Yesterday morning, I sat in front of my computer waiting for more bad news to appear in my Twitter feed. Some part of me felt it was critical to remain constantly informed, regardless of my inability to actually do anything with most the news I’m reading.
Out of the blue, it dawned on me: This is not healthy behavior! So I stepped away from the computer with the twin intentions to (1) do something kinder to myself now and (2) check news only intermittently and briefly throughout the day.
But what was there to do?
My eyes landed on a couple of journals on a dining room curio cabinet.
I’d started a journal for each of my boys in late 2018. I’ve averaged one entry per journal every couple of months, with none whatsoever for 2020. So: this was a perfect place to start my Twitter detox!
I first wrote an entry to my almost-six-year-old, Littler J. I reflected on how proud I am of how well he’s adapted to being physically isolated from his friends the last couple of weeks, and how I wish he could have some over for his birthday this week.
I expressed relief we’d found something he’s excited to do on his birthday. As I wrote, I documented how he was actually cleaning his room right then in preparation.
Between writing that entry and starting his brother’s, I bounced on our small indoor trampoline. This felt amazing, and I determined I’ll have to make time for this daily if I want to be healthy in all senses of the word.
While writing the entry for my ten-year-old, Li’l D, after bouncing, I noticed my boys were bickering ceaselessly and with extra gusto. I informed them they’d lose some privileges if they couldn’t go five minutes without antagonizing each other.
I set a timer. Remarkably, they then cooperated for five. whole. minutes.
The moment the timer sounded, my older son asked, “OK, Mom, now may I go back to antagonizing?”
My younger son immediately replied, “No antagonizing in this house!” even as I said, “Yes! I mean, no! You won’t necessarily lose as many privileges, but the point isn’t for you to immediately resume this behavior!”
Both boys came and joined me on the couch, where I’d been writing these entries. I finished writing my latter entry as the boys played with each other next to me on the couch, bumping me every couple of seconds.
Li’l D read his new entry the moment I finished writing it. For a minute or two, he read in silence, then got a mischievous smile. Something I’d written reminded him he hadn’t picked on his brother for a stretch of far too many seconds, so that he took this cue to nab one of his brother’s toys and drop it on the floor. (Hollering, inevitably, ensued.)
Well, I thought wryly, I did get those five minutes of peace!
There were lots of sweet moments yesterday, but my favorite were the ones I spent writing to my sons. How I felt while I wrote them stood in stark contrast to how I felt while waiting for ever more bad news to load on Twitter.
Writing to my boys by hand, I felt gratitude. I felt connection. I felt compassion, joy, love, and silliness, feelings not well facilitated by Twitter’s structure.
I was glad I’d tuned in to growing feelings of anxiety as I sat in front of Twitter, which feelings contributed to yesterday’s despair-fueled post here.
Tuning in to my feelings helped me to direct myself to activities, journal-writing and otherwise, that helped enhance my sense of connection with humankind instead of crushing it short burst of text by short burst of text.
And I was glad to have remembered those journals for my boys, and to subsequently look through Li’l D’s, especially, and to see the couple of entries he’d written for me from what feels like another lifetime. We even kept a couple of tickets from a movie theater trip, something that seemed so mundane then but now feels so extraordinary.
I can’t say I’ll write daily, or even weekly, after yesterday’s wonderful burst of writing. There’s plenty to do and not enough (adult!) energy for it all in this household.
What I can say is that when I look at those journals as I pass them en route to the kitchen, I’ll likely smile. I’ll remember how much greater a sense of connection I felt writing letters than reading tweets.
And if I’m wise enough, I’ll use the reminder to look for connection where I can find it instead of intentionally subjecting myself to disconnection that only superficially masquerades as its opposite …
… imagining older versions of my sons picking up those journals some way down the road and connecting with their memories of me before, perhaps, connecting over new new ways to antagonize each other. For old time’s sake!