Just to forewarn you, this post is about neither drugs nor tacos. I just thought this sign was hilarious. In addition, it makes a point that I do want to talk about. Namely, that saying no to things we should say no to often makes it possible to say yes to good things...like tacos.
My week off from this blog taught me a lot of things, but this was, perhaps the greatest lesson I learned. Or, at least the one I most needed to hear right now. Saying, "No" can be a good thing. And, not just in the case of saying no to bad things, like drugs. It is only by saying, "No" to some things that we can say yes to other things. If we say, "Yes" to something--even something good--more than we should, if we take our "Yes" to excess, then we are inadvertently saying, "No" to many other things--sometimes even better things.
Let's consider tacos, for a moment. If tacos were my favorite food, I might be tempted to make them every night for dinner. (Incidentally, tacos are not my favorite food, but they are tasty.) If I eat tacos every night, I am saying, "No" to a vast array of diverse culinary delights--unless, of course, I plan on making several dinners and stuffing myself stupid. But, even if I make myself sick after a five-course dinner of tacos, lobster, chicken and dumplings, filet mignon, and shepherd's pie, I'm still going to have to draw the line somewhere. When dessert rolls around, I simply will not have any room left for chocolate cake, and I will have to say, "No."
So, I must ask myself, "How much do I really love tacos? Do I want to say, 'Yes' to tacos to the exclusion of everything else? Mightn't it be better to say, 'Yes' to tacos sometimes, say once a week, and to say, 'No' to tacos on the other six days so that I can enjoy a wider variety of foods? Certainly, it will be healthier for me, and it's bound to be more enjoyable in the long run, too."
But, as I said, this post is not about tacos. It's about my experience with shutting off from my blog for a week. My blog, however, can be compared to tacos. It feeds me, rather like tacos. It helps me grown, though thankfully not in quite the same way as tacos. I can share it with friends and even meet new friends over it, like a gathering featuring tacos. And, it just plain fun and enjoyable. Like eating tacos. All that said, you can still have too much of a good thing.
So, here are some guidelines I formed for myself in the last week. I know that internet use (abuse?) can be a huge stumbling block for many people in our culture, so I offer my own personal discoveries in the hopes that they will benefit others. Of course, they are still merely personal; my guidelines are unlikely to work for everyone, but feel free to sift through and chew on the ones that might work for you.
Fast. Often, I have found that fasting is the only way to thoroughly convince me that I am overusing something or taking it for granted. I look around me and see people who are on the internet far more often, who browse more sites a day than I do in a month, and I say to myself, "I'm not that bad." That's not the point. The point is, am I wisely using the resources that I have? Am I being a good steward of my time, my energy, my intellect, my family and other relationship, and yes, my internet connection? Frankly, I'm not likely to be able to give myself a thoroughly honest and knowledgeable answer without fasting.
If you think you current computer habits might be getting in the way of some more important "Yes"es in your life, even if you're "not that bad," consider an internet fast. Turn off the computer. Step away from the computer. Don't turn the computer back on. Go do something more important. That's it. Then, come back when your fast is done, and evaluate. I promise you'll gain something from the experience, and the internet will still be there when you get back.
Divide and conquer. So, my fast wasn't entirely from the internet, it was just from my blog. That said, I was using my email on a daily basis (thought a diminished basis) even during my blog break. Unfortunately, that meant I was still getting email about the blog, even though I was not on the blog, because I had my comment moderation linked through my personal email; this email address was also my contact email from The Apple Cider Mill.
But, no more! I realized that this way of doing things was destructive and inefficient. If I wanted to pop online and check to see if my mother had responded to an email or if my husband was online to chat and some Cider Mill mail showed up, I just couldn't keep from clicking on it, even though I knew that I was on a blog break. (Hence the reason that comments were still getting approved and posted during the first few days of my break.) So, I set up a second email account, which is now the holding pen for all comments and blog-related emails. I can go to it when I want, and I can still communicate with friends and family via my personal email account without being bombarded with blog mail.
For me, it was about a blog, but I have had others tell me that this strategy of dividing emails has really helped them in their own lives. One of my friends has a personal email account, an account for school, and a third account for work and professional emails. It takes about five minutes to set up another email account, and it's completely free, but the peace of mind and efficiency of time it adds to your life is priceless.
Life does not exist to benefit my blog. Sometimes, like my friend Jennifer, I make the mistake of living my life in terms of my blog, or at least thinking of life in terms of my blog. I read a book and I have to jot down a quote because it might work in a blog post someday. I have a conversation, and I slip it into a mental roladex of blog post topics. And, sometimes, writing a good post on a topic (prayer, children, etc.) actually ends up taking more of my time and energy than the far worthier object of the post!
This isn't right. Blogging is a fruitful and beneficial element of my life, but it is not my life, nor does my life exist for the benefit of my blog. My blog exists to benefit my life, and I need to keep this in perspective. My blog comes secondary to real life: real life relationships, duties, and pleasures. If I feel these priorities getting out of whack, it's time to reevaluate...and probably fast.
Be picky. We are particular and thoughtful about choosing our jobs, our friends, our homes, our food, our books, even the paint on our walls. When it comes to the internet, however, many of us are not so particular. We browse aimlessly. We "collect" websites in our blog roll. We have some standards, of course: no pornography; oh, and that one site that that lady runs always gets on my nerves, so I won't go there anymore; I prefer this recipe site to that one, but I'll still browse around a bit. Sound familiar? But, even with these standards, it's all too easy to glut ourselves with the tremendous amount of information available on the internet.
Phillipians 4:8 is golden here.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is
noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such
If it's true in real life, it should be true for virtual life, too. Watch out not only for core site content but all the other things you are exposed to: advertisements, comments, debates, links. If these things are consistently contrary to what's spoken about in Phillipians, you may want to stop frequenting that site, anyway, even if the core content is perfectly acceptable.
And, remember, saying "No" may be a "Yes" to something better. Like tacos.