When I look back over this month, I realize that it has been a hard one for me. An assault on our capitol, fear over threats of violence to our democratic institutions, a still-raging pandemic, uncertainties about new and more dangerous mutations of the virus, and a slower-than-anticipated vaccine schedule have all taken their emotional toll on me this month. Yet in the midst of all this, I’ve started the year strong. I’ve managed to keep many of the promises that I made to myself at the beginning of the year. I quit social media this month. I’m writing for 5-minutes each morning, I’m exercising regularly, and I’m creating more margin in my life for my family. The outer world has felt chaotic this month, but the world inside my walls is as it should be.
In the spirit of Emily P. Freeman’s admonition for reflection at the end of this month–Here are the things that stand out:
The decision to quit social media was a good one for me this month.
I think the best thing I have done this month is simply to unplug from social media. To be clear, I didn’t intend to do this when I woke up on January 1st. I write more about this here, but I made this decision pretty impulsively. Also, I safeguarded my decision immediately by wiping by devices of all traces of FaceBook and Instagram. The most surprising thing for me with this change is how little I miss it. There have been only a small handful of times that I have reached for my phone to check Instagram only to remember that it isn’t there. The benefit to my life with this change is immense. I have more processing to do on this, but the two things that I will mention is that the absence of social media has brought two important things to my life: time and emotional stability. I did not realize how much time was being sucked down the hole of Instagram scrolling, nor did I fully comprehend how much my slight variations in mood had to do with something I noticed on FaceBook.
One main fear that I had when I made this decision was that I would not be able to hear from the voices on social media that actually speak life in to me. I follow a handful of people that I truly want to hear from because they add immense value to my life. That has been an easy fix though–I’ve been able to subscribe to their weekly newsletters or blogs. I don’t have to be aware of everything they post on Instagram–a once a week check-in is enough. I have many more thoughts on this that I will likely put down in writing at some point, but suffice it to say, this has been the best change I have made this month.
Over-consumption of the news is never good for my emotional health–even in historic and unprecidented times.
As I read back through my journal this month–one thing stands out. A clear message to myself that says–you are watching too much news. I know I am. With all the progress and time I have gained with quitting social media, I have lost much of that time this month down a never ending news-cycle hole. In all fairness to myself, this has been a month for news. A contentious electoral college meeting, an attempted coup, the Inauguration of a new President, and a pandemic are all news worthy events. I have felt that I’m living in a historical moment, and I want to be able to talk to my grandkids about all of this one day. I care deeply about some of these topics, and I want to stay informed. Staying informed, however, does not justify CNN playing in the background morning to night. Staying informed doesn’t mean checking news sources before I get out of the car to go in to Aldi’s, or listening to one news podcast after another in the pick-up line. There are ways I can stay informed with what is happening in the world without drowning in it. This is the mistake that I have made this month.
As of this writing, I’m on Day 2 of a significantly modified news-consumption routine. Yesterday, after I bought $60 worth of KN95 masks after watching coverage on the new variant of Covid-19, Frank confronted me. Go a day without the news, he challenged me. Remarkably, I ruffled at the suggestion. I resisted this challenge more than quitting social media even, and truly after one day–it was harder for me to quit. Knowing that I couldn’t go the entire day, I agreed to only watch the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. I kept the TV off, and I didn’t check any other online news sources until Lester Holt at 5:30pm. The change was significant. Similar to my first day without social media, I discovered more time to do more meaningful things. I even took a walk in the park in the cold, and it was wonderful to be outside. I was also less worried about Covid-19. I’m still working out the logistics of this change, but I already know it’s a going to be a good one.
“Your spark is not your purpose” – Jerry the Counselor in the movie Soul.
On New Year’s Eve, we watched Soul with the boys. I had heard it a was a cute move, but little did I know it would contain a valuable lesson for me personally. Without giving a full-summary of the movie, there is a specific scene where a God-type figure clarifies a certain important point about our purpose. He says simply, “Your spark is not your purpose.” I had to rewind and watch this seemingly insignificant part of the move more than once to let this message sink in to my own soul. I realized, in processing this, that I have long confused the things that bring me the most joy (my spark) for my purpose in life. I love to read (maybe that’s my purpose?), I like writing sometimes (maybe that’s my purpose?). This has always confused me because what I spend the most time doing each day isn’t necessarily connected to what I love to do. This message then–that what I love to do isn’t necessarily tied to my purpose in life–was very freeing for me. No longer did I need to try to connect what I love with what I’m doing. Rather, the things I can enjoy can be simply that–things I enjoy.
I’m so grateful for the way that God has guided me through this first month of 2021 even though parts of it have been hard. On to February!