Reconnecting by getting totally disconnected
FOR a year now, I’ve had a little quote pinned above my desk. “Tell me,” it says, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” On a particularly joyless day, I scribbled a response: “Make lunch boxes.”
But even doctored with my smarty-pants cynicism, that scrap of paper winks at my soul. Some days, I try for ‘wild’ by blasting The Buzzcocks through my office after dropping the kids at school. Other times, I aim for ‘precious’, tinkering with words in the hope they’ll flow from me to you as naturally as breath (they don’t).
Now, I’m not one for malcontent. Live well, love well, don’t leave a mess and “yes, please” to another piece of cake is generally my motto. But, recently I’ve felt disconnected, which is absurd because last year I received 13,506 emails, sent 432 tweets and became Facebook ‘friends’ with someone I kissed in 1989.
I’m so connected that I go online the second I wake up. I’m linked in, favourited, retweeted, liked.
Trouble is, all this click-and-flick stuff isn’t nourishing me or the people I care about. I’m forever skimming, dipping and diving, exercising in intervals, half-listening. Sure, I can tweet, text, paint my toenails and watch TV all at the same time, but I miss being transported by a great book, enlivened by a lengthy conversation, wearied by a long walk. I crave smiles made with mouth muscles, not emoticons. I yearn for the stillness and soft foot of nature. Late last year, sitting with my husband beside a lake in the rain, I cried. Not because I was upset, but because I’d sat still long enough to feel something.
Tech torpor, nature deficit disorder, digital ADHD – call it what you like, it’s fracturing our lives. How many couples spend their evenings on separate devices? How many babies looking up from their prams see their parents’ faces masked by an iPhone? New research shows Australians are less inclined to embrace adventure and try new things, with 80 per cent blaming technology and social networking for their inertia. Add to that the 130 million days of stockpiled annual leave and you get the sense there are a lot of people visiting life rather than living it.
So, this year, I’m going trekking in Nepal. It’s a long-held dream, conjured before children and mortgage and responsibility, and put on hold for more than a decade. I signed up before they told me it would be so cold at night I’d have to pee in a zip-lock bag, and before reading that altitude can affect
co-ordination (I’m challenged at sea level).
Sue Badyari, of World Expeditions, tells me to expect to be transformed, to “emerge from the wilderness renewed”, but for now the most exciting thing has been drawing blue lines through our family diary. When you hold the minutiae of four lives in your head, there’s something utterly freeing about scrawling ‘AWAY’ through most of the month.
One of the women I’m going with has nominated this her gap year. It took her a long time not to think it was selfish, but with her first child now through the HSC and three more to follow, she’s taking a moment to enrich herself. Another co-trekker is 18. For her, Nepal is like a line break; a meaningful pause between the paragraphs of adolescence and adulthood.
For me, the appeal is as much nature as nurture. My screensaver is an inky blue mountain iced with snow, wild and precious. It’s time I did more than just look at it.
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