Saturday, November 7, 2009

Deep Cuts

This is my brother Jacob, giving Milo some piece of crucial information about pears. Jacob was over for dinner on Thursday, as he often is. He hasn't read this blog, and he posed, almost word for word, this same concern. "I would think," he said, "having just moved to a new place, and otherwise lacking a support network, that this [Year Without Internet] would block avenues for communication that you might later find you want."

I told him to go and read my blog. "Put down the polenta. Get back on the train. Leave my kitchen in favor of your computer screen, please, and do some reading, because I have Already Talked About This."

People are so messy. So much messier than blogs. People want to talk about things you've already talked about, bring up issues that are Already Resolved.

Shortly after I put up this post this morning, I'm getting with my family into the car and driving south, a little more than an hour, to see some friends from college. These are friends whom I partially credit for getting my husband and I together thirteen years ago, when I basically stalked Nick -- who was equal parts reticent and oblivious -- to a party at Kim's house. As the party wound down, Rick suggested, with his characteristically irreverent grin, that the two of us might want to sober up a little bit instead of driving home. And perhaps a perfect place for us to do that was in the basement.

About a decade has passed now since we've seen them, and as Nick and I are packing for the drive, we're all feeling a little like we're about to open the presents on Christmas morning. What a gift it is to regain friends you've lost! Of course, we arranged the entire thing on Facebook.

When I opened my email yesterday -- rather, one of many times that I opened my email yesterday -- I received a cyber thank you note from a student director to mentors past and present on the occasion of opening her first full production. Her gratitude was sweet and exuberant -- oh, to be that age again! -- and if her opening had occurred one month later, after my Dec 1 blackout date, I wouldn't have received it. I wouldn't have known that a bright young female director credits me among the many influences that help her guide a play from table work to opening.

So this is the price I pay. Nothing in life is perfect. You give a little, get a little. I give up some friendly contact and I also lose my internet addiction. Or I keep the addiction, and I keep the friends.

A lot of feminists have had their "aha" moment associated with the discovery of these exchanges. You discover patriarchy not when it takes your rights away, but when it gives them back, under contingencies: Your body can be safe from violence, if... Your sexuality can be your own, if... You, too, can rise in the ranks of power, if...

And it is equally as dangerous to imagine that things in this life are free. Every action has consequences. There's no such thing, we all know, as a free lunch. A few people in the world would say that maintaining sexual purity is the only way to protect yourself from rape. And a few people would say that the internet is the only way to maintain access to the rest of the world.

I'm treading on dangerous ground here, I think. I don't really want to take the next step, in which, following the advice of Deep Throat and World Magazine, I will "follow the money," asking myself who benefits from the strange claim above, who engineered this slight twist on a truth, in which we leap from, "this is a tool that does things no other thing can do" to, "this is the only tool that can do something humans have been doing since the beginning."

But I'm genuinely melancholy this morning about my Year Without Internet. Partly because this blog has temporarily warmed my online life, proving the maxim that all things improve proportional to the amount of attention paid to them. And partly because I had a real experience of loneliness yesterday. I intentionally put the brakes on my intellectual pursuits, so that I could take better care of my kids. And it worked. I had a great SAHM day, with a clean house and happy kids. We got a new book in the mail from Dolly and worked on letters all afternoon. But I was lonely.

I found myself staring out the window, hoping to see Nick's figure coming around the corner more than an hour before he was actually due home, and refreshing my email page over and over again, and experiencing this sense of loss associated with having stopped my own train of thought. And why did I have to stop my own train of thought? Why did I find that I had to stop blogging for the day because I had disengaged from my real life to the extent that I couldn't hear my kids? I think...I think it has something to do with the Internet.

The secret to all of this, says the whispering voice of every wise person I've ever known, is Balance. The problem is, you do each thing too much. When you write, you write too much, and when you stop writing, you stop writing completely. And you care too much about your friends. And really, you're a Very Dramatic person.

And, yes. All that is true. If any of you has a tonic for Becoming Balanced, will you send it my way, please? Via snail mail?


Brian Fearn said...

If you ever get that tonic, maybe you can pass it along. I can never find this "balance" with my net usage. Earlier this year I tried to go without it for a year, only to return after about a month. Good luck on your attempt.

Marla said...

Esther, You are a remarkable woman: deep thinker, articulate author, extraordinary theatre artist, and Birthing Woman Extraordinaire. I applaud your human experiment here and wish you the very best of times as you accomplish something that many of us envy. Please, please journal about your Year Without Internet. It will make for a remarkable book when you are done, if you want to get published. But more importantly, you will have great insights and you can share them with all of your friends (who will still be here) if and when you choose to check back in to cyberspace again. We are hopeful of a year's worth of pictures of Milo and Stella (and their parents!) and wish you a joyous, internet-free year. And I am betting your mom would love this.

Esther said...

I do believe my mother would love it, and also am realizing that I am going to need her iron will to accomplish it! Thanks for the support.