Friends tease me about being a globetrotter. And they’re right. Since the age of two, I’ve been wandering the globe first with my family living in Italy, then in my teens beginning to journey solo to foreign lands. Since leaving corporate America, the miles have definitely downsized, but there was a time when I slept more on American Airlines than I did in my own bed. In the past 12 months (even dead broke), I’ve logged Peru, Ireland, Italy, Los Angeles and Costa Rica. New Orleans over Easter is coming right up.
I don’t say this for pity or to convey glamor – actually it’s more because I’m in shock. I just deplaned a NYC to LAX flight having emailed the entire time.
It’s true – my thumbs are tired and my PDA (personal digital assistant; i.e., BlackBerry, etc.) completely dead of any battery life. And I’m grieving.
I’m grieving because for many, many years and miles, those hours in-flight meant surrendering to what IS. As soon as the door to the plane was shut and the flight attendant announced all devices must be turned off, (although I followed her order reluctantly – so it goes with addictions), once I did so meant unless something was pressing enough to lug out the laptop and boot up for an hour or two of work (limited by battery life), I was in for some good old fashioned “me” time, analog style.
Movies, journaling, books, magazines, Sudoku, maybe even a well-deserved nap – this time was for many years a secret indulgence, a time when saying no to being productive was not something I had to justify or explain to anyone, much less myself.
But above the clouds is no longer off the grid. Up in the air is no longer a flight of fancy.
Gathering up my things to deplane at LAX, I felt strange about how I spent the time, dirty with betrayal, in this case of myself. Yes, I watched two movies on Delta’s cool personal media viewer thingy in the headrest of the seat in front of me. Yes, I did the Mensa quiz (no, I’m not telling how I did). But rather than being truly present to George Clooney’s challenges in Up In The Air or The Men Who Stare at Goats, I did all of that glancing surreptitiously at my PDA, fueled by the fear-driven thought in my head “you might miss something… you might drop a ball… better make sure everything is going smoothly.”
How did I feel? Burnt out. Frazzled.
Reflecting on it now I know this – I need that downtime. I need to allow time to enjoy a movie. I need to do a Mensa quiz, journal, read an article in the Atlantic or listen to a meditation class with my teacher Sally Kempton downloaded onto my MP3 player. Technology literally catching up with me and with all of us, I also know the time is now for becoming disciplined enough to give ourselves that time – simply because we need it.
I’m flying back to NYC tonight. I promise you, and more importantly, myself, I will not get online once. I need it.