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The first week or two, I reached for the notebook constantly. I took writing pauses on the walk to work. I accidentally wrote an essay about concession stands after looking up the term’s etymology. I jotted down poetry and grocery lists.
I took it a step further and velcroed a tiny notebook to my phone.
Are normal pocket notebooks are more useful? For sure.
Are phone notebooks funnier? Absolutely.
I have no defined purpose for this notebook. It’s real weird in there: vacuum recommendation from my friend Hope, paint color code for my bathroom, sketch of a purse I might make, a thing about birds.
I highly recommend.
Lent (and restructuring time) reveals stuff. Sometimes stuff you’d rather not see.
Without the distraction of social media, I physically felt more tense.
I got more stressed. Or maybe just noticed stress more clearly because I wasn’t scrolling to hide it.
I couldn’t sleep for a while. I tried running to tire myself out. I brought in blackout curtains. I did all kinds of experiments because my attention was shaken up and heightened.
One day I was eating lunch, staying off my phone, and I read the back of my cracker packet. No ingredients listed, just a note to write to SYSCO corp if I wanted nutrition info. So I did:
I read poetry one morning and had the immediate thought: “I should do this every morning!” Because things like Instagram train you for daily habits.
But there are unlimited options outside an app.
Poetry, a walk, making pancakes, 15 more minutes of sleep.
There may just be infinite perfect mornings if we let each day be what it is.
Of course, this isn’t really about social media. It’s about attention.
In my shaken up state, I finally replaced or fixed so many things I’d been ignoring. (Ceiling, french press, mittens, chair). I wrote more about this here.
It’s harder work to fix things rather than let them be broken. Obviously. Lent is kind of all about this sitting with heaviness.
The biggest thing I noticed this Lent season? Realizing that for all the tiny fixes, all the energy I want to expend on repair, the world is still going to be broken for a very long time.
My family experienced the unexpected death of my uncle mid-Lent, the kind of thing that galvanizes my thought that there is no silver lining to death.
The kind of thing that makes me hungry for Easter’s resurrection promise.
The kind of thing where my one comfort is that God also hates death.
The kind of thing where I relaxed my guidelines and scrolled Instagram for a while because life felt too heavy.
And the kind of thing where I made an appointment with a therapist because temporary numbing isn’t a stand in for long-term healing.
It’s not fun to write that, but it feels important. I went into this season wanting a breezy experiment, but it was a lot more complicated than that. I believe so deeply in living with hope, and I so much want a life shaped by it. I think true hope sits and mourns, sometimes. It’s not quirky and it’s not a posture of willful ignorance. It is strange and deep.
There’s this thing I ponder when I hop into my car:
My work brings up really interesting questions. How do you market a physical place with digital tools? How do you show up as unique within the same slick parameters as everyone else?
I’ve found 2 approaches to digital sharing:
Start with the message (a story to tell, an event to promote). Figure out how to hack the app parameters to allow your message to unfold.
Start with an app’s requested shape (pretty pictures on Insta, snappy thread on Twitter, etc). Fit the message into the shape.
I find value in both at my job.
In personal life? Hacking the tool to do something new is way more fun.
There is so much to want.
Sometimes I don’t know til I see it, often through a digital tool (lamps found on Instagram, bright red linen duvets from Etsy).
And sometimes I hold an idea so specific, then realize it might not exist (a collaborator on a weirdo project, lug sole ballet-strap shoes).
What do we do with our desires?
We can shape them a little, shift our attention.
Here is a person who shifts my attention, my brother Sam:
This is the back of a jacket he made for himself. A quilted self portrait in linen. He designed the quilt piecing, and he also drafted the pattern for the whole garment. Custom-fitted, exactly to his specifications.
He wears this one jacket on repeat, and I never get sick of admiring it.
You can’t see his jeans, but they’re just as good. He’s stitched across the knees, added side panels, applied his own leather label with a personal logo and painted over the manufacturer’s button because “the original maker never cared about these as much as I have.”
Seeing Sam’s ONE beautiful jacket and ONE pair of beautifully altered pants—they’re like a portal to a world with less consumption, more room for making.
Beautiful, thoughtful, abundant less.
This is the world I want. I see it a little clearer when I turn my attention toward artists like Sam (sometimes on social media! You can follow Sam’s work here!), toward what’s happening in my neighborhood, towards what I already have, toward what I can make with my own hands.
Towards This Life
I generally think of ‘tech’ as social media and phones and the blockchain.
But of course, tiny books and sewing machines are also tech, and I find deep meaning in the way they shape my world, and the ways others shape the output of this tech into new things. What’s waiting in newer technology?
As I wondered this month, I found great comfort in Robin Sloan’s thoughts on building digital tools in his piece An App Can Be A Home-Cooked Meal:
When you liberate programming from the requirement to be general and professional and scalable, it becomes a different activity altogether, just as cooking at home is really nothing like cooking in a commercial kitchen. I can report to you: not only is this different activity rewarding in almost exactly the same way that cooking for someone you love is rewarding, there’s another feeling, too, specific to this realm. I have struggled to find words for this, but/and I think it might be the crux of the whole thing:
This messaging app I built for, and with, my family, it won’t change unless we want it to change. There will be no sudden redesign, no flood of ads, no pivot to chase a userbase inscrutable to us. It might go away at some point, but that will be our decision. What is this feeling? Independence? Security? Sovereignty?
Is it simply … the feeling of being home?
Whelp, now I want to code.
Things get more interesting when you’re building the box to hold whatever your ideas are, rather than lopping off a chunk of your work so that it fits tidily on Twitter.
There are near-infinite ways to approach the structure of our days, our tool use, and our tool making. I plan to keep experimenting. I hope you do, too.
I’m glad to be here, sharing things from my screen to yours. It’s the best part of the internet, in my opinion. I’d love to hear your thoughts—reply directly to send an email to me, or click on the comments to share with all readers!
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