Back in Time

The pandemic really has thrown me back in time.

First, it was the bread baking. Remember when we all thought we were going to STARVE and there WOULDN’T BE ANY BREAD?

(I never did get a sourdough starter going, I just stuck to the NYT no-knead bread recipe. I’m lazy.)

Then it was the knitting.

I was already on board with the knitting trend, but it would seem that many others (Michelle Obama, included!) joined me.

Then there were all the things that I started doing again that I hadn’t done in a long time: tennis lessons, playing piano, writing on the blog…

But this latest development has taken me so far back into the past that I could almost feel at home in one of the Barbara Pym novels I wrote about last week.

Sock Darning.

Yup. It’s true.

I have taken to darning socks.

Darn(ed) it!

Not just any old socks, mind you. I’ve darned some fancy Smartwool socks. The kind that you’re not supposed to need to darn. DARN THEM!

Mindful Mending

The act of threading the needle in and out, back and forth, focusing on keeping my shoulders relaxed and my back straight… It’s meditative.

The pandemic has been anxiety-provoking for most everyone. For me, stitching helps to calm my mind and soothe some of that anxiety.

Honestly, it also helps to stave off feelings of boredom, uselessness and inactivity.

Loved Clothes Last: Added Bonus

I haven’t been shopping much during this pandemic. I’ve avoided my bi-annual clothes shopping excursions. I’ve tried ordering some clothes online, but the waste of having to mail so many of them back is frustrating.

I’ve participated peripherally in the slow fashion movement by making myself some sweaters. These I wear all the time.

(I’ve practically lived in my Weekender sweater this winter!)

But with the pandemic, and with being unable (or unwilling) to do much clothes shopping, I’ve found myself slowly embracing the mending movement.

An attempt at mending a cardigan

First it was the socks. Then, this cardigan that was my mother’s. These aren’t fancy clothes, and you could argue that they’re hardly worth mending.

But they’re clothes I like to wear. They’ve been in steady rotation since the colder weather set in, and I’d like to keep them that way.

If You’ve Any Mending…

Don’t throw away something you like to wear just because it’s got a little hole in it.

Pick up your needle and thread and set to it! You could try doing some visible mending to make a fashion statement.

(Or, like me, you could attempt to make your mending invisible and fail entirely.)

After all, there’s a pandemic on. It’s not like we’ve got a whole lot else to do.

Allow Me To Introduce Barbara Pym

In 1977, she was called “the most underrated writer of the 20th century” by an influential English literary critic and one of England’s most famous poets. And they were right!

I love recommending Barbara Pym to people. She’s an absolute treat, and reading her for the first time is almost as enjoyable as discovering Jane Austen.

Barbara Pym was a 20th century English author, who published nine novels during her lifetime. Three further novels were published posthumously, as well as a collection of short stories.

If you enjoy an oh-so-British comedy of manners, you’ll delight in Pym’s novels.

Where to Start with Barbara Pym?

Most people agree that Excellent Women, published in 1952 is her best novel. It’s what Pride and Prejudice is to Jane Austen.

I enjoy it very much, but I am not as much of a fan of the first person narrative. I liked No Fond Return of Love (1961) and Some Tame Gazelle (1950) better.

A Quartet In Autumn was published in 1977 after a 16-year hiatus. It’s a darker book, but it’s still graced with Pym’s particular wit.

I recently finished Crampton Hodnet, which was written between 1939 and 1942, but not published until after her death in 1980. It’s been years since I’ve read any Barbara Pym, and coming back to her with this book was a joy. I found myself giggling aloud at several points.

What Makes Her So Enjoyable?

I’ve seen her books classified as “Romance”. I’ve also seen them referred to as “comedies of manners.” I think the latter is a better description.

In a romance, two people meet, fall in love and have some kind of conflict (or perhaps the other way around) and after hijinks and kerfuffles, end up married and living happily ever after.

