Do you ever feel like you can't keep up? I don't know if it's the energetic shift I feel from a year of such a radical schedule adjustment, but I feel constantly overwhelmed by small tasks. I look at my text notifications and see that I have thirty unread messages from several days of being too stressed to respond to people. I see that my email inboxes are packed with not only junk mail and piled up to-do lists (check the bank statement, update credit card information on this site, etc.), but also with loving, thoughtful emails from friends. Sometimes I forget about these for months, and all along, I beat myself up for not being in touch enough, or not being "social enough" for others.
I try to set an hour or two aside two or three times a week to tackle as many of these as I can, but it never seems to even make a dent. I can't bring myself to spend more time than that without sacrificing work or my mental health. Missed calls go unreturned, appointments get cancelled, friends get let down. I look at the clock and realize half of my day is gone, just playing catch up, and meanwhile my book sits unedited, my songs sit in a notebook untouched, and something has to give. It's usually my creative work that goes. Then I feel depleted and sad. It's a vicious cycle and it happens every week. Some people seem to be able to handle this well; I don't know what's wrong with me.
I read somewhere that we're going to reach a critical mass of how much humans can correspond. Email is the primary culprit of study right now, and researchers are starting to believe that it's already out of control. True, emails and texts are a quick and efficient ways to contact and communicate with someone but when everyone's doing it, there's just no way to strike a balance. I look forward to some data on this, if only to justify my own anxiety and guilt over perpetually being a "bad" daughter, friend, or employee.
This past week I took a trip and set my away message up. I really tried to unplug. But then the power in our building went out, students forgot I was on vacation and called/texted/emailed me, and others simply didn't care that I was trying to disconnect for this necessary mental breath of fresh air. The pressure to be "on" at all times feels inescapable.
I love meaningful one-on-one meals and social activities with people I love. I like the ritual of being a pen pal and sending emails to friends. It's not that I'm seeking a hermit's life, but sometimes I am deterred from picking up the phone to call someone by the onslaught of notifications before I can even do so.
What do you do to keep your email burden (and all of the other ones) at bay? In an ever-connected world, do you have tips on how to step away at times? Help me out!
Above, a picture of a hawk we saw on our (attempted) vacation retreat in rural Illinois. John saw it bathing in a little creek, and after that it sort of followed us around. Pretty neat.
Until tomorrow, stay safe, stay well, and stay kind.