Entering Lent and Leaving Social Media Behind: Welcoming a More Passive Life
What do you get when you cross Lent with Sabbath?
I’m about to find out.
The last four years of moving to Virginia, living in Brooklyn as a “granny nanny,” writing a book, and traveling, have been wonderful. You might call this period of time The Active Life.
This style of living has been a great blessing to me. I relish waking up in the morning to a list of tasks to accomplish — and even more, going to bed after I have crossed them off my list. I even made a list of things to do when I went to a writers’ retreat!
Along the way, I have made thousands of new friends on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn. I even have Flickr , Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts, although I did draw the line on actively using all of these. Facebook has been my favorite. Twitter next.
Because of social media, the launch of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World was fun! Without social media, book sales would not have exceeded my hopes and dreams. Audiences at book talks would have been smaller. I would have traveled less.
As grateful as I am for the Active Life made possible by social media, there’s a part of me that needs more time for rest and reflection.
I crave a more Passive Life for awhile. I want to surrender to silence.
To show you how my brain has been trained, I wrote those words and then thought, “That would make a great tweet.” 🙂
I need to stop looking for inspiring 140-character quotes and start listening to my own questions.
I need to return to my favorite red chair where I read, write in longhand, and pray.
I want to lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help. I want to listen and notice.
When will the first signs of spring appear? How do the passages in the Lenten Meditation booklet stir signs of new life in my own spirit?
Here are the concrete steps I am taking. I make them public so that I will feel more accountable when I return.
1. I’m taking Facebook and Twitter off my phone.
2. I’m leaving my phone on my desk at night (and not taking it into the bedroom).
3. I’ll check my email, and I’ll send out a weekly Magical Memoir Moment to the people who have signed up to get one every week (see email signup on the upper right-hand column)
4. I’m giving up sugar while I’m at it!
Will I go crazy? I’ll keep track of my withdawal symptoms and try to go for walks when they get too bad. What else will I do?
I’ll spend a week helping out with grandchildren and another week in New York City getting ready to celebrate Owen’s fourth!! birthday and then Easter Sunday with my family in Pennsylvania.
I’ll also spend some time with that pesky Box in the Basement.
And when Easter comes, and Passover ends, I’ll come back here on April and report in.
In the meantime, I leave you with this Irish blessing I’ll look at every day:
Yes, if you look carefully, you’ll see my reflection as I took that picture. That’s where I’ll be. Behind the glass of the internet, looking out into nature itself.
Taking inspiration from Whitman:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
Do you ever long to go on a social media fast or sabbatical? What questions do you have for me to think about during this last week before Ash Wednesday?
Please don’t give up blogging! I look forward to each post. I don’t get your magical memoir moments any more. Is that because I’ve got them all now? Maybe I need to go to the basement too!
How sweet of you to care so much, Elfrieda! If you signed up in the box above, you should get MMMs from me at 9 a.m. every Tuesday. I’ll keep sending them even in my sabbatical. If you haven’t been getting them, re-enter your name and email address. The software will not allow duplicates, so you aren’t risking that.
And you can also reply to the MMMs. Just hit “return” and you can talk with me.
Shirley, I’m honored to have been along with you on part of your journey to this decision. And I shall be eagerly standing by come April to hear how it went. Until then, may “warm words on a cold night” be yours.
Thank you, Janet. And may you continue unleashing your voice and your self in your writing in the meantime. There will be more cold nights for both of us! See you in April.
This is a beautiful post, Shirley, and I wish you well–and know that you’re nor saying goodbye forever. I, too, have been extra active lately, selling our house and moving to anew state. We’ve lived in an apartment for two months but are preparing again to move to a townhouse at the end of the month. I haven’t been present much on social media, which I love, but I haven’t taken an official break, either. This is something I need to think about for myself.. I’m struck that you used the words “silence” and “listen.” Those have been up for me, too. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thank you!
Also, great red chair! 🙂
Hi Kellye, welcome to this space. It was fun to interact with you on Twitter today. Wouldn’t you know, I had some amazing social media experiences on the very day that I announce the decision to “go off the air” for a while. You spotted the Owen connection to Dan Blank. Krista Tippett replied to a tweet I resent from FB and favorited two of my tweets, and I gave away an item for an iPhone 4s I can’t use anymore — to someone 625 miles away who will visit our town next week. Each of these encounters has been energizing and amazing.
