As Maille previously explained on PD, tech companies addict us with intermittent reinforcement. Sometimes you get a notification; other times, there’s nothing. It’s one of the many features of our screen gadgets that keep us forever glued. But imagine what would happen if one day, your fingers stopped working, and were too weak to click around on your smartphone.
This was the nightmare I faced after some botched dermarolling back in April. I was suddenly unable to type more than a word on my MacBook without major discomfort—my poor hands! Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do but adapt. Here’s how my finger injury forced me offline and rebalanced my life.
Hoping an all-out break would do me well, I decided to go six days without touching a button. After hiding away my devices, the first way I coped was by walking. I walked so much! I guess you could say I made up for the lack of exciting pings by pleasuring my body through endorphins.
It was incredible to experience my default state shift from sitting to walking. Whenever I didn’t know what else to do with myself, I would step outside and go for a stroll. This provided such a healthier form of refreshment than scrolling a feed while sprawled across a mattress. Not only were my legs getting stronger, but my pride was, too. I thought, “I want to be like this all the time—a person who has a reputation for walking, and can inspire others to move more.”
Next, I read. I returned with exhilaration from my library haul ready to absorb all the Indigenous experience, disability theory, and the book Factfulness which helped me appreciate human progress over the past two centuries. I also got Spanish children’s books to brush up on my second language while comforting myself during this time of injury and uncertainty. I realized I had a long way to go at improving my reading comprehension and stamina, but even just six days of consuming print media was calming to my mind and it improved my concentration.
A third big change to my daily life was that I spent time dreaming of the future. Despite my active imagination, I had always found this tough; it felt like too much pressure and responsibility to try to picture my true desires. Stepping away from the instant gratification of Google for a week was very helpful in this regard. I had a lot more space to observe my thoughts, and I soon became aware that I was taking the future way too seriously!
When we imagine how the future might go, it is in no way a done deal. We can even say to ourselves, “I would like for this, or something even better to happen, for the highest good of all.” As I walked my neighborhood countless times, I got in the habit of making mental lists as I went. I’d think of ten random future moments I hoped to experience; from there, I might lock into one of those ten and start to flesh it out in more detail. Since I didn’t know what was going on with my hands or how much hope there would be, I visualized some futures where my fingers were recovered, and other futures where I was able to work again and share stories again without needing to type. My relationship with the future went from fearful, to playful!
After all of that walking around outside in deep thought—while stopping to read The Secret World of Farm Animals or Mariposas en la calle Carmen—I was well-sunned and pleasantly tired. Free from glowing screens, I spent time in the sun’s glow morning and evening. It reattuned me to get sleepy naturally.
Yes, without a doubt, my finger injury showed me what I needed to rebalance in my life. Always the writer, I had been spending so many of my waking hours either overthinking my articles, or trying to keep a flawlessly concise diary. Fueled by addictive modern technology, my strength had become a crutch. While the loss of my ability to type was devastating, I quickly flipped it into a beautiful memory of six days spent walking, reading books, thinking clearer about my present and future, and sleeping sweeter. Once the six days were up, I learned to use voice-to-text—which forced me to be less perfectionistic—and instead of blogging, I vlogged! I suppose finger injury is one way to break through your camera shyness…
As with most technology fasts, mine was not without a relapse into old habits. As my fingers have improved, I once again catch myself in the hypnosis of notifications and the haze of excess screen time. Fortunately, I still have a whole life ahead of me to balance the instant bliss of typing on a phone, with the freedom and clarity of being without it. And to become that consistent walker, book reader, early sleeper, dream life manifester, and camera-brave person I know I can be!
There will be many more breaks and rebalancings to come. I only ask that next time, it not be because a finger injury forces me. Instead, I will pay attention to when something feels out of balance, and change it straight away!
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Photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash