Retroladytyping …

Taking a break …

… from  “The Facebook News Feed… oh that black hole of endless EVERYTHING”

Just recently I found myself becoming increasingly stressed without any reasonable cause.  Nothing much had changed.  Spring had sprung.  There were holidays and breaks to look forward to.  No pressure of work.  No pressure of any kind that I could see, and yet, and yet … something was happening.  My eyes felt as if I needed to take them out and rinse them under the tap, my back ached, my head ached, but mostly I was worried about a ‘something’ which I couldn’t quantify or  describe.   There was always a feeling of ‘something’ being wrong, ‘something’ which needed to be checked – just in case.

Wandering in a sleepy daze downstairs every morning, I caught my hand going out to that switch in the hall.  That one.  The one which triggers a flashing green light.  The box of connectivity.    I wasn’t switching it on with any real purpose in mind – no imminent need to email, shop or check the news or the weather.  As I opened up the laptop, I realised I was automatically moving the mouse to Facebook.  Why?

Why indeed?  Because I wanted to check if anything was happening.  Of course something was happening.  Something always is.  I can honestly say that I do know, in real life, most of my Facebook friends,  we have a common interest, or a shared educational or employment history.  Yes, I’m justifying myself.  But I felt I needed to check on their doings before I’d even staggered into the kitchen to put the kettle on for a caffeine hit, as well as frequent checks throughout the day.    Did I really need to  keep checking, googling and clicking on links until I developed a crick in my neck, followed by a headache, then a stress-inducing worry session brought about by information overload?  I did.  After all ‘something’ may have happened overnight, or may happen just as I log off … and I wouldn’t know about it. 

So what.

Yesterday I found myself massively over-reacting to a minor mishap in the real world (don’t ask – to do with misunderstandings and the expectation that the person closest to me can actually read my mind and knows what I am really saying … yes, that kind of misunderstanding, probably familiar to most long-married people.)

On reflection, when I had calmed down, I realised that what I was feeling  was brain overload.  I felt teary, tired, emotional and mentally exhausted for no good reason.  On reflection I realised that this kind of thing had been happening far too frequently lately. I’d been blaming others, the weather, being busy, the political situation – anything really.     I then found this website:

Please read it.  It is very enlightening.  There is so much information out there, most of which we don’t need or want to know.  It’s an endless pit of ‘stuff’ which I fell into every day and was in danger of becoming suffocated by.

That website describes Facebook as “a black hole of ENDLESS EVERYTHING” – yes, that’s exactly right.  Of course, Facebook has its positive uses:  keeping in touch with past friends whose paths have taken them to far-flung places, discussion groups with like-minded people, photographs – especially of weddings and new babies.  Using the Chat facility to arrange reunions, sharing news of personal events. Who can complain about those?

However, it’s the other side of those positives which I think had been  affecting me – the constant need to check ‘just-in-case’ somewhere within that endless everything there was that vital something which I really, really needed to know.  If that wasn’t to be the case, then I would share something about my own life – most of it just trivia to pour into that black hole of endless everything.

The truth is that everyone who might need to share something with me which I really, really needed to know, has my phone number, email, address or all three.  Similarly, if I need to tell someone about my day, I can telephone them, see them, or even … don’t tell them, because they don’t really need to know.  I don’t live on a remote island away from human contact.  My automatic reaching out to that box of connectivity in the hallway and the automatic moving of the mouse to the Facebook icon needed to stop.  So it did … yesterday.  I am taking a break.  Time will tell for how long.

What shall I do instead?  Well, I plan to take more time to do real things properly, even if those real things are routine or I could drink my coffee while it’s hot,  rather than letting it get cold while I am in the virtual world.  That’s about it:  just taking time.

Of course, it  may be that Facebook isn’t the reason why I’ve been so stressed.   It may be “others, the weather, being busy, the political situation.”  Time will tell.

At the moment, I am sorely tempted to just take a quick peek.  Shall I?  I may be missing out on something vital;  I may need to react to something I read;  I may need to get involved in a discussion or, more likely, it will be just information to pour into my overloaded brain.  So, I won’t.  I think.  Maybe.


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Starting over … in slippers

space clearing

I recently had a  conversation with a creative friend when we talked about writing being a form of therapy.  Yes, it certainly is, but, depending on my mood and how much nervous energy I need to expend, sometimes I need to be more active.

When that happens, gardening is the only activity which does the job enough for me to rest easily.

I used to think it was because of the exhaustion and sore muscles (aka being completely knackered) which follow a long session outside:   there was one occasion when, feeling annoyed because The One Who Likes Hitting Small Balls With a Strange Shaped Bat (aka playing golf), decided it was more important to do that than to remove the ivy which was slowly strangling our brickwork, I decided to do the job myself.   I tugged, ripped (several fingernails in the process), sweated, strained and eventually succeeded in denuding the wall by the garage.  I felt so much better, having used up all my anger.   Job done.  A blank  wall and a feeling of happy exhaustion and (not so) quiet satisfaction at leaving The One Who etc … a huge pile of debris to clear up.

As well as  using up nervous energy, I think it’s about starting again.  That blank garage wall became an, as yet untouched,   canvas for further creation.  There is something very therapeutic and renewing about digging, raking, cutting and clearing  a untidy area of the garden and planting anew.  There is then hope that whatever has gone awry can be corrected;  even after repeated attempts, there is hope that this time it will succeed and look perfect come June and July.  It won’t; I know that; it never does, as is proved by the many times I take my coffee outside for a sunshine sit-down, or while putting washing on the line,  and spot something which needs sorting immediately. Several hours later and without bothering to change into ‘gardening’ clothes,  I feel satisfied that there is again hope for the future.  There is mud under my nails,  I have scratches up my arms and I need a good hose down,  but I already feel refreshed and renewed.

Returning to the original idea of writing as therapy – maybe a blank sheet of paper, or computer screen, fulfils the same need to start over with  no dress code.

old man I found this picture on google.  The title is ‘Old Man Writing by Candlelight in Pyjamas’.  It reminded me of the friend in the first sentence, who is a midnight writer, as I am a dawn gardener.  He is definitely not old, but I think he would  like to be this man one day.  Whereas I would like to be, and probably already am,  ‘Middle-aged (and a bit)  Woman Gardening at Dawn in  Slippers,’ the point being that we each feel a need to do what we do, whenever we do it and however we do it,  without regard for convention.  It’s our therapy.    At least it is for me.  I know I would be (even more) stressed and miserable without that therapy.  So really, it’s a way of protecting my family and friends from the fall-out,  my motives are, therefore,  entirely selfless … naturally.

Since thinking of gardening as therapy,   I’ve discovered that there are a wealth of scholarly articles on the benefits for mental health of gardening.  I’m not at all surprised.  I was going to read one or two, but I’ve just spotted a huge dandelion in the middle of my petunia bed – how dare it?  It is going to die.  Where are my slippers?

gardening in slippers