Jane Austen’s books are certainly romances in that sense (though I would never classify them as purely “romance novels”!).

Barbara Pym’s novels, however, are more subtle and less obviously “romance” than that. Yes, there is often love–sometimes even romantic love–in her books. But most often her characters are falling in love with the wrong people (An Unsuitable Attachment was one of the novels published after her death), and rarely do her novels end with a marriage.

What makes her books so enjoyable is how bitingly funny they are. She usually has one character who acts as an observer, watching the little dramas unfolding about them with bemusement and humor.

She writes about small, rather circumscribed lives: spinsters active in fading churches, clergymen, awkward university academics, dashing undergraduates, glamorous local widows, and all with a razor sharp wit which delights in pointing out the ridiculous in each and every one of them.

She doesn’t do this unkindly, though. Her novels show she clearly loved observing people and their little foibles, and she writes of them with great affection. Her genius comes from the fact that she clearly doesn’t take herself or her characters too seriously.

You Will Laugh When Reading Barbara Pym

If you enjoy wry observations, awkward situations and somewhat ridiculous characters getting themselves into scrapes, you will enjoy Barbara Pym.

You won’t cringe at her characters, but you’ll sigh and laugh at them. And as our lives have become more insular, our circles smaller because of the pandemic, you’ll find the small, local settings–a university set in North Oxford, a small church community in a London neighborhood–almost familiar.

You won’t have the same powerful characters as in Jane Austen–no brooding Darcy or dashing Willoughby here. Instead, you’ll find much more commonplace and consequently probably more sympathetic characters. You can more easily believe her characters to have been real people.

Not Too Seriously…

The greatest power of Barbara Pym, I think, is how she makes us see ourselves in her characters, and in so doing she makes us laugh at ourselves.

Do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books from your local library. You won’t regret it.

Bright Spots

Today on our local NPR station, we were invited to send in our voice messages about our “bright spots” during this pandemic.

That got me thinking. What are my bright spots?

1. Baking with the Boys

Yeah, I’m trying to lose weight (it’s still going alright, though somewhat stalled).

But baking with the boys is so much fun! We’ve made scones, all kinds of cookies (chocolate chip, sables, New Zealand afghan biscuits, etc.), Irish soda bread, pies, tarts, cranberry upside-down cake, muffins…

Today, we made one of my absolute favorites yet: a blueberry “plain cake” by Dorie Greenspan.

OH. MY. LORD. This cake is SO GOOD.

The secret is beating the egg whites until stiff and gently folding them in. The boys were fascinated with this process.

(Though admittedly they’re usually in it to lick the beaters and bowls.)

The cake is now sitting on our counter, and I can hear its siren call…

2. FaceTime with Family & Friends

Another bright spot has been talking on FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp video, Houseparty, or WHATEVER… with family and friends.

Today, I spoke with my godparents over FaceTime. Seeing their smiling (and HEALTHY!!) faces was a delight (though I was a bit frazzled by the boys–sorry about that!).

I’ve been on Zoom with friends from my master’s program in the UK, girlfriends across the world in NZ and Australia, and family in Europe & the States.

It’s true that as this has stretched on, the novelty has worn off and there have been fewer digital happy hours. But they still happen, and when they do, they’re certainly a bright spot.

3. Reading as a Family

Reading alone and as a family has been one of the biggest bright spots.

We read a lot before the pandemic too, don’t get me wrong. But in the fall of 2019, we started reading chapter books with the Bug.

We got ourselves a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, and using that and Goodreads, we’ve built a reading list for the Bug.

Since starting down that path, we have never looked back. The Bug is now an independent reader, and picks his own books at the library each week.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to be read to, though. He loves sharing the joy of reading, and a huge part of our stuck-at-home routine has been reading out loud together.

Not just before bed, but all throughout the day. I’ll read to them while they eat their ridiculously early lunch. I’ll read when they need to wind down. We’ll hunt for all the books we have on a certain theme (“snow,” “pets,” “summer,” etc.).

