Turning off the outside world

My phone buzzed at 07.18 this morning.  Not my alarm, I had turned that off at 5am when I had finally given up on sleep because my mind was whirring, but a text.   A text that had been sent with a query that needed to be dealt with fairly urgently.    This on the back of another interruption from the outside world last night at 10.15pm.

I am always attached to my phone.  Where I go, it goes.  If I am not holding it, it is in my pocket, and if I don’t have a pocket it is tucked in my bra.   So when I see the little red light flashing that alerts me to a new message, I read it.  That message is then in my brain and even if I resolve to not answer it, I am already stressing about dealing with it.

We live in an age now where we are constantly connected.   The outside world comes into our house.  Constantly.  Whether we invite it in or not.  Somebody pings an email because it is on their mind, late on a Friday night, they don’t want me to read it until Monday but it doesn’t just sit in my inbox, it is there on my phone.  The phone I pick up on Friday night to order the curry.   The phone that I use to text the teens.   That message is there, and I read it.   And then it is in my head.

Tweets / Facebook messages / texts / blog comments / phone calls.   They are constant intrusions into our personal space these days and it had never really bothered me before.  I embraced it and thought it was kind of cool.

But not anymore.   I have had enough.   I am done with constantly being connected.  I am fed up with people assuming I am always there.  And having my privacy invaded.  I don’t mind during the day, in fact, during the day I love it.   But not in the evenings anymore.

So much has happened recently that I have had to deal with that I physically can’t do it anymore.  And mentally it is killing me.  I am constantly on the go, I never get to stop.   My alarm is set seven days a week, for different times.  But actually because my mind is constantly on the go, constantly switched on, I am always awake before the alarm.   I never get to lie in bed in the mornings and read a book.  I get up because stuff needs doing.  Things need to be sorted out.   Dealt with.  Organised.   It all falls to me and, quite frankly, I am swamped.

I have reached saturation point and something has to give.  So it is the outside world.

From now on, as of 9pm the phone is off.  I am not checking it.  I am not allowing the outside world in.  Allison Pearson wrote a piece in the Telegraph on Saturday that actually made me weep.   The headline was “No wonder women are cracking up” (please go and read it, it is a really important article) and the reason I read it and wept is because it is me.    I actually had this post in draft as I started it last week and when I read that article I thought “bloody hell I should copy and paste that”.   Allison says exactly what I want to say.

I joke that I am a bit bonkers, “a mad mum of three and wife of one”.   But actually is it a joke?  I have sometimes said to Mr B “I think I am on the verge of a breakdown” and in the past few weeks I have felt that more than ever.   Stuff keeps happening.  Stuff keeps coming into our house that needs to be dealt with that I don’t want to deal with.   And it is me that has to deal with it.

I want it to stay at the end of the drive.

So at 9pm every night I am pulling up the draw bridge.   The outside world can now wait in line until the following morning.

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  • Sounds like a sensible and much needed plan. I find that for me personally if I am online, visibly, I end up with dms and messages that need answering, someone is stuck on some blogging thingy and needs help and generally that I end up getting sucked into conversations. Last week when I was ill I went to bed at 9pm every night and in fact only turned on my mobile twice all week- oh my what a change! A great change may I add. The social world is still there – just when I’m ready for it not when it shouts at me.
    Another thing I’ve found, if I get into any conversations after about 9pm online I end up going to bed with them mulling over in my mind – sometimes we all need a bit of peace for ourselves – hope you get it soon xx

    • That’s exactly it. It’s the mind whirring. I need to switch it off.

      I just need to be still. I think that’s it. Stillness is what I crave.

  • oh T, I’m so sorry things have been so hard recently. You always seem so together and so strong. Turning off the outside world in the evening sounds like an amazing idea, and something I should do myself.

    I read The Telegraph article and can understand why you wept, I can see myself in there too. Trying to keep a home, kids as well as earning a significant amount of money is hard, being a woman is hard and our ever connected world as much as it can bring relief in the form of instant comfort from friends has a big downside as well in that there is no escape.

    Lots of love, and I hope the evenings off help. xx

    • Thanks Emma. It is hard for people these days, not just women, but men as well, to put themselves first, isnt it? This is the start of me doing that. If I don’t look after me, who will?

  • Good for you hun. I used to have a job that revolved around 24/7 – not any more. I no longer have a phone upstairs, don’t own a mobile and spend time responding to emails only when I want to. It’s a real sanity saver – hope you’re feeling better soon x

  • Oh hurrah! Having been in a similar situation myself and actually getting to the point where I actually bust a gut trying to be all things to all people, I was very concerned that you were going to have a similar sort of problem. I hope everything else sorts out too. Happy to help if I can but not on Tuesdays or Thursdays x x x x x x x x x x x

  • Good for you Mummy Barrow. I think it is good to have a shut off point – I am rarely online in the evenings and it does make a big difference to my stress levels. I don’t think I have missed anything important that could not wait until the morning. Someone once told me if you try to be everything to everyone, you will just end up disappointing them all!

