There is life beyond wi-fi

Recently one of my haiku friends remarked to me that it’s hard to find silence in an age where we’re all carrying around so many electronic devices. I started to think about that. It’s true in a way. If we’re not listening to music or watching videos we’re receiving alerts or playing games. We’re constantly in touch with the news, with Facebook, with email, and with other sources, so even if we’ve got physical silence, the mental silence we all need to breathe can sometimes be compromised. We are not doomed. There are several ways to combat this even if you don’t want to toss your devices off the nearest pier. Here are some suggestions:

  • Remember that they have an “off” button. You may need to be connected, but do you need to be connected at this very moment? You’ll probably be more productive if you check your email or social media less frequently and respond to everything at a dedicated time. Put down the phone and pick up your coffee. Relax a little.
  • Use the device to introduce peace and order into your day. Even though our electronics can feel like our masters, they really are tools—very powerful ones. Use a to-do app to list your concerns and get on with your day. I’ve also found some great apps that ring a mindfulness bell at random moments—when the bell chimes, I take a moment to take a deep breath and look around me. 
  • Consider observing the Sabbath. Many religious traditions set aside Saturday or Sunday as a day to disconnect from daily routines and reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. This is a tradition you can adopt for yourself, regardless of your faith. If you simply must stay in touch, perhaps you can take some quiet time for yourself in smaller chunks. Go outside and take a walk amongst the trees. Go to a gym and sit in the sauna. Share a meal with friends.

You are in charge of your electronics. If you make your choices using joy as your compass you may find that you’re using them in whole new ways. Have fun out there!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
229. How do you use electronics? In what ways do they enhance your life? In what way do they detract? What can you do to optimize your experience?



Sip by sip

Seattle has its obsessions, and a lot of them can be poured into a glass. Today I’m going to share our drinkable culture with you.

Most people know about Seattle’s coffee fixation, and it is as intense as it is rumored to be. Many blocks have multiple coffee shops, and some people will only go to specific ones. Most coffee snobs avoid Starbucks in favor of independent places where they still use manual espresso machines, because the baristas can alter the shots on machines like that. We also like to support our independents. I love this facet of Seattle, because it means I can get great coffee on almost any corner. Unfortunately, some places do not have drip coffee, and that’s my usual beverage of choice. Americanos just don’t do it for me.

Seattleites also love tea, especially that spiced-up concoction known as chai. It’s based on black tea, and usually features cinnamon, sweetness and a bit of milk. Chai can be a heavenly thing. Here there are passionate feelings, too. Some think that chai should be sweet, like a spice cake. Others, myself included, like our chai spicy. I worship at Travelers, where they make their chai from scratch using black pepper and a modicum of sweetener. I am addicted.

Alcoholic drinks are popular here, too, as they are throughout the world. Seattle has numerous bars where they make fancy cocktails. I had a lovely sage cucumber vodka martini a few years back, and a mai tai at a tiki bar for my birthday.

Washington is a wine-growing state, so wine is everywhere. The grocery stores have enormous selections, and something tasty is always on sale. There are special wine bars where you can go to educate your palate or torment your liver. It’s a popular entertainment.

Seattle is also big on beer. There are many micro-breweries in the Northwest, and some of them even have restaurants where you can go and get a beer sampler. I love to do this. I don’t drink much, and it’s great to be able to sample a number of beers all at once while consuming only a few pints. These breweries have frequent seasonal specials, and I had a marvelous pepper beer a few weeks back.

I think Seattle culture is so focused around liquid refreshments because it’s relaxed here. People like to take the time to sit and talk with each other. I love that about Seattle. I toast the city with my glass of chai. Mmm, spicy.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

152. When did you last take time to sit and talk with a friend? Pick the beverages of your choice and do it again today.

Unleaded, please

Today I am celebrating my sixth day off drugs. I’m not a recovering heroin addict, and I’ve never done crack. I’ve never even had a puff of pot. Today is my sixth day without caffeine. I know this sounds a wee bit melodramatic, because caffeine is a drug that many of us consume every day. There are mugs, bumper stickers, and posters devoted to the worship of leaded coffee. Energy drinks are a big seller at grocery and convenience stores. It’s popular because it’s an easily available, legal high. Today is my sixth day without.

I think caffeine is fine in small doses, but over time it builds up in my body. I get to a point where no amount of the stuff wakes me up. Once this happens I feel tired and stretched thin all the time. A short respite from caffeine clears up my system and I feel normal again. I notice something during these occasional fasts. While I am without caffeine I get more sleep, because I know I will not be using an artificial prop to keep myself alert. I actually feel better and more attentive than I do when I’m drinking leaded coffee. I also drink more water when every sip does not come from a paper carton of java. I like decaf but I don’t drink nearly as much coffee when it doesn’t have the stimulant effect. When I drink decaf, I only drink it for the taste.

