Connecting and Disconnecting

I have felt disconnected from this space a bit lately, from online life in general really. Perhaps it’s the pace of life the last few months or the thoughts I can’t manage to catch. Quite possibly, it’s the new puppy in our home, now competing for that early hour of morning quiet, or even simpler, the reality of writing online about out life for so long. I realized just last week that I will have been blogging for ten years this coming autumn. TEN YEARS! Although I haven’t always written from such a public platform, I have still been recording some portion of our family’s life and my thoughts on the internet for most of my marriage and mothering years at this point. And something in that reality has caused pause.

Most days, my mind and heart feel brimming with thoughts and ideas; it merely requires tweaking external logistics to make it happen. But the last month or so, I’ve felt a greater disconnect somewhere within me, one that has left me staring at a gaping hole in content here. I have sat down to write so many times, only to stare at the blinking cursor, typing words that felt forced and empty, only to erase them moments later. Delete. Delete. Delete. In March, I lost two large portions of our family trip to a defective CF card, and simultaneously, my phone has been shutting down regularly or draining battery unnecessarily fast, creating a sort of stalemate in spontaneous photos and videos. Sigh.

This isn’t a moment to address the current state of my technology, but only to say I’ve wondered if all of these factors together aren’t trying to tell me something deeper about my own needs right now. Mark and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Our youngest, Olive, turned eight, and we are wrapping up our eighth or ninth year of homeschooling––the details of time seem fuzzy. Liam will be fourteen in the fall, and Burke will be thirteen soon after and Blythe not far behind that. The brevity of these years with children at home is visceral.

So yes, my online spaces and social medias have felt sparse and random lately. And some days the empty pages buck against my longing for productivity, my want to actually produce something with my writing hours, other than deleting them. I feel anxious at times that I can’t produce or actualize what seems so easily jotted down on a list or planner. But the internal tension––the push and pull of doing and being, writing and listening––is teaching me something about my boundaries and needs, and more specifically how again to gently receive myself as I am––whether I am performing as well as my inner-critic would like or not.  I have found over the years, it is vain for me to try and produce anything when I am locked up in my head or feeling this deep sense of disconnection. It is best for me not to stare at a screen or a keyboard or even hover my planner and lists, but instead for a time to simply step away and live.

I know I am not alone in this cycle of inward push-pull of self, this tug-of-war of what it means to be connected in the digital age. So for you, here are a few ways I have been finding authentic connection again, and also making peace with my own limitations:

Take a walk. A brief, slow walk around the block is the most instinctual activity when I have writer’s block or am having trouble quieting/hearing my thoughts. I wander and listen. That’s all. This is one of my favorite articles on the connection between writing and walking: one activity orienting us to our environment, the other orienting us to our thought. I realize not everyone is seeking connection for the purpose of writing, but I tend to think it benefits us regardless of intent.

Meditation/Prayer. I’ve mentioned this so many times in this space, but regularly quieting my thoughts with focused meditation on Scripture and prayer is essential for my well-being and sense of deep connection to anything I put my hands to in a day. This doesn’t require long periods of time. I typically find brief quiet moments randomly throughout our days to quiet my thoughts, and pray often. Wink.

Go outside. So many books have been written on our need of nature. But there is something metaphysical nature speaks to us, something tangible for our souls and bodies that we need to orient us through our lives in the digital world. Breathe fresh air. Go for a hike or a day trip to a nearby beach or river. Sprawl a blanket in the lawn, swing in a hammock, stargaze on the rooftop––whatever works best for your temperament and locale.

Unplug. Instead of searching the web for inspiration or looking to see what others are doing, unplug. Pay attention to the people and patterns of your day. Take mental snapshots instead of grabbing your phone or camera, close your eyes, and savor the image for just a moment.

Listen to music. Thoughts like rhythm. They like movement, even melodic movement. Let uplifting music waft in your home as you play with your children or go about the ordinary.

Read. Read anything that might inspire you or grow you, offline. Visit the library or a local bookshop with your kids (or without them, too). If you’re curious, I share four books currently on my nightstand every month with email subscribers. Wink.

Spend time with others outside of your home.  Make a playdate. Meet up with a friend or creative, ideally someone who inspires you. The simple goal for me: get out of your head.

The list is simple, isn’t it? It’s incredible how such simple choices can breed inward connection, and often as a result, a sense of connection for me here, as well.

14 replies
  1. Rachel Winchester
    Rachel Winchester says:

    I resonate with this so much. I’d been feeling that push pull and so my husband and I decided to unplug from social media for a while. It’s barely been a week but I feel so much more connected to my actual life, surroundings and people. Your list is exactly what I use to get back to authentic connection and groundedness. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I have received so much inspiration from online connection over the years, but I’m always amazing at how peaceful I feel when I take a pause. It’s not progressive for online work, but I’d like to think it helps keep me grounded in the long run. Thank you so much for sharing, Rachel, and I hope this period of unplugging is so restful for your home.

      Reply
  2. Erin
    Erin says:

    Beautiful, raw and holy. Thank you for this – all of it. In the jumble of little ones and all their constant demands and requests, I’m sometimes so tired that I don’t fight for the life-giving things the way I want to or need to. These reminders are so needed.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Such gracious words, Erin. Thank you. Much love and grace to you in the little years. They’re such precious years, and foundational, too. x

      Reply
  3. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I love how heartfelt each word you share is. Visceral is such a good word to describe how I feel about older children moving out of my home, and younger children growing older quickly. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I can relate on so many levels, and pacing ourselves for the sake of our limited time with our children is such a worthy choice.

    Reply
  4. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I couldn’t agree more! =) I think in this digital age it is a constant push and pull. Balance is key and it is hard to find! Great list too. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I have reflected on your choice to delete IG so often lately, and am moved by your courage of stepping into uncomfortable unknowns, Melissa. x

      Reply
  5. Alisha
    Alisha says:

    Wonderful post, Bethany. My husband and I just bought a farmhouse, and when we move there in a couple of weeks, we aren’t planning on getting internet. I am really excited, but I honestly expect it to be a huge shock. We need a break from it all, though. We just need to slow down. To enjoy the life that’s right here, right now.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Wow, Alisha! You’ll have to share how that goes at some point. Mark (husband) often speculates how much happier people would be without the internet. It’s simply ironic that both of our jobs are tethered to it. I’m grateful for all I have learned and seen and shared because of the internet, but it’s nice to step away and have space sometimes, too.

      Reply

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