Ditching the electronic calendar

1-IMG_1077Sunday morning began in the usual way. Turn off the fan. Turn on the lights. Turn on the lightbox. Move the cat. Check email.

Check email.

Where the f*** were my emails?

I rebooted my phone. My Gmail account was still empty, so I ran to my desk to check the account on my laptop. Nothing.

This was a disaster.

Google wasn’t much help. The best they could do was restore the mail from my promotional tab so I could relive every website deal from Thanksgiving until Christmas. All of my business correspondence? Forget it. The holiday best wishes from friends and family? They would have to live in my memory. Anyone who asked me to do something or be somewhere, good luck with that.

Then again, I had an empty mailbox, which felt pretty cool.

How much of what was lost did I really need, and how much was I hanging on to because I could? I knew who I needed to ping to get critical information back. As disasters went, I’d survive.

I had a similar situation last month when my computer died. My advice for today–do not drink near your computer–especially if you gesture a lot when you’re on the phone. That sizzling noise the laptop makes as water seeps into the motherboard is your files saying goodbye.

Luckily I had a backup of my files on the server. Luckily I have a server, thanks to my husband to whom I apologize for rolling my eyes behind his back when he talks about security and recovery because like most people, I assume these inconveniences won’t happen to me.

I had a shit-ton of stuff in my archives; Multiple versions of the novel-that-will-never-see-the-light-of-day, Four year old orchestra press releases, Every iteration of the Dude’s college essays.When I thought about the files I really needed access to, it was a small fraction of what I had in storage. Did I really want my new laptop to inherit all of the clutter and chaos of the last one?

I decided to manage it like moving boxes. I’ll bring a file over to the new computer when and if I needed to. Otherwise, it could stay where it is.

Having the Dude leave the nest has had a similar effect on my life. For eighteen years, his schedule dictated mine. I loved being an at-home mother, but I was definitely in orbit, held by the gravitational pull of the Dude. Now that he’s on his own, the slate is wiped clean.

I have always kept a detailed electronic calendar, a throwback to my consulting days. It’s color coded by type of activity, participants and purpose. That calendar was the extra set of hands that kept me from dropping the ball, but the Dude took the ball with him when he left for school, and my calendar still looks exactly the same.

My father-in-law gave me an engagement calendar as a Christmas gift. When I opened it, I thought, “how quaint,” but I’m starting to reconsider.

The beginning of a new year serves as a reboot for me, a time to consider what to take from one year into the next. if how I live my day is how I live my life, how does my electronic calendar measure up? Like my email account and my computer files, maybe my schedule could do with a little electronic obliteration.

The booklet that my father-in-law gave me is beautiful, but not complex. It shows a week at a time, without demarcations for hours and minutes. It doesn’t call itself a calendar, or a planner, but an engagement book. Perhaps the term isn’t one of pretentiousness, but one of intention. An engagement can be a commitment, but engagement is also a state of being. This calendar requires a pen, and writing, and some consideration. I have these 24 hours. What will they mean?

Of course, I have appointments to keep, for which I’ll maintain my Gmail calendar, but focusing on life at the granular level is like bad musical theater, where time becomes no more than filler between songs.  Instead of focusing on what I need to do each day, I can decide what I want each day to be.

So I’ll add my engagement book to my morning routine, right after moving the cat. My email can wait, assuming there’s anything there.



Haiku Resolutions

In 2015
No more procrastination
Starting on Monday

I hereby resolve
To spend less time on Facebook
Than my teenage son

I’ll be more patient
Before I tell you you’re wrong
I will count to three

And from here on out
I will not drink my red wine
Straight from the bottle

I solemnly swear
I’m done binge watching Scandal
The third season sucked

Before I shower
I vow to take a brisk walk
To the coffee pot

I found my hand weights
I will put them to good use
As my new doorstop

My New Year’s diet?
I will not eat any carbs
Before 6 a.m.

I’ll no longer curse
Or keep my voice soft enough
So my son won’t hear

No need to worry
I won’t write stuff about you
Unless I’m pissed off

But I’ll keep writing
If I can make someone laugh
Even if it’s me

Happy Effing New Year

shot glassI’ll confess, I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve.  It feels too much like New Year’s Eve! ® to me, like if you aren’t having the best time ever, you’re a total loser. I thought I was alone in my lack of Auld Lang Syne enthusiasm, but it turns out, I’m wasn’t.

My first real New Year’s Eve with my now-husband was the usual–a frat guy style bash where I spent most of the evening getting beer spilled on me while drunk women invaded my personal space to tell me how amazing my date was. He’s soooooooo niiiiiiiiice. Thank you. Your inebriated assessment is reassuring. Women traditionally show sound character judgment when they’re three sheets to the wind.