I try to stay aware of how the things that I consume affect my personal chemistry. I truly believe that what I eat and drink has a lot of influence over my health and general well-being. Of course it’s hard to make decisions solely on this basis. Like most people, I eat most things simply because I want them in the moment, or because they are the most convenient. I’m trying to pay more attention to my body. I usually go back to drinking caffeine after a week or so. This time I might not—after all, I feel better without it. When I really stop to think about which food choices give me more joy, I almost always choose the ones that are better for my health. I might even go out of my way for something I truly, joyfully, want. That makes my daily decisions a lot easier, and that’s great, too. Joy just may be a wonder drug—here I am, addicted all over again.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

82. What’s one tiny joyful step you could take today towards a healthier lifestyle? Do it!

Right there on the wall

I walked over to Cafe Ladro the other day for a cup of coffee to bring back to work. I looked up, and there was a sign from above—literally. The sign was part of an art display and it said something very important in big letters. The sign said LUCKY YOU. Wow. I was running back to work, so I didn’t get the artist’s name. I want to go back, because I want to know who to thank.

LUCKY YOU. Lucky me, indeed. I’m like most people, in that there are a number of things in my life that just aren’t perfection, and I’m working on adjusting that. I do not yet have the ideal job, and I’d like to be more fit. These are goals I’m working towards. While I struggle with these daily issues it’s nice to have a little reminder of those things I do have to be grateful for. The list is long. I have the best friends, and I’ve been going dancing. I live with a marvelous cat. Apparently the universe loves me, too, because I rode the bus this morning holding my phone number, and my missed connection from yesterday was riding again. We were both so happy to see each other, and we’re going to meet for coffee soon. The sun is shining, and the only clouds in the sky are those fluffy, friendly-looking ones. I am so lucky I don’t have enough words to describe it.

Sometimes I get so bogged down in details that I forget to look up and appreciate things. I’m going to make my own little sign for my bedroom. I want to remember. It’s only polite to give thanks. That cup of coffee was a bigger pick-me-up than the caffeine it contained.

Seattle is considerate to me. She posts these little signs in my path, much like people put love notes in their partner’s lunch bags. When I was too busy with life worries to work on my novel, Seattle reminded me by leaving little stickers all over bridges and telephone poles that said “Daphne” in Gothic lettering. Daphne is the name of my main character. I appreciated the hint, and I made some time for my writing. It’s nice that the universe reminds me to put joy first. I thank her.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

59. Make your own LUCKY YOU sign, and place it somewhere where you will occasionally look up and see it. Why are you lucky? Make a list.

Invite Juan Valdez to join you

Today is Friday, and I am enjoying the freedom that is blooming just below its surface. My day is pregnant with anticipation. I am looking forward to my first cup of coffee tomorrow morning. Coffee is different for me on the weekends. Most days I drink java in a rush, trying to introduce caffeine into my system, trying to get some motivation in a mug. On Saturdays, I drink coffee to enjoy coffee. I have it as an accompaniment to my morning of nothingness, a celebration of a moment in time where I have nowhere to be. Weekend coffee is sacred.

I’ll often eat breakfast with my housemate after two hours or more with this ceremonial cup. Sometimes we cook and sometimes we go out. Either way, breakfast is different on the weekends, too. During the week I eat something quickly, making sure to have some calories in my system to get the job done. I keep trail mix and prunes in my desk drawer at work, and most of the time that suffices. On the weekend I have pancakes, or sometimes eggs. I eat more slowly, and I enjoy my breakfast more. Leisurely food tastes better, and conversation with friends is the perfect appetite heightener.

I have the afternoons to get things done, to run errands and clean house. I could try to keep the same pace as I do Monday to Friday, but I know that would backfire. I need my unscheduled moments. My weekend coffee is a mini-vacation with no packing required, no travel books to purchase. I can even wear my pajamas while drinking it. As they’d say in Minnesota, that’s a heck of a deal.

I want to introduce a little of this joy into my everyday routine, so I’m trying to get to work a little earlier. I don’t have time for a two-hour cup before I start my job, but fifteen minutes of relaxation first thing makes all the difference. That one slow cup reminds me that I come first, that I can have a life while I make a living. It’s an experiment for now, but so far the data is impressive. Can breakfast be far behind?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

40. Plan to have a leisurely breakfast this weekend. Look forward to it. Is there any way you can introduce elements of the weekend back into your daily life?