Untrained Heart: My Life In Front of Glass
I don’t know when the amount of time I spend in front of glass every day tipped over the 90 percent mark. I just know that it happened.
6:30 AM. I wake up and carry my phone to the bathroom. No one to call that early but still plenty to do. I am a fanatic about having zero unread emails. There are 58 emails unread emails in the average morning. I am subscribed to 62 different lists that send notifications I dutifully select and mark as read.
There are also seven badge notifications that indicate there is fresh content on several apps. The overnight updates made by insomniacs. I tap on Facebook, then LinkedIn, followed by Twitter, for the sole reason that I don’t like seeing the badge notifications. Makes me feel lazy if I just leave them unattended.
Maybe you have a psychological problem? Are you obsessive compulsive?
I considered this. But in so many other areas of my life I am a sloth. I don’t keep my house clean. I don’t change the oil in my car. I am very slow to return favors and invitations. When it comes to my digital life though, I am a neat freak. I religiously update all software and apps. All of my documents, pictures, videos and graphics go in logically nested folders. I keep a super clean virtual desktop. And there no unattended notifications.
7:15 AM. I tap the icons and check if there are already fresh updates on any apps. If there are it borders on annoyance because I am still only awake enough for the activity to be a chore. I glance at any of the messages with the same level of interest I have for the volume of words that come with my prescriptions. None, in case you missed the sarcasm. I just want the number at the corner of the app icon to go away. I don’t want to be haunted by the guilt of failing to pay attention to important notification. What if there really is big news and I failed to act? I’ll never know since I typically ignore the actual content. It’s clear the notices mean nothing to me. So perhaps it is obsessive compulsion driving this ritual.
There are worse problems to have. And hopefully this doesn’t go on all day, right?
7:45 AM. I am finishing my second cup of coffee and reading on my Kindle.
I always have books in progress. There is the book I am breezing through because it is great, or at least good enough. A few icons further to the right on the carousel is the book that I started, enjoyed for the first few hours, but lost interest beyond that so it floats away from a recently viewed status until lingering at the tail end of the animated thumbnail parade, eventually being removed in a moment of digital housekeeping.
I check email again. Since I can’t stand knowing there are unread emails I tap every folder where the new messages have been routed by my 259 filtering rules. The items I should read and follow up on get stars. Others receive a glace, pass the test to be saved, but require no action so they will rest in a work folder, or subscription bin or personal file in perpetuity. Piles of other messages get the boot and are deleted right away. I rarely unsubscribe from anything, in part because of the myth that unsubscribing alerts spammers you are a real person and places you on more lists you do not want to be.
8:30 AM. I arrive at my desk at work. I setup my laptop on top of a low bookshelf so I can spend at least some of the day standing in from of a computer instead of sitting. I start out sitting in front of the dual monitors that comprise my workday horizon. I set my background to rotate and display wilderness scenes every thirty minutes, so there is some sense that I am not sitting in the exact same spot every day for 9 hours, which of course is exactly what I am doing.
You have a job and work at a desk with a computer all day. That is your big complaint about your life?
10:35 AM. I realize I have been sitting a long time. The only break I took was to get coffee so I stand and flip open the laptop. I can’t resist checking email there, even though I just looked while sitting moments before. It must be a sense memory that my body craves that ritual when first arriving at any of my four virtual desktops: Kindle, iPhone, laptop and desktop computer.
12:10 PM. We sit behind a glass windshield and drive 3 minutes to a nearby restaurant. There are a few large monitors hanging in corners of the restaurant. We avoid sitting too close to them because they are broadcasting content that is politically incorrect to me and my coworker. But their presence is known throughout the mean, even if not squared up in my vision.
If the TVs bother you so much, you can’t pick a different place to eat?
6:00 PM. Drive home from work.
The panoramic view through glass windows in a moving vehicle has long been a favorite of mine. I am able to remain relatively motionless yet my person is being hurled through space. Trees and an abundance of nature fly past. Large masses of buildings, grouped together by their function to assist us in keeping an organized migration pattern to our day: homes, convenience stores, shopping malls, office centers, and then reverse the commute at the end of the day.
6:30 PM. Since our children decided to grow up and leave home, my wife and I eat in front of the television. We talk plenty but that is the dining experience of choice. We watch nothing in particular if we are talking, but then we get specific at some point and arrange our next 3 hours based on the 8 episodic shows we are following or binge watching at any given time of year.
You are choosing to spend your time this way! Stop complaining!
7:25 PM. I have been wandering around apps on my phone while we watch the first show. By the second show I open my laptop and switch to reading news, which means browsing blogs from authors who already share my view of the world. They interpret an event prior to me linking to coverage of the real thing. This helps me know what to think so I don’t waste time. They offer up practical and spiritual advice to bring down my stress level and point me toward a more enlightened, mindful way to spend my day. I am warmed with a sense of caring by the surety my convictions are not alone.
10:05 PM. Around this time I marvel at how tired I am, surprised that a day filled with coffee and sitting in front a glass screens can be so exhausting. I tell myself I will get in bed and read a book. Once I get into position the desire to watch random videos on YouTube becomes greater than the hard labor that reading might take.
I fall asleep with the Kindle close by, one earbud in and the other tucked under my pillow so the noise does not reach my wife. And so ends my day living in my glass house. The size of my glass window expands from phone size to car windshield and then contracts back down as the day ends. And most of the day is spent in front of several feet of computer monitor glass.
You think I have been complaining, I know, but I like my life. I am grateful I have work, love, food, a car, an iPhone, a Kindle, my laptop and dual monitors at work. It is just interesting how much of it takes place in front of glass.
That’s an untrained heart.