  • I absolutely applaud your decision T. It’s a really important one to make for your own sanity. I often find myself in the same situation – my phone goes off at 11pm and then I feel the need to deal with it all straight away, or as soon as I wake up. And the problem is, the more you get good at coming back to people quickly – the more they expect it. And then you are in a no win situation, because you’ve come to be the one people rely on or take for granted and then you’re just constantly trying to fire fight to be that person. It’s like standing in a sinking ship, trying to pour the water overboard as fast as it’s coming in. Enjoy this next phase – I’m sure it will be a brilliant thing. And great to see that the world WILL continue to turn and nothing will fall apart if it’s not dealt with as soon as you hear about it.

  • Oh T, it can be so so difficult to remember to think of and look after ourselves when we spend every waking moment orchestrating our families lives and worrying, organising and making everything run smoothly for them.

    I can’t remember the last time I had a proper dinner or had a long bath, I find it impossible to look after myself, but the thing to remember is if you don’t invest in yourself and give yourself some all important me time when you get the chance, there will be no you to do everything for everyone. You’ll be rocking back and forth in the corner cradling a empty bottle of martini, muttering to yourself!

    I really truly hope that keeping your evenings to yourself will give you some breathing space and time to switch off. Huge love xxx

  • well said!
    I hope the switch off works well for you, I know it has done for me on many occasions.
    I found myself going to sleep at 8.30/9 in the evenings (when I could) not because I wanted to but because I needed too. I was drained.

    Enjoy your evenings/nights 🙂 x x

  • We are all TERRIBLE at putting looking after oursleves on the list of things to do, when actually it should be the number one thing on the list- because if we stop functioning none of the other stuff gets done at all. I think a 9pm shut down is an awesome plan. x

  • well said and so very true. the only times i tend to do that is when OH is home (but then check it surreptitiously!! which is just as bad! but its these days that i’m a bit calmer, head a bit more rested than when he is not around. its a great idea. i’ve been toying with it and i think with my 2 baby about to be born now might be the right time to reclaim my time back X
    hope you get to feel better for it X

  • Completely agree, it is ridiculous what we allow ourselves to do ‘after hours’. If we tallied up how much precious time we spent with our families compared to how much we spend online talking to strangers (or faceless friends), we would be absolutely mortified, as would our families. Sometimes, we have to make this stand for our own sanity.

    CJ x

  • This is an enormously valuable lesson to learn and one that we should all take heed of. It’s a slippery slope which starts with answering a text at midnight to this. I know Im on the verge too as once I’ve seen in, I find it difficult to ignore and not respond to. My husband is very disciplined in it. I am not. Well done for taking the plunge.

  • Fabulous post, and a really sensible thing to do, I think. Smartphones are such a mixed blessing – it’s great being able to stay in touch when you want to, not so good when you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet. I’m thinking about taking Facebook and Twitter off my phone for similar reasons – it’s so easy to get sucked into conversations at 9pm that really could wait until the morning. Take care of yourself – we’ll all still be here when you turn it back on again 🙂 xx

  • Sending big hugs T

    I have concluded it’s all about balance and whatever works to get it. I hope the switch off works for you xxx

  • I’ve had very similar feelings recently and did well not to pick up my phone too much over the weekend and I do feel better for it. It is great that you have identified a need to change and that you can do something small that will make a big difference. It worries me what it must be like for children who can’t make the sensible decisions you have made, who are growing up in our 24 hr world. Take care of yourself and don’t forget that there are lots of people around you who would drop everything to help you.

  • I remember yeaaaars ago when my father-in-law first got email in his law offices and he was complaining about technology changing expectations of the people we work with. He was living in a time when he started his law practice pre-email, pre-fax, pre-mobile when everything had to wait for office hours and 1st or 2nd class post. The changing times were difficult for him and he resented it. He started going into work at 5am, seriously, because he knew he’d get at least a few hours work done before people started making demands via emails.

    And I often think of him and that conversation now, when we have our iPad or mobile next to us while cooking dinner and I switch it off because it’s crazy to open myself up to so much extra (outside) stimulus when I should be focusing on family time and relaxing. We have a choice, just as you recognised.

  • It’s somewhat ironic that I read this post when you first published it, but didn’t get round to commenting until now due to “life” getting in the way!

    I completely agree with you and think that it is the real downside of modern technology and communication. I’m really trying to take a “simpler” stand against things at the moment and part of that is actually just leaving my phone in another room for a while rather than checking it every two minutes. Life really isn’t as urgent as employers and phone companies would have us believe. If something happens when someone really urgently needs to contact you they will but the word “urgent” is completely over-used these days. Along with “breaking news” by those 24/7 news channels…

    Now. back to my knitting…