Writing, Impatience, and the digital lifestyle

This evening I listened to a talk by Ruth Ozeki, who is a writer, a Buddhist priest, and a film maker. She spoke about her writing process, her experience of patience and impatience, our experience of time, and how the presence of the internet has impacted all of these things. I want to go find the talk online and listen to the whole thing, again, several times. But now I want to share one nugget.

And that is, the next time you find yourself reaching for your phone, stop and look around. Notice something you would otherwise have missed.

I think it’s quite marvelous advice. It is something I want to start trying myself, tomorrow. I have been thinking a lot about how, in the past five years, I have become quite addicted to digital technology. Once I had a baby and had a lot of time on my hands while I was nursing her, I started filling that time online. The Internet is not bad, don’t get me wrong. But I have noticed that I have a shorter attention span; I am more impatient; I get bored and distracted and want to be doing five things all at the same time; I fill every possible nook and cranny of my day with my phone or my computer. I don’t like these tendencies in myself.

I think the answer is not to throw my computer out the window (though there was a mom in my neighborhood growing up who threw the TV out the window, so I have some precedence for doing so) but to take small steps back throughout the day. I want to read more books on paper. I want to focus my attention on the natural world, on my kids, and on the interior of my own mind and heart.

Of course, part of the reason for my distraction, for my desire to fill every moment with multiple activities, is that with as much as I have on my plate I often feel that I am not getting enough time for me, and so if I have half an hour on the computer I want to write a blog post, browse the web, play Scrabble, and do my business-related scheduling all at the same time.

So part of my answer is to get more efficient. Part of my answer is to let some things go. Part of my answer will be to have time each year to pull back from the fast-paced digital world to a writing retreat, a chamber music weekend, a vacation. And part of my answer will be to assuage my impatience with the practice of attention and dedication to my heart’s desire, which is to experience as fully and authentically as I can the moments of my life, to cherish them for what they bring me, and the other people in my life. So I’ll step back from the smart phone. I’ll step into engagement. And I’ll practice compassion for myself for that impatience.


In kid-related news, Emily is really stringing more and more words together. She clearly gets the concept of one versus two. Her verbal skills are really accelerating. Meanwhile, Joanna not only took her coat into the dining room today, as I asked, but found a hook and hung her coat on it by the little strap at the bottom of the hood. That’s the first time I’ve seen either of them do that; they usually make an attempt with the hood, and the coat falls off, and they walk away (not that I mind; I appreciate the effort!) She was extremely pleased with herself.

Naptime (and I hesitate to even say this, for fear of disrespecting the gods of toddler sleep) was easy today. Easy peasy! I read to the twins. I told them it was time to get in bed. “Hazel’s,” said Emily, and I asked her if she wanted to get in it herself or have me put her in it. “Self.” As I was putting Joanna in bed Emily climbed up into Hazel’s. “Blanket!” she said. I went over, tucked her in. I turned off the light. I laid Joanna down again (she’d sat up). There was no crying. I sang a song out of habit and the feeling that I didn’t want to jinx anything, but I am not sure it was necessary. Emily vocalized a bit, but not in an unhappy way. I walked out. Poof.


I went over to pick up Hazel from school this afternoon while J took care of the twins. I had a bit of time before I had to leave for the afternoon’s lessons, so we snuck in the studio when we got back and did some piano practicing. Then we came up and watched a couple of tigers playing on YouTube. So it wasn’t a ton of time, but we did get some good snuggling and conversation in. Hazel did better tonight. She does miss both of us so much. We’ll work on that this month.

Time. Love. Memory. Whatever time I have with my kids, I want to be there during it, not distracted and impatient. It is better for them, and it feels so much better for me, too!


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