Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back to the Basics, for a Few Days at Least

Originally Posted in Common Threads Blog,
Centre Daily Times, March 6, 2009

The past two weeks, my family has been under the weather, taking turns at sore throats, coughs– not enough to put a halt to our lives, but enough to drain us by the evening.

The illnesses forced us to reorganize our lives to a simpler framework – doing the bare minimum we needed, to get through the day. Preparing our food, doing our work, meeting the deadlines we absolutely had to meet. All the other things on our plate were simply weeded out.

No returning emails or phone calls unless they were essential – that simple step freed up a lot of time. No playdates or get togethers. No taking on any new commitments. Simply turning the focus inward on the basics of survival.

Now that we are all doing better, the things we had cast aside are staking a claim in the form of new deadlines, unmet obligations and unfulfilled desires.

We loved the simple life, but continuing it when we are well is proving to be very hard. Most of the things we cut out were activities that connected us to others – and we had felt we were already doing less of it, even when we were well.

I compare my life to those of my parents and grandparents’ generation. My parents communicated with their parents and siblings via letters, and I remember my mother saying “I need to reply to that letter.” Her to do list was certainly as long as mine – only the ease with which others can email or call me means that “I need to reply to …” appears on my to do list more often.

This instant communication means that I am more accessible to others at the click of a button. It also means that all the concerns of one household get transferred to the other instantaneously. My mother worries about our every cold and fever, whereas my grandmother got informed of the illnesses only after the fact –her grandchild had already recovered from the chicken pox by the time the letter reached her.

I am of course oversimplifying matters, and am mostly happy for the increased ease of communication with my family and friends, and even our doctor’s office. After all, it makes others accessible to me at a click of a button too!!

But sometimes, I do not appreciate enough how the new technology of instant communication overextends all of us, as we respond to people from near and far on an instant basis.

Respond to a charitable cause here, a request to volunteer, a social event, a crisis in the family, a request for information, a hello –how are you doing letter.

But I guess as long as we are aware of what we are giving up to accommodate these extra commitments, we can still succeed in keeping our lives fairly simple.

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