The march of the daffodils has begun. The length and warmth of days has slowly increased, enough to trigger the energy within the dormant bulbs to activate. I’ve lived long enough to not be surprised by the bright green tips emerging through winter’s brown, but each year I feel a joy as if I’ve never seen them before. An old friend, reincarnated, perhaps.
With less than two official weeks of winter left on the calendar, the daffodils’ arrival is the first sign of renewal. I haven’t yet added hellebore or witch hazel — the usual harbingers of winter’s end — in my new garden, so, for now, the trusty old daffodils will serve as our first inkling of spring.
I deleted my Facebook account yesterday — the account that I opened in 2007 when the social media juggernaut was just starting to roll out of its college-only birthplace. It was a place where I posted more than 9,900 times — more than twice a day for over 11 years. It was a place where I met countless friends and shared so much of myself that I often ended up feeling exposed and empty. It was a place where I could be my best self, but often opened doors to my worst.
In the end it had to go because it was the place where I went to for the affirmation that I needed the most. I lived for the likes — and let their pulse become one with my own.
Frigid. That’s the only way to describe the first few days of March. The thermometer was lower in January, but there’s been something about the recent cold snap that goes straight to the bones. The sun dodged in and out between flurried squalls but never brought the warmth we’ve all be craving. Next week, perhaps.
The last few months have been among the best of my life, both personally and professionally. I just described my life to a friend as “never having been more zen.” My inner circle has become more intimate and beautifully deep, taking center stage while the distractions of life have moved into the wings or disappeared altogether.
We’ve had this love-hate relationship for a while now. Just last week, I threatened to break up with you for good. I’ve tried so many ways of quitting you, only to return, IV needle in hand. It’s those bite-sized bits of information and affirmation you’ve got at your disposal, just enough of a hit to make me think I can’t live without you.
I’ve spent so much of my last 11 years plugged into your feed, much of it mindless scrolling. I’ve let you simultaneously command my attention and destroy my attention span. There is always something going on with you, never a breather to pay attention to anything or anyone else. I have trouble reading more than 20 pages in a book without you popping up in the back of my mind. I can’t get through a 30-minute sitcom with my son without wondering if you’ve doled out another like or comment.
That’s where the problem lives. I want my attention back — and you don’t have any intention of letting it go. Your sole purpose is to make it all about you.
2019 is going to be different. I’m reclaiming the intention in my attention.
You probably already know this, but I removed you from my phone. I’m sure it was a bit of a shock to know that you were no longer living at my fingertips, but I have to say it feels better. In just a few weeks, the urge for instant gratification is starting to wane. I’ve checked in once or twice a day via the web, so the withdrawls wouldn’t entice me into reinstalling you. I’ll consider this first step towards a healthier relationship with you a success.
Yes, that means I’m not going to completely break up with you. I’ve been sorely tempted, believe me, but then I’m reminded of the good things we’ve shared. The friends I’ve made through you. The networks you’ve helped me create. There’s still real value in our connection.
But we’re going to have some new rules (yes, just like Dua Lipa).
One: You will not return to my phone. We need our space. No more mindless interactions. Period.
Two: You’re no longer going to be the chronology of my life. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve found myself in conversation and realize I have nothing to share. I’ve shared it all already with you, and you’ve broadcast it out to the world. The world doesn’t need to hear from me umpteen times a day.
Three: You’re not going to be there with me in the moment. I’m going to start living for the experience, not the share.
Four: We’re going to spend quality time when we are together. I’m going to use the tools you’ve already provided to see what I need to see and avoid the rabbit holes — and I’m only going to share things I’ve had time to intentionally construct.
Five: We’re going to be a positive in the world. At our best, we’ve brought a positive light into the world. The things I share with you will carry that compassion and intent.
I know you’re likely snickering, Good luck, buddy. But here’s the deal. I’m done blindly giving you my attention. I know where the deactive button is and I’m no longer afraid to use it.
I found time to get some dirt and gravel under my tires at sunset tonight, a long overdue breath of country air. A sliver of sunset hung at the horizon as low scuttle clouds raced from the south. I secretly hoped for a spectacular underlighting that never came, but the skies didn’t disappoint. My short jaunt of skychasing on this unseasonably warm day was the perfect cabin fever cure.
Since the 2016 election, there’s been increasing talk about the voting power of the states being disproportional to state population — both through the electoral college electing the president (proportional + 2) and in the Senate (2 votes each). This system was created when there were 16 states, 5 of which (VA, PA, MA, NY, NC) comprised 58% of the country’s population. The system prevents the larger states from drowning out the voice of the smaller states.
Fast forward to 2018. Should this still apply? We now have 50 states. Taking approximately the same proportion (16 states – CA, TX, FL, NY, PA, IL, OH, GA, NC, MI, NJ, VA, WA, AZ, MA, TN), the population of this “top third” now comprises 68% of the population, so we’ve gotten more concentrated as a nation.
So, if we still want the protection of the little state, the system makes sense. The chances of changing it are nearly impossible, because it would take a constitutional amendment that would require the vote of the bottom 2/3 to pass.
We’re stuck with this folks, so it’s likely time to stop complaining about it and figure out how to work within the system. The Republicans have their strategy — focus on the presidency and the Senate. Dems? Well, it looks like they need to rebuild a base in states like PA and MI to flip the imbalance of power in their favor.
We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.
But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.
Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.
Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.
I wanted to be first in line at my polling place this morning. There was something symbolic in that notion. I arrived 25 minutes early to a parking lot devoid of activity, the only cars those of the poll workers inside. Some news story captured my attention and when I looked up, there was a person standing first in line at the doors. My plan up in smoke. As I approached, I saw it was a young African-American woman and smiled. I thought to myself, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t have to be first, I just have to be a part of the solution. I was proud to stand behind her as she approached the table as Voter #1.