In fact, both the boys love reading so much that we launched a little YouTube project: Stories with Sammy (the Bear). Mostly I read the stories, but Felix also reads for us. The latest video is actually Sammy reading!

How can this not be a bright spot?!?

What Are Your Bright Spots?

I realize I am so lucky to have these bright spots. So many people have none.

What are your bright spots? What little moments, no matter how tiny, help you get through as this pandemic drags on?

Thinking of them helps. And hopefully looking for them will bring more.

Talking to Kids About Death

We got some sad news before the weekend.

The teacher’s assistant in the Bug’s online kindergarten class died in her sleep early last Thursday morning.

She had been off from school for about a week, the Bug’s teacher having told the class that Mrs. H wasn’t feeling well and was taking some days off.

So we knew she was unwell, but we had no idea how unwell.

Hard News

Chico and I were upset to learn of Mrs. H’s death. Though we didn’t know her well at all, we felt like she was part of the household.

We heard her voice every school day, coming through the speakers on the Bug’s computer. She rounded up the kids and got them ready to focus on the day.

She would chat with each child a bit before lessons began, and often shared little anecdotes of her own in response to the kids’ stories. She was a calm, kind presence in the Bug’s class.

Knowing how much the Bug liked Mrs. H, and worried about how he would take the news, we agreed to wait until the weekend to tell him.

His Reaction

On Saturday, when we were sitting together as a family, we broke him the news.

Without discussing it previously, Chico and I knew to use very clear, unequivocal language. In both Spanish and English, we told him that Mrs. H has died. Her heart has stopped beating, and her body has stopped working. She will not be back in his class.

We told him how sad we felt about her death, and how it made us feel like crying. We told him we would miss hearing her voice through the computer.

We each told a story of something she had said that made us happy to remember. Then we asked him to try and remember something about Mrs. H that made him happy.

He was fiddling with a piece of Lego in his hands, and he seemed distracted. He said, smiling, “If I have to think of something about Mrs. H that makes me happy, I’ll be thinking a long time! She always makes me happy!” Then he didn’t seem interested in engaging any more on the subject.

We told him that if he felt sad about Mrs. H not coming back, he could talk to us or to his teacher. He smiled, nodded, and went back to playing.

I, for one, was a bit surprised at his seeming lack of interest in the subject. But I reminded myself of several important points:

1. Mrs. H was a virtual presence to the Bug.

School for the Bug has been something he participates in through a screen. Mrs. H was only recognizable to him as a face on his computer.

While he enjoys his virtual schooling, I think that puts a bit of distance between him and the teachers and other kids in his class. Almost as if they’re not entirely real.

2. Her death is an abstract idea to him.

The Bug learned about her death on a Saturday, more than a week since the last time he saw her. His life isn’t materially altered by her absence, and he has yet to interact with others who might be sad about her death.

He may feel it more keenly when he “goes” back to school on Monday morning and she isn’t there. I don’t know what his teacher plans to say to the kids, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone brought it up.

3. Children grieve in fits and starts.

According to an expert interviewed by NPR, kids don’t process grief all at once.

(Neither do adults, as a matter of fact.)

What may barely elicit a shrug one day might be keenly felt the next.

And as a child grows, the grief of losing a relative or someone close to them years before can come back with renewed force as their understanding improves.

There May Be More To Come

While he may have appeared uninterested or unconcerned when he got the news, I would be surprised if the subject didn’t come up again.

The Bug is highly sensitive, and he will surely be influenced by his teacher’s reaction, or the reactions of other children in his class.

I expect we’ll get occasional questions about Mrs. H, and about death in general. He still asks questions about his Nana’s death (though he was only 2.5 when she died, he still remembers some).

The only thing we can do is to respond honestly, clearly (no euphemisms such as “passed away” or–God forbid–“went to sleep”) and kindly.

