This morning I was awake quite a bit earlier than my usual 6-ish a.m. return from dreamland. After an hour of resting my eyes I decided I might as well get up, have a shower and continue the exercise of clearing the backlog of emails that I launched into yesterday. I was puzzled by my wakefulness as I usually sleep quite smoothly, and acknowledged the musing going on in me about what to offer in this writing. The intermittent sounds of low flying aircraft at 4 a.m. in the rain was also distracting, although my ‘on-growing’ gratitude continues to flow, for this warm shelter, for access to internet, for regular employment, for comfort of community and family (human and animal), and for my daily presence in the constant open-to-knowingness of ‘what is next’.
I am also grateful for the tip from a radio colleague years ago to make a multitude of named folders in my email program to help the seemingly endless emails disappear from my inbox. The reminder then is to visit those folders soon, before a few years have gone by, which is next on my list now that my inbox contains only those emails to which I wish to reply or to explore. My refreshed daily discipline is to open each newly arrived email and then ‘folder’ it or delete unless it requires a response or exploration, although my experience has been that the email total can inch up to 2,000 or more when my discipline lapses which is what inspired this recent launch to resolution. Earlier this year when it was over 15,000 I wondered how I would ever dissolve that mass. Finally willing to find a way at that time, I devoted a few hours to start with the oldest, so as to manage a full page at a time: checking the box at the top puts a check beside all of them on the page, and then I uncheck only the ones I wish to keep, to folder or review. Then press delete to say goodbye to all the ones still checked. Working from the oldest to the newest in this way is a real thrill, and once that sifting is complete, then I go page by page, again from the end, checking the ones that will go into a specific folder so that many can be moved out of sight at once. The joyful harvest of this exercise often includes synchronistic reconnection with friends, picking up threads of our email communication from months or years earlier.
Why do I receive so many emails? Aside from family and friends, I give my email address to lists of writers, musicians, coaches and groups that I wish to keep in touch with, to be informed, to learn, to grow. There are periodic waves when I unsubscribe to a handful of them, grateful when their confirmation form asks “why?” so I have the opportunity to say, “thank you, time to simplify my inbox life”. I also have been known to ask friends to cease including my address in the onslaught of ‘forwards’ because even though the content is often of interest, it leaves me thirsting for a personal email from them rather than being part of a mouse click to the crowd. This epidemic of email overload has created clarity within me to refrain from creating an e-newsletter of my own. When I have a new podcast and would like many people to know about my guest, I put an update on LinkedIn (professional network) and also on my website where people can visit by choice. When on rare occasions I send out a mass email, I ensure that all the email addresses are blank copied, to maintain the privacy of my contact list.
Ten years ago I was determined to remain free of the internet pull, certain that some of us had to stay ‘unplugged’ or no one would know the difference between that state of being and of being ‘plugged in’. Then in 2004 I walked through the open door to radio broadcasting and audio editing. The warmth of camaraderie at CHLY sustained me through many afternoon and evening hours there, editing recordings of my ‘live’ radio show; however, after awhile it was time for a computer to be established in my home. I managed to overcome the apprehension that I witness in many people today, and this year I even made the leap to buying a laptop. I now use my original desktop computer only for audio editing without internet attached to it. During my road trip earlier this year I found the laptop so versatile to be able to access internet in various coffee shops on the journey, happy to keep in touch, and at the same time, be concise and then be on my way.
So what have I learned since ‘INTERconNEcTivity’ has become part of my lifestyle? I have a deepened enjoyment of walking, reading (real books made of paper) and visiting with friends by phone and in person, in breaks from email communication, through which other dimensions of ourselves can be revealed to one another. Postal mail is now more precious for a slower rhythm of missive, with delivery of a card (or this magazine) in hand. Email can involve patience, awaiting the timing of the recipient’s reply, while also quickly facilitating decisions and arrangements. This can be very rewarding and build momentum between individuals and en masse. Research is swiftly attended to with immediate resources attained. The ‘webinar’ is a new educational forum. I am intrigued by the individualized nature of computer education, in how each person has strengths of knowledge based on what initially drew them to it, as it was for me with the audio editing and communication with guests for my radio show. We learn from each other as we share our discoveries. When I transitioned from traditional photography to digital, I was released from the great expense of printing that I used to endure and can now more easily share images with others. I love typing, one of the practical skills that I learned in grade 7 that continues to serve me well today. I wander in the timelessness of following links to features on ‘YouTube’ and the websites of friends, of being educated, of laughing, being moved, being depressed, being enlightened, being disillusioned, being inspired, and ending up farther than I ever expected to journey in an hour or four. I am in awe of the magic and magnitude of the internet community, of how we are able to grow together — our light becoming ever brighter as the crescendo of our darkness is embraced by that brightness, to be revealed, and healed.
I’ll rest easier this night, I imagine, because I am rewarded yet again by the picture of your eyes reading these words, that from the fullness of my heart I am able to assemble for you, with thanks.
Lynn Thompson is the host and producer of radio show ‘Living on Purpose’. For podcasts visit LivingOnPurposeLynn.com