Unwound

A friend of mine moved from NJ to Guam with her husband and two boys a few months before we decided to make Aliyah. On Facebook, I followed her move and her family’s transition with interest, particularly once we decided we were moving to Israel.

Despite what I assume must be vast differences in culture and landscape between Guam and Israel, I often find myself nodding in agreement and understanding when I read Shelley’s posts. (This could also have much to do with our common interests in holistic parenting and healthy eating, as well.)

There is, I’ve realized, companionship in leaving the busy American suburbs, the busy American life, for the “outskirts.”

Today Shelley wrote, “There are times when I miss living in the States with all of its modern conveniences, but then there are days like yesterday when I never want to leave our little bubble in Guam.”

I know exactly what she means.

Except our bubble is not Israel, per say, as Israel is no island paradise: She possesses as much hassle, aggravation, and overstimulation as any developed country.

My bubble is Kibbutz Hannaton, the small 120-or-so family Lower Galilee community in which we live. And a sub-bubble of Hannaton is my little red house with green shutters.  And yet another sub-bubble is my little work enclave of former Americans whom allow me eight hours a day to pretend I still live and work in the U.S.

But the true sub-bubble is the one I created for myself with intention last December when I  chose not just to live somewhere different, but to live differently.

I often tell people (in fact, I did so just yesterday during lunch) that our successful “absorption” here is due in large part to the community in which we chose to live: one made up of young, growing families like our own. One where friendships are only now being formed…because the community is still new and finding itself. So, despite being different, we still somehow fit in.

But I also credit our successful transition to the conscious lifestyle changes we, as a family unit, decided to make in conjunction with our move.

In addition to many of the comforts we gave up — the modern conveniences Shelley mentions in her post — we also gave up our attachments to what we knew up until then as the “right way to live” in the hopes that we might find happiness living another way.

One modern convenience I gave up was information overload.

I was (and still am in many ways) an information addict. My understanding up until recently was that with more information comes more control…over my own life…over what happens to me and to my kids. My understanding was that information made me safer; made my life easier. This is why I easily fell in love with the Internet, email, blogs, Facebook. And, to some extent all those modern conveniences have improved my life. But what I’ve discovered, retroactively, was how much they also controlled my life.

I had a really good excuse for feeding my addiction; addicts always do. I was a business owner. A writer. A blogger. My success depended on my communication with the outside world. I needed to check check check…all the time. Who knew when the next big opportunity, client or connection would land in my inbox? At the height of my addiction, I had six different email addresses, four blogs, two Facebook profiles, three Fan Pages, a LinkedIn and two Twitter accounts to manage. Not to mention those I managed for my clients. 

I also had kids with asthma and allergies. I had unexplained chronic illness of my own. I had an acute awareness that with more information about the world around me, the greater chance I had of healing myself and healing them. Information provided answers. Tools. Connections to the right people. How could I give up information? 

I also consciously understood that my information interface, so to speak, was possibly unhealthy.  Which made for a bit of a contradiction.

Despite my awareness that my commitment to my online personas (and to my business and clients) was likely impacting my real-life relationships with my husband and my kids, I persisted.  Despite the fact that my comments on your “feed” may have been keeping me from experiencing real, waking, daily pleasures, I couldn’t shut down. I couldn’t give it up. I couldn’t walk away from it.

Until I started walking away from it. Taking baby steps. That started once my feet touched ground in Israel.

As I said, my information withdrawal began first with an intention. But I followed through with an action: I purposefully did not register my Blackberry here in Israel. I got myself a regular old cellphone with a regular old phone call plan. No emails, no SMS packages. My husband did not register his IPhone either which was a HUGE shocker for me because my husband loves his IPhone more than I love information. Or, at least, equally as much.

Just this simple choice, along with the decision not to purchase Cable TV made a great impact on the quality of our lives in the first few months we lived here.  We quickly adjusted to checking emails only on our computer (remember when you used to do that?) and our kids spent more time outside and not in front of the TV than they had ever in their lives.

And that was nice for a while. I’d like to say that we remained unplugged, but we didn’t. A few months in, we used Hebrew immersion as an excuse to sign up for basic cable. The kids still only watch a portion of what they used to. (I haven’t watched an episode of the evening news or any sitcom, save for Israel’s Ramzor.)

A few months after that, my husband bought a new IPhone, much to my dismay, and I often find him face down fingering the thing with pleasure. That said, it only takes one semi- dirty look from me for him to put the thing down when the kids are asking him a question (repeatedly) and his finger keeps methodically sliding across the little touchpad as if it’s in a trance. He also gave up TV and for the first time in many years I can now find him in bed in the evenings reading e-books on the Nook. 

Once I got a full-time job, they handed me a Smartphone with my work email configured, but amazingly, without the unspoken expectation that I be attached to it 24-7. And I like that. I like that a lot.

Despite the reintroduction of information overload devices, my information withdrawal continues. I didn’t configure my personal email into to my new phone. I never check my work email after I leave the office or on the weekend. And I have found as the months pass, I check my personal email less and less often: Sometimes going as much as 2-3 days without checking. People who were used to hearing from me immediately would write back after only hours asking me, “Where are you? Did you get my email?”

Sure, I am still on Facebook. It’s my lifeline to friends and family who didn’t follow me to Israel. But I’m hardly on Twitter; have no interest in this new thing called Google Plus. Sometimes, I even find it difficult to motivate myself to blog. I find that at the end of the day, after working and spending time with my family, I prefer to walk and then to read. And then to sleep.

Yesterday, I discovered my main personal email account was down. I had forgotten to pay the web host for a month or two and they shut my account down temporarily. People reached out to me via Facebook or SMS asking me what happened to my email. Why were mails being bounced back?

At first I panicked that my email was down, “What if someone is trying to reach me??” But my panic lasted only a minute. Soon after, the feeling transformed into freedom.

I realized I had passed over the hurdle of my information addiction. I was now able to say no. To be without. To let go. In particular, I wasn’t worried about what I had missed or would miss over the day or so the email account would be down. I wasn’t worried about what people might think when they received their emails returned, unread.  In fact, I decided right then and there to pare down all my email accounts, returning only to one. One that I may or may not check during the day.

This is not to say I’m unplugging completely. Or that I will ever really be able to fully walk away from easy access information. There is no guarantee that this represents a permanent recovery from information addiction. But it certainly indicates a big step in the right direction.

I think I’ve developed a taste for something new.

Being here. Being present. Absorbing today. Still with an eye on tomorrow, but with a good solid foot planted in today.

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