Where are Nana, Grammy (his great-grandmother) and Mrs. H? Well, we don’t really know for sure, but our Christian faith teaches us to expect Heaven: eternal rest in the company of God.

Kids At Funerals: Yes or No?

We had little choice. We had to take both the Bug and the Bear to their Nana’s funeral. Anyone who could have babysat them was going to be there anyway.

Besides, the Bear was three days old and my milk was about to come in.

For children as young as the Bug and the Bear were, I think it hardly matters to them that they were at the funeral.

I’ve read that experts advise giving older children the choice of whether or not to attend funerals. However, in the case of family members, I would expect our children to be there.

My mother firmly believed that children should participate in big family events, whether weddings, parties, reunions or funerals. I share that belief.

Mourning, especially for a family member, is done as a family. It is a communal activity. I would expect our kids to attend family funerals, but would not require them to go to other funerals.

Others may feel differently, but I have personal experience of missing a family funeral, and I still regret it.

Though I was visiting when he died, I had to go back to boarding school before I could attend my cousin’s funeral 18 years ago. I have always regretted that I wasn’t there to share that part of the grieving process with my extended family.

Not Easy, But Important

It’s never easy to talk about death, especially to kids.

But in the end, it is worth it. Death is a part of life and cannot be ignored.

If we hide that reality from our kids and isolate them from participating in the communal grieving process with the rest of their families (or friends), we deprive them of understanding how life and death are intertwined.

I don’t know how things will be for the Bug. He may not grieve much at all for Mrs. H. Or he may be slowly internalizing what’s happened–processing it in his own time.

And that’s really all we can do. Give it time.

Snowy Day Exercise

Does shovelling the snow count as a workout?

I tried to log it on Strava, but there’s no “shovelling” setting. It’s definitely more than a walk, but probably not quite a run.

And what about sledding?

Sledding is quite the workout, you know! Especially when your kids insist on you joining in. It’s not like I can stand at the top of the hill and just push them down.

I’m heaving myself on and off the sled, hauling myself and the sled up the hill, starting all over again.

I logged sledding as a walk, but I’ll need to strap on my heart rate monitor for Strava to really register how much work I’m actually doing.

If I had to guess, I’d call it an RPE of about 5. Nothing to sneer at, especially when it lasts HOURS AND HOURS.

Snowy Day Fun

The snow started here in northern Virginia on Saturday night, and it’s been snowing on and off since then.

It’s snow days #3 and 4 for the Bug, and he’s over the moon. They’ve already declared the snow day for tomorrow, and the Bug is already anticipating the fun we’re going to have.

Groundhog Day!

Tomorrow is also Groundhog Day! We’ve got a groundhog-related take-home craft to do. We picked ours up at the library this morning.

(We were some of the few people brave enough to venture to the library today.)

Quiet Days

As you can tell, these have been some quiet days. The boys are at home, activities and facilities are closed, and our days vary only in which storybooks we read and what’s for dinner from the Hello Fresh box.

The snow is a welcome change, and makes it that much easier to get outside.

It seems the entire region agrees, judging from this headline in the Washington Post.

While it was strange having to wear a mask while doing all these activities, it was such a relief to the confinement and grayness of winter in a pandemic.

Aching, Tired Bones

Despite having aching, tired bones and muscles, I’m so glad this snow is here.

Anything to break up the tedium, and bring a little joy to our days.


Photo credit: Charlotte Geary Photography.

Anyone For Tennis?

One of my Christmas gifts this year from my beloved Chico was tennis lessons.

That’s right! I haven’t played since senior year in high school, and yet here I am, new tennis racket in hand and hitting the courts…

AT 8 O’CLOCK ON SATURDAY MORNING.

Now I do like a lie-in, and my Chico, being a morning person, very generously lets me laze about on the weekends.

But now I’m having to haul my lazy self out of bed bright and early on these cold winter Saturday mornings to go chase down some tennis balls.

