Four times a year Emily Freeman hosts the seasonal What I’ve Learned, and this week it’s time for the Winter Edition. Here are a few silly and serious things (okay, mainly silly) I’ve learned these last three months.
Welcome Back, Retro Clock Radio
At some point a year or two ago I switched out my trusty clock-radio on my bedside table for my smart phone. I didn’t love the look of the digital clock, and I figured why not simply use the alarm function on my phone. The problem was, I have zero self-control when it comes to “just one quick check” of my email before clicking off the light. Most nights, the “one quick check” would spiral into 20 minutes of scrolling Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. By the time I set my head on the pillow for actual sleep, my mind was a jumble of thoughts, facts and anxieties.
These days I park my phone at the charging station downstairs, set my bedside clock radio alarm to NPR and read anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour before drifting into a peaceful, more restful sleep. Turns out, using my circa-1998 digital clock radio for my alarm instead of my smart phone is much better for my brain and my body.
And Speaking of My Phone…
Turns out, I’m on it a lot more often than I thought (Jesus is rolling his eyes at that statement). After hearing about the free Quality Time app on the By the Book podcast, I downloaded and installed it on my phone to measure how much time I’m actually on my phone in any given 24-hour period. So far my week averages are: 12 hours, 8 minutes (week one); 14 hours, 14 minutes (week two); 20 hours, 1 minute (week three). Yes, I have noticed that my weekly phone usage has nearly doubled since installing the app. This is my long-dormant rebel side kicking in.
So far it seems I spend the majority of my phone time on Instagram (4 hours in one week – yikes!), Voxer and text messaging, followed by my podcast app and Audible (I am training for a half marathon, so I’m listening to more podcasts and audio books than usual), Gmail, Facebook and Google maps (I can barely get to the grocery store without Google maps).
What I’ve learned from the Quality Time app has been illuminating. That said, I don’t have any plans to curtail my phone usage. I did, however, install it on my kids’ phones. [insert maniacal laughter here]
Morning Pages Aren’t So Bad
A few years ago I picked up Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity at my local library, but I didn’t even get halfway through it. At the time I considered it a bunch of woo-woo bunk and promptly tossed it into the book drop. Fast-forward to this month when, after struggling with writer’s block and a general lack of creative energy for the past six months, I retrieved The Artist’s Way from the library again, and this time, it resonated, particularly Cameron’s practice of morning pages.
The premise of morning pages is deceptively simple: write three long-hand, stream-of-consciousness pages first thing in the morning. There are no rules or restrictions. You can write about anything and everything, even the angry, petty, whiny, boring stuff (especially the angry, petty, whiny, boring stuff), and if you get stuck, you simply write “I don’t have anything to write about” again and again until you get unstuck.
Cameron calls the morning pages “the primary tool of creative recovery.” She argues that writing out all the junk allows us to “get to the other side — the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods, and above all, of our Censor.”
Like I’ve said, I’ve been skeptical, but this time around, for whatever reason, I am finding morning pages to be a fruitful practice. I don’t know how this practice will ultimately impact my professional writing and creativity (or even if it will), but I do know this stream-of-consciousness writing has unearthed some stuff that feels important and that I will have to spend some time processing and unpacking, which is bound to be beneficial to my life as a whole, as well, perhaps, to my writing life.
Bifocals Are the Bane
For the last year or so I’ve had to depend more and more on my Target readers, not just for reading but also for such basic tasks as eating (blurry food, anyone?) and filling my coffeepot to the proper four-cup water mark. Thus, I decided it was time for Big Girl Glasses (aka bifocals). I got my swanky new pair last week, but the trouble is, the reading portion of the lenses is, like, 1 mm wide. It’s like reading while looking through a drinking straw. I have to hold my head at the exact right angle and the book at the exact right angle and heavens must align perfectly and then maybe, maybe, I will see actual words.
Seriously, you should see me read a book these days. It’s like I am a watching a tennis match, back and forth, back and forth, one word at a time through my drinking straw eyeglasses.. The optical experts have insisted that I “give it time,” and that my “eyes will adjust.” In the meantime, though, I am lurching around Lincoln, careening off curbs, catapulting into coffee tables and reading like I’m watching the Williams sisters volley it out at Wimbledon. Adjust schmust.
I Am Officially Middle-Aged
It’s not just the bifocals that cued me in to this fact. A couple of months ago, a young woman in the marketing department at work asked me if she could photograph me because she “needed my face.” Initially I was flattered…until I realized that what she was really saying, in her sweet, twenty-something way, was that I fit the demographic she needed, which was “middle-aged lady.” Later, when I saw the ginormous spread in the member magazine (note to self: next time ASK HOW PHOTO WILL BE USED), it looked suspiciously like they had added some gray “highlights” to my already gray-enough hair!
Seriously, did they not make me grayer? People, they made me grayer! Is this even legal? (they also whitened my teeth, but I am totes okay with that)
That’s it for me – basically this winter I’ve learned that I am old and can be made to look even older. What about you? Tell me about one thing (or five) you’ve learned, and be sure to stop by Emily’s place to read some more What I’ve Learned posts – they are fun!