Culture, Letting Go, Mindfulness, Modern Life, Relationships, Technology

Crazy Jen and her digital detox

In a discussion with my mother last week, I explained to her with confidence that a group of people were surely talking about me when I left the room.

“How exactly do you know that?” she asked me.

“I just do,” I replied.

“How?” she pressed.

I explained to her that in the same way she is brilliant when it comes to data analysis or number crunching, I know people and their behavior.

It’s not my paranoia, it’s my specialty.

This is why I excel in marketing and branding — you need to be hyper sensitively tuned in to emotions and able to anticipate reactions in order to predict trends and behavior.

I like to tell people — because it’s true and a little self-deprecation is still attractive on a 39 year old who looks 34 — that I am a trend spotter, not a trendsetter.

I spotted the name Hannah, and sock monkeys, and gluten free all before they became Average Joe household-familiar trends.

It’s a blessing and a curse.

The bad part about being a trend spotter, much in the same way that it’s bad to be psychic — people tend to think you’re crazy until the moment after the trend hits the Today Show.

They either don’t listen to you or roll their eyes or … talk about you behind your back, often and with more eye rolling.

The worst part? I receive little to no vindication years later when the trend is obvious. Most people, except for my cousin Jami, have all forgotten by then that crazy Jen suggested years ago that probiotics were the key to fighting depression.

As for my digital detox, I was a little late on the uptake this time.

Only days after I finished my detox — which included the elimination of my smartphone and all computer-related activities for 2 1/2 weeks except for checking personal email once a week and Facebook on my birthday — someone sent me this smart and poignant short film about our cultural obsession with digital connection. The same day, as I returned to Twitter activity, this article from Fast Company appeared in my feed about “slow design” and mentions the digital detox trend. (Not to mention silent meditation retreats — something I’ve been doing, writing about, and suffering ridicule for over the last two years! )

Maybe my trend spotting eye has blurred in my old age, or maybe — like the rest of the world — I am too tired and over-stimulated to be spotting much of anything save for my second cup of espresso.

If digital detox has become  a trend before I spotted it, so be it.

It’s good for us.

We need it.

And we need it fast.

More and more I am hearing from my friends or seeing evidence on the social media networks I somehow feel compelled to follow even though I am getting more and more tired of the content, that —

life is too fast and too hard to keep up with

Just yesterday, my poor friend on Facebook posted an urgent plea for advice:

How do you all do it? She wanted to know.

How do you all keep up with everything? Work, kids, marital bliss, friends, community, world news?

How do you all do it?

I could hear the defeated sigh that followed the last question mark.

We don’t, was my answer.

We’re suffering, I told her.

I hoped to offer her some solace, some comfort. Misery, after all, loves company.

But I don’t know how much relief company will bring. In this case, the more we see others faking it, the more “less than” we feel. And it’s so easy to fake it. It’s so easy to distract yourself from your pain and discontent.

Until it’s not.

Courtesy gawker.com
Courtesy gawker.com

During my own digital detox, which took place during a family vacation, I become hyper aware — just like the girl in the video — of all that goes on, and all that is ignored, around me.

I also became acutely aware and appreciative of my own presence in my own life.

It took only 48 hours of being off Facebook to be so thankful to be off Facebook.

To be relieved.

It took less time for me to be thankful to be off Twitter.

To not know what was going on in the news.

To not have to be witty or responsive.

To tune out the latest trends.

To tune out other people, and the details of their lives.

This may sound mean or psychopathic. Or at the very least, depressive.

Maybe it is.

But if it is, it’s a cultural disease that most of us are severely suffering from.

Most of us just don’t know it — or acknowledge it – yet. OR we’re still convincing ourselves that information access trumps burn out.

Or we think there is no way out.

The symptoms of our cultural disease come out in little ways, like my friend’s Facebook plea, or in a whispered coffee chat between young mothers, or in a verbal spar between embarrassed male colleagues, both overtired and fearful that they will never be able to catch up on their emails or please neither their bosses nor their wives.

My heart hurts for those men, and

I mourn the loss of my freedom.

Because that is what digital detox is — a gateway drug to freedom.

It’s just too expensive for my pocketbook right now and not trendy enough to be available to the masses.

I’m waiting, though.

I’m watching the Today Show headlines on Twitter, and waiting.

Because years ago, back when people were complaining that $5.99/pound was too much to be paying for apples, I was secretly shopping organic at Wild Oats in Tucson, Arizona, waiting for Walmart to catch up.

And hoping for a trend to hit.

Hoping that I wasn’t mistaken and hoping I wasn’t alone.

Parenting

Studies show: Sticking a bead up your nose indicates entrepreneurial spirit

Every family has one.

The child who sticks beads up her nose.

In our family, the child looks like this:

annabel in the yard

Of course, she always has a good reason. In this instance, she wanted a nose ring.

You know, like the one Jasmine has in the Disney makeup tutorial I let her watch 50 times a day?

Which made a lot of sense until I went back and watched that video (while simultaneously criticizing myself for being the kind of mother who allows my 5 year old to watch such junk), and realized that Jasmine doesn’t have a nose ring — nor does any other Disney princess.

Obviously.

So, either she was referring to the Goth makeup tutorial that was recommended to her in the “Related Video” section on YouTube or she just wanted to stick a bead up her nose to see what would happen.

Either way, I still have no idea exactly why she would stick a bead up her nose.

Perhaps, she’s just curious. Perhaps that’s also why she swallowed a penny when she was 4 or why she cut off own hair when she was 3.

Marry her natural curiosity and stubborness with her Israel upbringing, and you got a start-up superstar in the making.

But she also possesses a virtue most entrepreneurs could use a little more of.

Humility.

When she realized last night that the bead was good and gone far up her nostril and no 5 year old digging was going to get that sucker out, what did she do?

She asked for help.

“HELP! There’s a charuz stuck in my nose!” she cried to anyone who would listen. Charuz is the Hebrew word for bead. (Guess who was the one who figured out what she was saying? Score one for the immigrant mother.)

My husband, two sons, and I all gathered around to her to evaluate the situation.

You could see she was scared and wished she had never stuck that bead in her nose in the first place.

But she didn’t cry. She didn’t scream. She just listened.

First my husband looked inside. “I can see the bead,” he told us, silently thanking God for small favors.

“Hold the other side of your nose, and blow,” I told her.

She had never done this before. It was new to her.  Up until now, as much as we’ve tried to teach her how to blow her nose, she’s only been able to sniff in.

She gave it careful consideration, as all four of us showed her how to blow out our own noses, instead of sniffing in.

My husband held her other nostril, and then instructed her, “Now blow!”

She looked at us, seeking our backing and support.

We all smiled expectantly.

Truthfully, what I expected was a trip to the emergency room.

But, she did it!

She blew the sucker out on the first try!

A snotty, but glittery pink bead flew at G-force speed across the room.

We all cheered and danced around her. Siman tov uh Mazal tov!

We kissed her. We hugged her. We congratulated her.

And of course, we listed off again all the appropriate and inappropriate things for inside one’s nose, mouth, or any other orifice. And we emphasized that beads don’t belong in any of them.

For now, at least.

After the incident had passed, and relief had washed over all of us, my daughter came up to me and said, “I was so brave, wasn’t I?”

I hugged her, and agreed. “Yes, you were very brave.”

“You know what was really brave?” I asked her.

“What?” she said.

“Asking for help. Sometimes that’s the scariest thing for someone to do.”

“You’re right, Mommy,” she replied, not necessarily because she agrees, but because in addition to being curious and humble, she is also wise.

She knows that next to “I love you” and “You’re pretty,”  “You’re right” is the answer mommies love most.