And you know what?

I’m Loving It!

Sure, it’s not easy to get up and out, but once I do, it’s so much fun.

There are three other adults in my class: a young couple and another lady. The other lady has played before and she’s definitely the strongest of the four of us.

It wasn’t long before we all exchanged numbers, realizing (as one does) that playing for one hour a week isn’t enough for us to really improve.

This week we met up for the first time outside of tennis lessons.

Not Feeling It At First…

I was half-tempted to bail. I’d done my workout this morning and wasn’t feeling up to much this evening.

But Chico wasn’t going to let me bail. He was almost more excited than I was about my going to play!

So I kitted up, put on my tennis shoes and headed over to the courts.

Boy I’m Glad I Did

Exercise always makes me feel better! And doing something socially like playing tennis doubles? It’s the best.

Not only did I get my exercise-induced endorphin rush, but I also got my fix of social(ly distanced) interaction!

My doubles partner warned me: “You get addicted to tennis doubles!” and I can really see why that happens.

You have the fun of playing tennis without killing yourself trying to cover the entire court. And you can meet some cool people! Playing at the HOA sports pavilion allows me to meet people who live locally.

Here’s To More Tennis!

My Chico just loves tennis, and our boys are getting into it, too. The Bug takes lessons with the same teacher as me later on Saturday mornings.

I’d love for this to become another activity that we all share, like bike riding. So here’s to more tennis!

Image sourced from the Washington Post

Craftivism & Gentle Protest

I’m currently reading a book by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective.

The Craftivist Collective, founded by Corbett, is

“an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.”

https://craftivist-collective.com/our-story/

In her book How to be a Craftivist: The art of gentle protest, Corbett walks through definitions of craft (noun, verb and metaphor), activism (“the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”), and how to marry the two into craftivism.

In 2003, Betsey Greer coined the word craftivism and defined it as

“…a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.”

https://craftivism.com/definition/

Gentle Protest

What I love about Corbett’s book is her focus on gentle protest.

By her definition, gentle protest is not passive or weak, but instead it is kind, empathetic, supportive, compassionate and thoughtful.

Much of the book emphasizes the importance of doing your research: not just on the issue that you are tackling, but also truly getting to know the people you are trying to reach out to.

Corbett’s method of protesting is revolutionary because it puts the focus not on anger (though a measure of anger is needed to spark action), but on positive relationship-building.

She writes that instead of being enemies to those we disagree with, we should be “critical friends.”

How I Can Use Craftivism

I’m not going to do a full write-up of the book here. It’s easy enough to get a hold of a copy if you’re interested, or poke around more on the Craftivist Collective website.

But reading this book, a couple of ideas have struck me about how I can use craftivism to try and make small positive changes in our neighborhood.

Starting with some new neighbors we have.

We live in a townhouse, tightly sandwiched between our neighbors. The walls are about as thin as cardboard, and we hear a lot of what goes on next door (as do, I imagine, our neighbors!).

The house immediately next to ours on one side is a rental property, and we have already seen three different tenants come and go. The owner does the bare minimum to keep the house up and has proved himself to be a terrible landlord to previous tenants.

The current renters don’t seem to care too much about the state of the house. They’re a group of truck drivers who share the rent (probably against zoning laws…) and use the place as a crash pad. They didn’t even move furniture in for a couple of weeks!

Needless to say, these are not ideal neighbors for a family with small children. The first encounter we had with them was to ask them firmly but politely not to throw their cigarette butts in the shared public spaces. We’ve had to ask them to quiet down numerous times, including last night when they woke us up at 1am because they were out on their back terrace smoking and laughing.

There is definitely tension between us, and it makes for passive-aggressive behavior like loud music late at night and carelessly slamming doors.

Inspired by Craftivism

Corbett writes how the unexpectedly friendly nature of craftivism is part of its efficacy. Its basis in kindness and empathy disarms people and opens up avenues of positive, constructive interaction.