Glad you like the chair. It’s a decade old now and contains not only comfort but memories.
Enjoy your “quiet” time Shirley! The older I get the more I appreciate Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” . Being still is hard to do in our busy lives, but it brings blessings when we can do it. At this time in my life I have chosen not to get a smart phone. I have a plain old cell phone I carry with me. If someone needs me they can call me or if I need help I can get it. But, otherwise I am not connected to all the other things. It is nice to not have all those distractions to deal with when we are not at home.
I agree, Charlene. I remember how powerful those words were when I first sang them with other women at a retreat long ago. “Our hearts are restless, “St. Augustine said, “until they find their rest in Thee.”
You know yourself and have wisely put limits around your availability by choosing not to use a smart phone.
Thanks for stopping by to bless. You are kind.
April is just around the corner. I look forward to your return.
While you were enjoying a writer’s retreat, I was with a Jungian writer in FL designing a new workshop on mythology and grief. We couldn’t get enough talking about ideas and our inner lives, sharing our writing and the initiations of loss. After seeing her I had a dream–a big numinous dream. Elephants splashed and sprayed each other in a big river on my land and a huge white bear rose out of the water, almost as large as the elephants, sparkling and glistening with water droplets. Something is emerging. I don’t know just what, but I know that I can push it back under with constant work on book promotion and social media. Time for balance and more inward turning. Time for winter’s fruitful hibernation. I’ll be thinking of you.
What a rich set of dreams, Elaine! I remember a dark time in my life when I was guided by a dream animal also. Mine was a red fox, which showed up for Cheryl Strayed in Wild also. Such appearances do require our full attention or they fade or go under. So glad you want to pay attention.I have a feeling you are extremely skilled in this art.
You have this lovely white bear, and you have your own place in which to hibernate. I’ll be thinking about you, too!
I support you wholeheartedly in this, Sister. I love your reflections, especially the part you want to Tweet.
Your aspirations are all wonderful. And thank you for the Blessing.
We each much choose the life that is right for us. Enjoy your Lent!
I gave up sugar five days ago myself. And I’ve already given up FB altogether and haven’t looked back. I use Twitter occasionally. I don’t use a Smartphone. I’m happy with the blogs I visit, the one I keep, and the occasional Tweet. And I love email. This is the life that’s right for me.
Thank you for inspiring the rest of us into reflecting on our lives.
I have to smile as I read this words, knowing your visceral reaction to Facebook–and also knowing how well you do in your life in setting boundaries and in not taking everything the culture gets excited about at face value.
Our Amish relatives, friends, and neighbors deliberately limit technology so that it does not consume the time they spend in relationship to family and to God.
I’ll think of you and of your Amish roots as I instinctively reach for my iPhone and then pull back. 🙂
Peace be with you, Shirley, on your walks, through the sugar cravings that hopefully won’t last too long, and as you reflect on all of the wonderous things the world brings to us all.
I look forward to catching up in April.
Thanks, Joan. I may need a sugar craving intervention. 🙂 One of my FB friends said that the sugar part would be hardest for her. It won’t be easy for a girl who grew up on sweets and sours.
But I’ve been feeling called to do this for a long time. Your good example pushed me over the edge! Thank you.
“You go, girl!” is what I’m hearing in most of these comments, which echo the wise words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the message of Phaedrus: “The bow kept taut will . . . break, kept loosely strung, it will serve you when you need it.”
I would predict that others who need a hiatus will follow suit when their time comes. Blessings to you as you tune out the noise for awhile and practice the peace of a pause.
“Practice the peace of the pause.” I love that, Marian! Thank you. You have such a liquid, languid, lilt when it comes to language. One would think you might have spent most of your life in the south. 🙂
Thank you so much for your good wishes.
I’m listening to “Ubi Caritas et Amor” on headphones, remembering our good week together last week.
Shirley, I feel so honored to have shared in your journey and admire you for taking this step back to nurture your heart and soul. You are doing what matters the most. It will be challenging but I know you will have many pearls to share when you return in April and I , for one, will be taking lessons from you! Peace and joy, my friend~
Kathy, thank you for this encouragement. I sense that others, also, are looking for ways to cut back on the demands of so many digital responsibilities.
I’ll be thinking of you all through Lent. When I was growing up, we didn’t follow the church calendar except for the high holy days, so I have learned this practice from my sisters and brothers in the Catholic church. I have learned so much from them, including you!
