Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

This post mainly explains how my whole life is a self-inflicted disaster. I’m mostly ok with that.

on March 13, 2014

I’ve seen a few posts on Facebook recently linking to articles about how smartphones are, to varying degrees, destroying modern civilisation.  Particularly parents with smartphones.  Apparently, if your child sees you using your iPhone at any point, they will know you no longer love them.  They will be more damaged by you not listening to them while checking emails on your phone than you not listening to them while cooking, looking at the newspaper, listening to the radio or their sister or just because it is not possible to listen to anyone under five years old every single time they talk to you without your brain melting.

Actually, I have no idea what the articles say because I don’t read them.  I have enough guilt going on.  I just read the headlines, and the comments my friends make when they post them.  But, despite not really understanding people who are regularly parted from their phones – you know, the people who don’t text back immediately because they haven’t read your text because their phone is in a different room? Who are these people and how do they live? – I’ve decided to become one of them.  For a while.  Between coming home from nursery and putting the girls to bed, I will leave my phone in my bedroom (yes, where the girls can find it while they’re playing upstairs and ring people in Australia.  Friends in Australia, if I ring you, DON’T ANSWER. It isn’t me and I can’t afford it).  Instead of checking Facebook and emails constantly, I will be paying attention to my children, occasionally listening to them, and cooking dinner.

It’s not just about Big Girl and Small Girl though.  It’s about me.  I don’t judge my value as a person by how many friends I have on Facebook (420, if you’re interested.  That’s a lot, right? Look at all those people who like me! Though I wonder how many of them started hiding my posts when I posted about Small Girl pooing in the bath).  But occasionally I find myself checking my phone, hoping for some kind of communication from the outside world, some sense that people are liking what I’ve put, that feeling that people want to know me.  And sometimes, if things are a bit quiet, I find myself checking more and more frequently.  I’m not neurotic, but when you live with a two-year-old who behaves as if she hates you (it’s not personal, she hates the whole world) and a four-year-old who cries and says she is no longer your friend because you put milk on her cereal when she wanted to do it herself, there’s a desire to engage with people who can carry out social interactions in a sane and reasonable manner; to feel liked for myself rather than my ability to meet the stringent, irrational and unstable demands of two mini-tyrants.

I’m reading a book I borrowed from the Quaker Meeting library about simplicity: one of the five values Quakers try to live out.  The other four are peace, truth,equality and environmental sustainability.  I know where I am with the others: I have some issues with a complete commitment to peace which I still need to iron out; I agree in principle with being truthful but it’s a bit tricky sometimes; I’m passionate about equality, particularly feminism; and I absolutely think we need to live more sustainably, but it’s hard.  Simplicity, on the other hand, fascinates me.  It’s about getting rid of all the things which distract us from the important things in life, whatever they are, and I crave it almost as strongly as I hold on to the massive amounts of clutter in my life.

Simplicity does not come naturally to me.  I am a hoarder.  I believe that it’s safer not to throw anything away, because you’ll only want it.  I secretly hope that one day I will do something of enough significance that someone will archive all my papers, so I keep them for that day.  I’m a procrastinator. I love Facebook, and wandering round the internet reading debates on Mumsnet about parent and child parking spaces rather than going to bed.  I think life is honestly better if you can see everything you own on your kitchen table rather than tidied away.  I’m mildly interested in everything. I would always rather watch West Wing than do something useful.  I start new loaves of bread before finishing the old ones, and leave the last few slices in the bag going mouldy.  Along with the last inch of ketchup and the remaining crumby scrapings of butter in the fridge, and half a tin of baked beans I didn’t use and now can’t move because it’s growing a new species of mould.  I’d rather start something new than tidy away the last thing I was doing.  And I live with two small children who haven’t learnt anything positive about housework from living with me.   (Fortunately for them, they have two parents, and their other parent is much better at this sort of thing than I am).

But I see the idea of a simple life, and it attracts me.  My house is sliding into chaos.  It is entropic. I can imagine that if I stopped wasting so much of my precious time on meaningless things which are not really satisfying (deleting emails from companies I was never that interested in; desperately trying to find my railcard which is buried under a ton of paper on the table; checking facebook again for the tenth time before bed despite the fact that there is nothing new) I could spend the time doing other things I like to do: writing, sewing, sleeping, having proper friendships with people I talk to, doing things which feel significant.

So stepping back from checking my phone a million million times is a small part of learning this discipline.  It’s tiny steps forward, and altering little habits, and looking for the things which resonate with me and doing them first, clearing away the things which matter too little and the things which matter too much.  I’m not expecting to become a monk, or a minimalist, or even to have a tidy kitchen.  But I’m hoping to spend more time being the sort of me I like best.

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