So I figured, why not try a similar approach with these neighbors?

Instead of allowing tension to build, why not adopt Corbett’s approach to try and difuse it?

After all, there is nothing we can do about these neighbors. We can’t get them evicted, and we don’t want to keep treading on each other’s toes.

I may not incorporate cross-stitching or knitting, but my idea was as simple as baking a batch of cookies and putting it in a tin with a nice hand-written note with the following quote:

“No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor.”

Danish Proverb

Starting Small

I may give this a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If it goes well, I have a further idea of how to use craftivism to tackle a problem in our neighborhood: littering.

I’ll keep you posted.

Knitting Super Power

I have reached knitter’s Nirvana, dear readers.

I hoped this day would come, and it could be that I’ve been here for a while but have only just realized it.

My eyes are opened now, and there is no looking back!

What is this glorious place? I will tell you.

I don’t need to look at my hands while I knit.

Don’t laugh! Don’t scoff! This is a BIG DEAL!

Don’t you understand what this means??

THIS MEANS I CAN READ WHILE I KNIT!

This is a Good Thing for many reasons.

Firstly, it means that I don’t have to set aside separate times for reading and knitting! I can do both at once!

Secondly, it means I can advance on the Bug’s sweater WHILE AT THE SAME TIME working to finish my library book that is due tomorrow.

Finally, it means that I can occupy two happy places at once.

Who could ask for anything more?

Motivation Flagging

I was doing SO WELL!

I was steadily losing weight. My energy levels were up, my fitness levels were great, and my digestion! Well, I won’t go into the details, but it was great.

Then Came Christmas.

The Christmas cookies. The Panettone. The mulled wine. The port wine! The red wine! The white wine! THE CHAMPAGNE!

My normal rule of only having an alcoholic drink on the weekends went out the window.

That’s not to say I drank to excess, but I had more frequent glasses of wine than usual.

And it wasn’t just the tasty booze. Chico spoiled me rotten with littleneck clams and hake on Christmas eve. New Year’s Eve was yet another culinary treat.

Everything was too tasty to have just one helping!

So Naturally…

The numbers stopped moving downward on the scale. They halted and hovered. Then they crept back up slightly.

While I kept up my regular exercise, it wasn’t enough to counteract the excesses of the table.

And so I fell back into bad habits. My blood sugar started spiking and dipping as it had always done before.

All the hard work I had put into levelling out my blood sugar and fighting hanger, lost!

CURSES AND DAMNATION!

Struggling to Get Back to It

And so here we are in January, and I’m struggling to get back into the habits I had fought so hard to build before the holidays.

The funny part is, I felt so much better before indulging over the holidays.

I notice it especially in my mood, my energy levels and my digestive health. Overindulging in carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol has thrown my system out of whack.

But the addictive nature of these foods makes it hard to break the cycle.

A Little Willpower & A Lot of Help

It’s time for a little force of will and a lot of moral support.

Part of the willpower is removing temptations. Like the Bug’s leftover birthday cake, the panettone lingering in the bread bin, the opened bottle of wine in the fridge, the Christmas treats…

I may face pushback from other members of the family, but they’ll get over it. They’ve had plenty!

The other side of the willpower coin is taking the time to plan. Now that we’re back to our normal routine, I have to remember to plan appropriately for meals.

That means making sure the fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy options.

The help and moral support mostly comes from my Chico who is pretty much the only other adult I see on a regular basis these days.

But encouragement from family and friends, and from those of you who read this blog is a big help.

Not About the Number

In the end, though, this effort I’m making isn’t so much about the number on the scale.

(Though that number is definitely a factor, I can’t lie. Numbers mean a lot.)

The biggest motivation behind my desire to lose weight is to avoid the persistent back problems I’ve had.

Since dropping 5kg and increasing my overall fitness and strength, I haven’t had a single crisis with my lower back.

