Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What I Learned on Sabbatical - Part 3

What would I do without it?

How would I manage?

How would I communicate?

How would I survive?

All these questions plagued me as I prepared to leave house and home for a month last summer.

Was I going to miss my dog?

Sort of.

Not really.

Was I going to miss my daughter?

For sure, but I knew I’d see her a couple of times.

What I really wondered if I could live without, pathetically, was the internet. Because the place we rented didn’t have wi-fi. Can you imagine? And the 3G service up north was spotty at best. In order to check email, read blogs, update Facebook, or read a Twitter stream I’d have to go to an internet café about 15 minutes away.

The inconvenience of it all.

The first week, I went through withdrawal. I think B and I went into town three or four times that week, all under the guise of needing something at the grocery store, but as we were walking to the car we’d throw in our laptops with a comment like, “Well, as long as we’ll be in town, we might as well check email.”

Yeah. Sure.

The second week, I’m pretty sure my eye was twitching, but we probably only went to town a couple of times to check email. And I started to notice that there weren’t that many emails to check.

Popularity has never been a problem in these parts.

By the third week, B had figured out that he could at least look at his emails on his phone, even though he wasn’t answering them. His work phone offers Verizon which, as we quickly learned, has much better coverage up north than AT&T, which my phone uses. So B could just take a quick glance at his emails without having to go to town.

I suppose, if I was desperate, I could have asked him to check my email for me on his phone at the house. But you know what started to happen by week three? I wasn’t that desperate. Oh, sure, I stopped by the café once or twice, but there wasn’t that much of interest waiting for me – either in my in-box or on Facebook. (I’ve never loved Twitter, so that really wasn’t a temptation at all.)

And, you’ve probably guessed by now, that by week four I had completely unplugged. No going to town. No checking email. No updating Facebook. None of it.

You know what the best part was? I stopped caring.

I knew that by the end of our sabbatical, during which I did not update my blog, my readership would have declined from very little to basically nothing, so I didn’t even bother to check to see how many people had visited me. The great thing was, it didn’t matter to me.

We had had an amazing month away from it all—email, Facebook, blogs, work—and I felt refreshed, relaxed, and completely unplugged for the first time in years. And it felt good! For someone who enjoys social media as much as I do, that’s saying something.

I realized that I had been reading a whole lot more than I usually do. Did you see the list of books I read while we were gone?!

And so, the third and most important lesson I learned while on sabbatical is that not only had I become ever-so-slightly addicted to the internet (hush, my family!), but also that it’s really O.K., beneficial even, to unplug every now and then.

I realized that I had become much too tied to the internet and that, for me, I needed to pay attention to my IRL people. I needed to pull myself away from whatever was tying me to the internet (blogs, especially) and allow myself to be freed from it.

It’s a strange addiction, blogging, because there are so many wonderful things about it—I’ve learned so much and grown so much as a Christian as a result of blogging—but there are also some harmful things too. (Comparison trap, anyone?)

For me, unplugging for a month was a wonderful surprise. I learned that I can and should live in the here-and-now more than I do. Yes, it takes discipline to close my computer and not be tied to it all day long, but I’m a much healthier person when I do that.

You’ve probably noticed a little bit of how this has impacted me. I’m not blogging as much as I was before. In fact, it was a little bit hard for me to get back into it. I thought about quitting all together, but I don’t really want to do that. Yet.

For now, I’ve decided that I won’t let the internet rule my life. I’ll blog when I want to, and I’ll read blogs and comment on them when I have time. I’ll maintain the blogging friendships I’ve made because they’re important to me, but I’ll also try to maintain the friendships that I have right here because they’re important too.

Mostly, though, I’ll remind myself that a month went by without the internet and the world still turned. 

Beautifully, I might add.



  1. I think I could give up the internet to wake up to that view every morning. . . good thoughts, Shelly.


  2. We gave up tv for awhile when money was tight and we just had our baby a couple of years ago. It was weird at first, but really refreshing and just gives so much time to refocus. It's great to get healthy perspective, isn't it!? I'm not sure I could do internet...that might be like coffee for me:)

  3. I would LOVE to give up Twitter forever. But unplugging on everything? Kind of makes my eye twitch, too! I'm glad it was a good experience for you...but I'll admit, I'm glad you aren't quitting blogging altogether, too. :)

  4. This SO speaks to
    my heart right now.
    Some days I think
    what you thought:
    that my blogging days
    are NOT infinite; that
    in fact, my blog will
    close when the time
    feels right. It only took
    being unable to blog
    as often this summer to
    see how quickly others
    forgot about me. I'm
    a blip on the radar,
    which is a good lesson
    to learn. Sorry for all
    the deep thoughts, but
    your words resonated with
    me. I remember when you
    first blogged about going
    away and no tech; I was
    most definitely envious : )
    xx Suzanne

  5. I love hearing about your Sabbatical. Because I'm jealous, mostly. But also because it's inspiring.

    I think "unplugging" is so important. But it's hard. On our last family vacation, I realized it was the most "plugged in" vacation for everyone in my family. I-Pod Touches and DVD players for the kids. Jon on his phone trying to keep up with important calls and urgent e-mails. Me on the computer trying to write and keep up on blogs.

    One day, I just looked around at everyone with their heads buried in their screens and thought, "I miss when we would come on vacation and sit together on the couch and read books or play UNO or go out and try to capture little creatures...or whatever. What have we become????

    I still don't know what the answer is, because everyone else in my family seems perfectly content to be plugged in. All the time. I would so be the the bad guy if I nixed it.

    Like everything in life, staying plugged in and taking breaks requires balance. I don't think unplugging completely forever is the answer. But taking planned breaks sounds really nice.

    After my summer blog break, I decided that I would break for a month every December and one month in the summer. It recharges me.

    And this comment wins for the most rambling, too-long-of-a-comment ever.

    Love you!!!!

  6. Shelley, I am so glad to have found your blog. This series on what you learned on sabbatical especially struck a cord with me.

    You are bookmarked, friend!