Shirley — my hat is off to you, You, YOU! I shall be thinking of you:
In your red chair.
Outside embraced by nature.
Enjoying your grandchildren.
You simply BEing.
And I’ll tell you right now that I’ll be greedy for all the details — good, bad, and indifferent — when you return.
You have me placed in all the right locations, Laurie. I will keep a special journal for just this period of time. And knowing your greediness, I too shall look for all the details. Good, bad, and indifferent.
My word for the year is NOTICE. Last year it was CONNECT. Even those single words indicate a movement from active to actively receptive. That’s what I want to learn about.
I have to admit that I got worried for a bit when I started reading your post. I thought, oh, no, don’t stop blogging! I would miss you. I was glad to see that it was a temporary break. Putting aside my selfishness, I admire your willingness to take this time for quiet. It will be interesting to learn if your way of thinking changes after a time away from social media.
My husband has commented lately about how much time I spend staring at my phone. I can’t seem to “just” sit, even when watching TV. That’s probably a sign that I need a break too. Especially since my word for the year is Quiet.
Perhaps Lent can be a time for me to pull back a bit and learn to just be again.
Blessings to you in your journey, Shirley. I will think of you in your red chair. And it’s good to now know that I can reply to your MMMs–I didn’t realize that until I read your comment above.
Tina, thank you for your support of my blogging. It’s good to know who really looks forward to these little essays.
Yes, we can stay in touch through MMMs, even during this sabbatical.
The question I took to Emily and Kate at Propelle was this one: how can I reduce the amount of time I spend looking at screens in order to increase the amount of time I have to explore the Box in the Basement? [Screens are not my only issue. I also have accepted outside writing assignments that take quite a bit of time, but are at least finite and coming to an end this summer.]
During this down time, I want to think about how to combine MMMs and actually make THEM my blog post for the week. I’d love to have feedback on this idea and perhaps will describe what is going on in the sabbatical on the MMMs.
I’d LOVE to have your response. One of many things I can do is link to the 520 blog posts I’ve already written! That’s several books of content.
Thanks again for all of your feedback over the years. I really appreciate it.
What an inspiring thing to blog about and to do; I’m sure your roots in ‘resistance to the status quo’ will carry you through this.
Yes to Taize chants.
Yes to scripture mantras and to rituals (such as the red chair).
You will practice and deepen the art of ‘being,’ and may you someday soon chat with Krista Tippet “On Being.”
I look forward to your posts in the spring. Peace. Paz and Shalom, Shanti, Salaam….
Dolores, you are naming so many things close to who I am and who I aspire to become. I love Taize, and I love classical music, and I love The Mennonite Hour Singers. I love that I can listen to these on headsets while going through photos. Can’t wait to do that.
As for Krista Tippett. Yesterday I talked with her on Twitter. Not the first time. I got to know her a little when I worked at the Fetzer Institute, and I thought helping to sponsor her program was one of the finest things we did. She and I have actually tweeted about the idea of a social media fast or sabbatical. I think I’ll send her this blog post on Twitter. Thank you for the suggestion, dear Dolores.
Have you listened to the “unheard cuts” of the interview with Mary Oliver? It’s fabulous! Krista gives me hope in an age of violence and devastation to the earth.
Thank you Shirley, for the suggestion to listen to the whole show with Mary Oliver. I want to do this.
Also, I love that you and others have shared some of your dreams and dream images here; I find our dreams (including mine) to be quite instructive and inspiring.
I’m glad your MMMs will still be coming and I will miss your blogging. My word for last year was notice and it was amazing what I saw when I opened space to fully engage in life and the world around me. This year my word is listen and I am trying to spend 20 minutes a day in silence to open up space to listen.
Blessings on your journey!
Thank you, Betty. I love the idea of you sitting in silence. It gives me a way to remember you in my own silence. Sound is such an amazing gift. You will have your hearing sharpened. Sound is more intimate than sight.
Nice to know you are still reading these missives. I think I’ll do some interim reporting to those who get the MMMs. These comments are helping me learn. And you know how much I love to learn. 🙂
Shirley, I wish you a wonderful sabbatical. We all need our season of quiet, our time for looking inward. In this crazily “connected” world, it’s easy to forget how to cultivate and enjoy silence. Yet being in tune with our inner world is such a blessing…it only enriches our outer connections…never weakens them.
