A week ago, I was playing pool with a friend (first time I’ve played in years, Nancy was around too, that’s not the habit.) Sometime during the second game, I watched him line up a shot and then miss the ball he should have been aiming for. I almost said something, until I realized that he hadn’t missed.
I’ll be more accurate. The ball I thought he should be aiming for was a stripe. The ball he hit was a solid. But he was solids, I was stripes. I had become so focused on my goals that I forgot that for the purposes of this game, his goal was the exact opposite of mine. And rightly so.
It had only taken 20 minutes for a way of looking at things to become habitual for me. Enough of a habit that I was ready to scold someone else for looking at things differently.
Some habits are desirable. We call those “disciplines.” Some habits are not. We call those “addictions.” Some are neutral. We call those “drinking coffee.” For the last six weeks I gave up a way of seeing called twitter. Someone finally caught on yesterday that the dates of my disappearance roughly corresponded to lent (with one lapse at chipotle).
When Lent started, I hadn’t exactly intended to give it up. However, I was beginning to wonder whether twitter was a discipline (staying in touch with a group of people that I was beginning to care about and for) or an addiction (staring at the flow of comments in every spare moment) or neutral (stopping to say hi while walking to the office coffee pot). And so around the time that we began our lent blog in earnest, I walked away from twitter.
Here are some of the things I learned.
1. I still knew a bit about what was happening because Nancy kept checking. She would ask whether I had seen what had happened to ___ or ___. She kept up. That means that twitter has a way of becoming part of the family. The people I follow? Our kids know you. And that’s kind of cool.
2. Twitter may be an addiction, but the people aren’t. A friend of mine goes to Mr Donut every morning. If he gave up donuts for Lent, he still would want to figure out how to go to see the people. When the channel slides into being addicting, somehow we need to manage that aspect of it without giving up people. I had every intention of touching people by email, but I didn’t.
3. I may have gained time, but I’m not sure I used it well. By well, of course, I’m not arguing for greater work productivity because that isn’t the point of lenten fasting. The point is to use the space for silence, for reflection, for self-examination, for becoming more focused. Jesus gave up people for forty days and spent much of the time talking with his Dad. And his enemy, of course. And that is offered as our model.
4. As a result of 3, what I did realize is that twitter isn’t the enemy, I am. Not in an “I am awful, I am the worst” sense. More in the “balance your expectations and your workflow and your goals and your energy so that staring at twitter doesn’t become the escape of choice.” The truth? I can make staring blindly into space become my escape of choice, my way of avoiding buckling down to work or to not work.
5. I’m also aware that I can best serve my friends and family if I build a pattern of away and here that functions on a daily and weekly flow rather than an annual flow. Some may remember that last year I dropped out of the blogosphere for a couple weeks at about this same time (I didn’t remember that timing until a couple days ago). I’m thinking that there are some things I need to write about and research which will be useful to others. If I take bits of time and go silent I can come back refreshed AND refreshing.
6. I had some people touching me from time to time. That was pretty cool. Thank you.
7. I walked away from a lot of online interaction during this time. The energy to comment was down. The energy to post was limited (though pretty focused). I managed Lent 2008, but ended up not commenting much there. I haven’t completely figured this one out yet (I know…new job, new responsibilities, new faces, I get that part) but I think there is something else and deeper.
And so I’m back to twitter. We’ll see how long I can keep stripes and solids distinct, keeping my way of seeing clear without getting confused.