Over Consumption & Overwhelm

I totally grew up as the “read anything” kid— cereal boxes, instruction manuals, church bulletins left lying around. If it had words on it, I was game. And I am still so much like this…if I’m getting bored, I am looking for words to read. The problem, now, is that these words are usually found on my smartphone.

Sigh. I know. Another post about the overuse of phones and social media and how we all need to just walk away and take a break, smell the roses and all that?

Sort of. But hear me out. I am home with little people all day long, and sometimes it feels like my only connection to life outside of children is through my phone. Sports scores, news updates, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I scroll to find something to read, something to pass the time.

Consume, consume, consume. That’s what’s happened. I am constantly taking in information, but not putting anything out there. Instead of engaging in dialogue on Twitter or Facebook, I’m watching someone else’s. Instead of taking the time to craft my own Instagram posts or blogs, I’m zoning out to others’. And there’s a balance, sure. I need to engage and take in from other people as well as put out my own information. But the over consumption is beginning to take its toll.

I was researching the other day, and it’s research for something that scares me. I’m trying to be intentional about learning more and stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself. And so, I went to my old friend Google and began pulling up websites. And I read and I read and I read. And do you how I felt after a couple hours of this?

Overwhelmed.

Not encouraged or inspired. I didn’t feel ready to tackle the task. I felt like closing my laptop and forgetting the whole damn thing. Because when all you do is take in information, this is what happens. And I really believe that overwhelm is just fear in disguise.

I’m not going to make a grand declaration about stepping away from my screens, because I don’t know if I’ll stick to it. I’m trying to walk away from it. I’m trying not to use it to numb myself or kill time, or procrastinate the hard things I need to do. My first step is admitting that I can feel the over consumption, that I can feel overwhelm creeping in on me and threatening to take me down.

I don’t want fear to win, in any form.

So I’m going to finish this up, shut down my laptop and turn off my phone. I’m going to let thoughts settle and my subconscious work a little, and I am going to walk away from the screens. I’ve consumed enough. Now it’s time to create.

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Dream Deferred, Again and Again

I have always lived in a very all or nothing world. If I can’t do something exactly the way I want, when I want, I freeze and do nothing. Yes, it’s perfectionism, but it’s also fear. (Maybe perfectionism is just a fancy word for fear anyway.) Fear that I will give my very best and still fail. Fear that it won’t look the way I’ve always imagined. Fear that whatever I give still won’t be good enough.

I’ve had this one particular dream since I was a young girl—I want to go to France. I know, this is hardly unique. There are millions of people who have fallen in love with this country. I’m bordering on cliche here, but it is what it is. All things Francophone captured my heart when I was young, and have held on for all these years.

My husband and I have this dream of staying in Europe for two months or so one year, taking our kids and immersing ourselves in European culture. I mean, honestly, if we’re dreaming big dreams, I want to live there. But I would settle for a months-long stay.

We’re not there yet. His job still keeps him tied here, with only a couple weeks for vacations. Financially we can’t afford it yet, on a few different levels. And it just doesn’t feel like the time in our lives to be up and practically moving someplace else for a few months.

So I tucked it away as one of our “someday” things. And expected that would be the only way I would see France. In a big, grand travel moment.

And then I was reading this book last night, set partially in Paris, and I got that familiar ache, that pang. I want to go. I mean, what if the stars never align for us to take that trip? Am I willing to keep putting off this dream trip simply because I feel like the only way to do it is in this HUGE WAY, or no way at all?

I made a line in my budget today. France. And I’m saving now, a little bit at a time, and I have a new goal: France next year. For a couple weeks. Is it perfect, the way I’ve always imagined it? No. It feels like not nearly enough time. But what’s better? A little bit of time in a country I’ve been dreaming of for most of life, or no time at all?

It’s not all or nothing. It so rarely is. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to put off big things, to hold us back from doing stuff, from shipping our work, from seeing dreams come true. All or nothing is just a way we let fear win, with some modicum of practically and logic. I’ll do it when the time is right. I’ll do it eventually. I have time.

Today is as good a time as any to start throwing a little bit of money toward a dream.

 

Mid-Year Resolutions

I’m a big goal-setter. Every year, around late December I start thinking about the things I want to accomplish in the coming year. And last year, I only had two real “goals.” I wanted to read more, and I wanted to write more.

I was early in the writing of Book Two, and set myself a goal of finishing it in 2016 (check! It’s in the editing phase right now, with a planned release for Fall 2016). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to write every day, and I also knew that my best writing happens in the morning hours. Once I hit the afternoon, I become pretty useless when it comes to creativity. I had three days a week where I was going to be kid-free and able to write without interruption, so I put the hours in my calendar and did my best to stick to them every week. I also made a goal in Scrivener for how many words I wanted to write each day, and I borrowed an idea from my friend Elora Ramirez and tracked my word count on a whiteboard in my main hallway. Being able to write another 5k on my board kept me motivated and accountable. I didn’t finish the book as quickly as I wanted, but I did finish it, and that’s all that matters!

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Reading. I love books, and I’ve never really needed much outside motivation for that, but I’ve been really trying to push myself lately to read more books. I started out strong, but then I hit the same reading slump that’s plagued me the last couple years. I know there are a few reasons for this—I get frozen by decision paralysis, so I’ll finish a great book and not have something else lined up, and then I can’t decide what to read next. So I read nothing, and it kind of snowballs. And then I find myself sucked into my smartphone. Also, I was editing a couple manuscripts and I find when I’m in the swing of writing, I don’t read as much (everyone’s different, that just seems to be my process).

So. I’ve decided that I am not going to let the last few months kill my year, which has been my pattern in the last couple years (I have a serious “all or nothing” problem). It’s time for some mid-year resolutions, and mine revolves pretty exclusively around increasing my reading. The kids and I are heading to the library tonight to grab some books, and I’m turning off Netflix and putting my phone down for some reading. I’ve got plans for some series that are new to me, so at least if they’re good, I’ll always have something new to pick up.

I’m doing some pretty detailed tracking of my reading this year and really enjoying it; I love seeing what I’ve read. I haven’t been keeping track of what I’ve started and abandoned, though, and I think I’ll do a better job of that this time.

Do you have any summer reading goals? Read anything fantastic lately? What are your tricks for reading more?