Trading addiction for habit

Just when I was feeling pretty good about how we’ve chosen to position ourselves in the world — across the hall! — I was pulled up short by how I choose to interact with the world.

It happened early Sunday morning. Opening The New York Times to the Sunday Review section, I was confronted with a jarring illustration above a headline that hit painfully close to home: Addicted to Distraction.

IMG_0711The essay by Tony Schwartz recounts his realization that he’d been looking in all the wrong places for the energy and inspiration he needs to fuel his life. With some work, he made progress reversing a lifestyle of too much diet soda, too many carbs, too often a second drink in the evening.

The tougher challenge? Clicking in and out of email, checking website stats, chasing mindless clickbait down rabbit holes too embarrassing to identify by name or url.

Me, too.

It seems so incongruous. Here I am living in an idyllic physical environment, surrounded by loved ones, and I’m still distracted by stuff that’s not only less important but less appealing as well.

Schwartz is right to put a tough label on it: Addiction, which he defines like this: “The relentless pull to a substance or activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life.”

Among the 266 comments attached to the article is this especially apt description of the Internet: “It ain’t called the net for nothing. The more we thrash around in it, the more tightly bound we become.”

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What’s next: Life across the hall

Fifteen years ago, when we were moving from California to Florida, I said to Bill that I hoped this would be our last move. The move to Florida was our ninth major move (not counting from one place to another in the same city) in a then thirty year marriage. I longed for the stability of sinking deep roots in a place and never having to go through such a major change again.

Much to my surprise, I was the one who pushed for the move to Boston almost three years ago. It would not be a move to somewhere we could remain, but to a temporary setting — a term-limited time in Beacon Hill Friends House, an intentional community run by the Quakers (read about that adventure here).

Now we have moved on to another adventure – living across the hall from our youngest daughter, her husband and their two children. There are no guarantees this will be our last move.

six of us in the hallway for first post

In pondering all of this I came across a quote from Gail Godwin’s book, The Finishing School. In  it she describes the kind of death we should fear:  “It can happen at any time you’re going along, and then, at some point, you congeal. You know, like jelly. You’re not fluid any more. You solidify at a certain point and from then on your life is doomed to be a repetition of what you have done before. That’s the enemy.” Continue reading