By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

I missed out on my column last week due to being on vacation, my first in over two years (though if I were totally honest, it’s been more like five).

The family and I went to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the first time ever, which is beautiful this time of year. Nice temperatures, cool downtown with restaurants, shops, and historic bathhouses, and perhaps the most stereotypical depiction of autumn I think I’ve ever seen, full of trees with green, orange, and bright red leaves. If you’ve never been, I’d certainly recommend it, and it’s not too far a drive.

My trip was just for a weekend, but the downtime was needed. I spend a lot of my free time on the Gazette. If I’m not writing, I’m responding to e-mails, or setting up appointments, or going over the “behind the scenes” on the backend of the site. If I’m not checking on my laptop, I’m checking on my phone. Or receiving calls on my phone.

I put that down for three days.

You don’t really think of how much you use your phone until you literally force yourself to put it down. It’s an addicting device. Half the time, the decision to use it is more reflexive than conscious. Waiting in line, use your phone. Wake up, use your phone. About to fall asleep, use your phone. Want to see what meme your weird relative posted on Facebook, use your phone. Bathroom, waiting room, breakroom, use your phone.

A lot of my phone use actually is for work purposes, but not all of it. There’s always something that needs my attention. But this weekend, I finally said “enough” and put it down.

Throughout the weekend, there was that want to see how the site was doing. Check in. Oversee. Make sure. But with a mental “No,” I kept putting the phone back in my pocket. I admit to cheating a few times, updating my Instagram with a vacation photo or two, but not allowing myself e-mail, or texts, or social media.

You don’t think a noticeable change would take place, but my world fell remarkably silent. I willingly cut myself off from the “buzz.”

I sat on the porch in a hammock chair, with one of the dogs on my lap. I stared into the forest and gazed upon the lake next to me while I drank my coffee. I didn’t feel the need to stop every few minutes to check on any missed messages. I didn’t allow myself to mindlessly scroll through apps to pass time.

By Day Two, I felt more focused and less “on.” I wasn’t waiting for the “buzz” of a new message update signifying something that could likely wait. I began to appreciate the extra time. Not feeling like I was two, and sometimes three places at once. I mostly just sat by the big, tall trees, focusing on the world in front of me, and not a 5 1/2-inch screen.

All vacations are temporary. My three day experiment was simply that, and in my line of work, I have to regularly face a screen (kind of hard to update a digital publication, otherwise). But my weekend outing reminded me the importance of taking a break, giving your mind (and eyes) a solid declutter, and not trying to conquer a never-ending wall of scrolling text.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll use those final hours of this second extended weekend to just read. The ideas will come tomorrow. And December is going to be a very full month.

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