See you soon.
And I am happily subscribed to you Magic Memoir Moments!
Carrie, your words here really encouraged me: “Yet being in tune with our inner world is such a blessing…it only enriches our outer connections…never weakens them.”
I know this is true based on other periods of “lying fallow.” Yet as I contemplate the beginning of the journey, it’s good to be reminded.
Thank you so much for commenting and signing up for MMMs.
Shirley, you make me smile that I will be with you when you reach for your phone and then retreat. I’ll be thinking of you too.
May you be showered with Blessings along the roads you travel.
Shirley, even your passive time will be fulfilling. Take care, my lady, and enjoy yourself.
Thank you, Barbara. You are there in all seasons. I feel your presence. Blessings to you also.
Blessings to you on your journey of rest and reflection as you surrender to silence but also enjoy wonderful family times.
Thank you, Sue, from one grandma to another. 🙂 You know the wisdom of rhythm in life. May you have many moments of togetherness and silence also.
Shirley, it goes without saying that you will be missed, but perhaps you’ve noticed I’ve taken a semi-sabbatical from Facebook and Twitter. I can’t maintain my personal life and family, write a book, blog, and more, especially tending my faith, if I’m keeping up with social media. You’ve given me much to think about as the Lenten season begins. I’ve always thought of giving up something edible or a habit I want to break for Lent, but now …. the wheels are turning. I’ll be thinking of you in that beautiful red chair, pondering what you’re reading or writing, and with family especially the grands. Enjoy your time of quiet and simplicity. I’ll be waiting for your pearls of wisdom in April.
I have noticed your semi-sabbatical and applaud you for sensing what you need now also. You actually influence me. 🙂
I shall return. And I shall also remember my dear writer friends as I sit in the red chair.
Shirley, as I read your post, I first thought, well I don’t have Facebook and Twitter on my phone, and I never take my phone into the bedroom – this sounds like regular living to me, and then I realized oh! you mean you won’t be using Facebook and Twitter at all during Lent. That’s a much bigger step! May this commitment deepen and refresh you. I look forward to hearing more of your journey..
Thank you, April. You are right. I am actually am leaving FB and Twitter and all the rest for the full Lenten season. What’s more, I won’t be spending one day/week writing and editing new posts here. My eventual goal is to come back with new daily rituals thought out. If I am going to make an informed choice about a possible next book, I need to carve out more time for the reading of old letters, organizing of pictures and slides, etc. I have been impressed at how easy it is to spend all my time on other assignments and on social media, letting the Box in the Basement untouched.
Thank you for helping so many of us increase our Sacred Pauses. I hope that many of my friends above will look for your book, which helped strengthen my desire for times like this one. Blessed Lenten and Easter season to you as you lead both your live congregation and your virtual one.
Lovely post, Shirley. (BTW, my younger daughter, Sheryl, is named for my Aunt Shirle.) 🙂
I’ve enjoyed “meeting” you, and I wish you a wonderful and restful break. Enjoy that red chair with the view and all that wonderful family time, too!
Thank you, Merril. I expect to enjoy, but it will be different. It’s hard to believe that cell phones only really caught on in the ’90’s, just about the same time that email became ubiquitous. You are an historian, so I am sure you take note of how these small social changes have accumulated.
I joined FB in early 2008 and Twitter soon after. That means I have been active on social media for seven years.
The seven-year itch has struck. 🙂
Thanks for your good wishes. I hope to come back and re-connect. Say hi to Sheryl from the woman with the old-fashioned version of her name.
Shirley, I’m a bit ahead of you in this digital fast thing. I abstained from Internet and even email for FOUR WEEKS last fall while we were on back-to-back cruises. Not too surprisingly, life was still there when I got back, refreshed and ready to plug back in. But not all the way. We’ve been away again, and are preparing to relocate, so there just isn’t room in my life right now for intense social media connection. But then I never have taken that stuff as seriously as you have, so perhaps it’s not a level comparison.
If I had that red chair, I might never walk another step. would sit in it forever, gazing at the beautiful view, writing now and then, and reading piles of books.
Enjoy that red chair, your break, and the box in the basement. I look forward to your return and your new perspective.