That’s huge. I used to have them nearly every month, and I had a particularly bad one in the fall that left me nearly immobile for a whole day.

(Joining the kids on the trampoline might have had something to do with that…)

So while it is nice to see numbers trending downwards on the scale, and measurements shrinking, the biggest reward is being pain-free and being able to hop up the stairs two at a time from the basement to the top floor without being winded.

So I’m ready to hold onto that thought, and get back into the business of taking care of myself.

Because if I don’t take care of myself, how will I take care of my boys?

Compulsive Phone Checking

You want to see something freaky?

Go into your settings and look at your screen time report.

Earlier this year I finally turned off my screen time report notification when it kept telling me that my average weekly screen time was creeping up.

I looked at it today for the first time in a while, and it’s at 1 hour and 28 minutes per day on average. That’s down 29% from last week!

The truth is, picking up my smartphone has become almost a compulsive behavior.

Put Into Perspective

Let’s be generous and say I sleep eight hours a night. That gives us 16 waking hours left per day.

If, on average, I’m spending 1.5 hours per day on my phone, that leaves me 14 and 1/2 hours left in my day.

That doesn’t sound too bad.

But when I compare that to the time I spend doing my hobbies, that’s when it starts to seem like a lot.

  • Reading: I definitely don’t read 1.5 hours a day.
  • Knitting: if I knitted that long every day I’d have serious shoulder pains!
  • Writing: nope.
  • Exercising: it’s about 30 minutes every other day.
  • Playing piano: I play for max. ten minutes if I’m lucky.

And remember: 1.5 hours is down 29% from last week! What was I DOING last week??

Checking the Phone Compulsively

I wake up, I check my phone. (The first pickup today was at 7:35am.)

My phone lives in my back pocket or sits next to me on the counter. It follows me upstairs, downstairs, outside… To the bathroom…

(Don’t tell me you don’t do it!)

Any change in pace or activity, any lull and I whip it out.

Mostly I’m on WhatsApp and Instagram. On WhatsApp I’m at least interacting with family and friends.

But on Instagram, it’s just mindless scrolling. I shoot past post after post, pausing occasionally to unmute and watch a video, or to like something.

The worst part is, though, that I’ve clicked on some Instagram ads. And have even bought off of Instagram ads!

Each time it happens I get SO ANNOYED with myself! I’m behaving exactly as Mark Zuckerberg wants me to and making him money with each stupid purchase.

Gah! Damn the man!

Why the Compulsive Checking?

I’ve been wondering about this. What is causing me to constantly reach for my phone?

Why am I mindlessly scrolling? Checking for messages I know have not come? Looking for likes when I haven’t posted anything?

What does it give me? Is it escapism? Am I doing it out of boredom?

Maybe it’s just become a habit, like twirling my hair. It certainly feels that mindless most of the time.

Looking for Contact?

Or is it that I’m desperately looking for contact?

I’d have to delve a little deeper into my screen time data to see if the pandemic has had much of an impact on my phone use.

Since we’re not seeing much of anyone, the phone is my only point of contact with anyone outside my household.

Perhaps this compulsive phone checking is simply an expression of loneliness.

What To Do?

1 .Forgive myself:

It’s okay to be desperate for contact in these socially distanced times. I think we can all relate to that.

2. Set some ground rules for phone use:

Not at the table. Not when I’m spending time with my Chico or the kids. Never in the car. Leave it downstairs at bedtime.

3. Delete Instagram:

I’ve done this before, and it was good. I still used my phone a lot for WhatsApp and other messaging apps, but at least I stopped the mindless scrolling (and stupid purchases. Damn you, Mark Zuckerberg!).

4. Wear my watch:

One of the biggest reasons I pick up my phone is to look at the time. Wearing a watch precludes that necessity.

5. Forgive myself again:

Don’t get mad at myself for failing to do any or all of the above. Even being more aware of my compulsive phone checking is a positive step forward.