’t love or care about others, because I most certainly do. It’s simply that I have finally grown to love and care about myself just as much. Afterall, what good am I to others if I, myself, am not okay?
So, after the past couple of months, my conclusion is this:
There’s a reason why social media apps fall under the category of “entertainment” and, even though I am still active on my accounts for a few minutes, here and there, most days of the week, I intend to continue keeping it in its place. I no longer crave the constant distractions from day to day. I no longer feel the need to be entertained. I’ve learned to quiet the noise. I’ve learned to just be still – to take things as they come, and relax into each moment. In my opinion, and for whatever it’s worth, there really is no better way to live. And, if you’re still on this journey with me, even after all this time, I want to thank you for being my friend. The experiences we share and the memories we create mean so much to me. I am grateful for our friendship and, as we continue through this life together, I am confident that the best is still yet to come!