Hi, Sharon. I remember that fast of yours. It was even more drastic than the one I plan to take. I will continue email and weekly MMMs. Can hardly live without email. 🙂
I heard you will be moving to Austin. Is that correct? We spent four wonderful years there. We thought graduate school at UT Austin was the hardest work we would ever do.
I’m sitting in the red chair now, sending you a blessing, grateful for your help and friendship over the years.
You won’t go crazy–you’ll probably feel more sane and not want to come back. 🙂
Well, Diana, that’s a real possibility, isn’t it?
I am open to this outcome, among others.
FOMOOS (Fear of Missing Out on Something) might set in.
We’ll just have to see. 🙂
Thank you, Shirley, for being explicit about your time away from Facebook. I have also taken occasional sabbaticals from Facebook, and I like the way you are doing it with intention and purpose. You inspire me to be more intentional, rather than just “taking a break”. May you be richly blessed on this sabbatical, finding sweet refreshment, deep joy, and great peace.
Rachel, I feel as if I have just been blessed by a pastor with the heart of a shepherd. Thank you, and blessings back to you also as we enter this season of reflection.
Connection is a gift. And time to disengage is a gift.
May you experience peace and adventure, expansive space and comforting enclosure, love of old and new.
Blessings for the path ahead,
Yes to both! I am now trying to think of, in advance, all the connections I need to make before I disengage. 🙂
I love that list of seeming opposites. We know that in the end they are one.
Blessings to you too, Kathleen.
I do this each Lent, as well. I struggle at first, thinking I’m missing out on something “important” going on…but the truth is, these annual sabbaticals (and sometimes I double up by disappearing for Advent, too) really do replenish your creativity and your connections to the “real” around you–real people, real loved ones, real work….all of which do nothing but help writers and creative types.
I look forward to seeing you on the other side!!
Megan, welcome to this blog! And now I have a role model. Have you ever written about your deliberate sabbaticals?
Maybe we’ll finally have time for coffee!
I’ve written a few “wrap up/what I’ve learned posts” at the end, but I’ve never documented it and I wish I had. Even if it was through a personal journal…I think those “quiet” days hold so many great moments. By the time I get to reflecting after Easter, I’ve forgotten so many of those small moments that resonated when the noise and chatter was gone!
This year, I’ve got a couple “Lent” projects to work on specifically…a Lent 2015 devotional that I’ll journal with each day, a crochet blanket I’m going to try to muddle through (I’m so bad at crochet) and a “personal” project I’ll choose in the next couple days. Usually it’s the “give something up” type, but this year I’m trying to think of a way “to put something good back in” instead!
Addendum: last night at dinner with my small group from church someone asked me if I am going off Instagram too. I checked my post to see if I had mentioned it above. Turns out I did not.
I think I will keep Instagram on my phone and post the MMM photos there. I don’t use Instagram much and don’t have many friends there. I search for Kate there, since she prefers it to FB these days. Instagram could become one social medium I allow into my world. For those moments when I am standing in a line.
If you object, however, I’m listening. 🙂
I LOVE this idea, Shirley. I want to copy you with my own sabbatical. May I reblog this?
Wishing you much peace, contentment and beauty during your quiet time.
Of course you may reblog, Tracy. Thanks for thinking of that.
And how wonderful that you want to do the same. We can encourage each other. Who knows, we might start a movement. 🙂
I return the same wish to you!
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“I want to lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.” This verse came to me yesterday while walking. Traveling from Joan’s blog to yours I feel a kindred spirit alive and calling us forth. I have been considering just such a break from the social media world and what better time than Lent! I look forward to reading your thoughts about the experience when Spring blooms again.
Thank you, Dorothy! It’s hard to imagine Spring today. I’m in Illinois in the midst of a snow storm! But we believe in Spring despite the testimony of our senses in the present. Taking a break helps us to remember. May you find the right time and way to follow the nudging of your own heart. Thanks for your thoughtful message.
Stay away… for a month…. Wow
I don’t think I could do that : )
However, I do put limits on my involvement.
I truly enjoy reading your blog, Shirley, and I look forward to April.
Your comment reached me via email, Leanne. Thanks for letting me know you enjoy the blog. I’m hoping to come back in April with some fun changes. Stay tuned.
And I find it quite easy to stay away from FB and Twitter, . . . so far.
[…] I expected that a Lenten Fast would give me a time to rest. I craved a less active, more contemplative, life. […]