Our second New Year’s Eve we went out for dinner, where he informed me that his two best friends had a bet going about whether we’d get engaged this year or next.  He thought it would be funny to propose at midnight to ensure they’d argue the technicalities for the remainder of their lives. Knowing the two guys involved, they would. I was primed, ready for the ring. I couldn’t wait to say yes.

I opened my fortune cookie at the end of the meal.

You will be getting married soon.

It wasn’t midnight, but I guess he was excited. This is it, I thought.

“Who’s the lucky guy,” he said, without a trace of irony in his voice. His face was was blank. It’s a look I’ve seen our son wear on countless occasions. Apple, meet tree.

I know he is oblivious to what has just transpired. I thought he was going to propose any second, and instead he was asking the waiter for the check. I shouldn’t have been pissed off, but I was.

Senior Dude actually proposed a week later. I told him that I thought he was going to propose on New Year’s Eve. He said he didn’t want to be cliché. I told him that he was almost single. Then he explained that he hated New Year’s Eve, the forced joviality, the crowds and the noise, and I knew we were meant to be together.

In the years since we’ve tried a few times to change our New Year’s Eve malaise, but have learned that our best Eves have been the ones we spent at home, whether it was putting plastic insulation over our drafty sliding door, or binge watching episodes of The West Wing.

The other night, I was reading on the loveseat while the Dude sprawled across the sofa. He turned on a Modern Family marathon, and I put the book away, popped some popcorn and joined him. Very soon, Senior Dude wandered in, ousted the Dude from his seat after much wrestling and laughter, and we watched the television family grouse that all they did on New Year’s Eve was watch television and fall asleep.

My husband and I turned to each other and smiled. We’re normal enough to be a television family, except I don’t look like Sophia Vergara.

I looked over at the Dude and saw that blank look I love so much.

“You don’t have plans for New Year’s.” It wasn’t a question. I already know the answer.

“I’m stuck with you losers.” Strangely enough, he didn’t look too upset. I guess that apple really didn’t fall far from the tree.

I smile, and take a handful of popcorn. “Right back at you, Dude.”

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “World Through a Shot Glass,” by Lisa Bunchofpants © 2006 Creative Commons

The Yearly Reboot

rebootI’m not technologically adept. When I married my husband, little did I know that in-home IT support would be so valuable. Of course, I appreciate many of my husband’s qualities, but his ability to manage the morass of computer equipment in our household makes up for his unwillingness to use the vacuum or dishwasher.

When it comes to electronic hiccups, I have only one tool in my arsenal. The reboot. Turn it off, turn it back on. It seems to be the solution to many maladies, and there are many options for the reboot process–the printer, the computer, the router, the wi-fi, and the cable box. If rebooting one doesn’t solve the problem, chances are, rebooting one of the others will. I have learned that “Have you tried rebooting?” will be my husband’s first question when I ask for help, so even if I don’t think it will work, I’ll try it anyway.

This is why I love the new year. I hate “New Year’s” ®. It’s often a night of forced buoyancy shared with large numbers of people. But I love the concept of a yearly reboot. It’s an invitation to flush it, and move on. I am a resolution junkie. I thrive on goals. I crave accomplishment. Even staring down fifty, I have huge plans for my life, and I’m just getting started.

It is easy to keep moving in a pre-established direction. Momentum is a powerful force. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes, however, it’s an invitation to tread water and to continue investing energy into habits and practices that no longer fit or serve me. There is an opportunity cost to using one’s time and energy. Spend it one place, and you don’t have it to spend elsewhere.

My husband does not share my penchant for resolution-making, at least not tied to the January 1 date. The date is arbitrary, he asserts. Commitment to a goal is possible any time, which is true. For me, however, taking the time to consider what my priorities are and what I’d like to achieve is energizing. I need the articulation–I am doing this, but not that. It helps me to reconcile tough choices, and to define them as choices, rather than crap that happens. I generally know what the consequences will be. If I figure it into my calculations, I’m happier. It may be easier to blame the cosmos, but it doesn’t change where the buck stops.

So will the 2013 reboot entail? A wise friend has tuned me into the mantra of less. Don’t do more, do less. Create space for stories to grow, for dreams to grow, for love to grow. I’m simplifying, streamlining, admitting that I can’t do everything. All yesses must earn their place.

So it’s January 1st. Here we go. Reboot.

I flush the glitches, and the corrupted files and start again. The slate is clean. Happy New Year.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Derek Clark © 2001 Creative Commons