Tuesday, September 29, 2009


When I went to London a few years ago, I surprised myself by deciding not to bring my laptop. I figured that if I brought my laptop, I would linger in front of it in the mornings instead of getting out of my hotel room bright and early each day.

It was the best decision I could have made for that trip, and since then, not only do I always refrain from bringing my laptop with me when I travel, but I find myself looking forward to the prospect of 'unconnected' days. Without my laptop, I've taken a cruise on the Siene at night, seen 'Wicked' in San Francisco, spent 2 glorious days hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, and spent days and nights relaxing to the sound and smell of the sea. I started my days in London with a cup of hot cocoa, and then a brisk, early walk or rush hour ride on the Underground, and spent hours walking and roaming, lingering and watching.

Last night, as I was preparing for my trip (I leave tomorrow night for 7 weeks in Los Angeles, Sydney, New Zealand's South Island, a visit with a cousin in Florida, and a Caribbean cruise), my laptop crashed. Totally, absolutely, hard-drive-erased-crashed. After a few minutes of choice words, with brow sweating, and mind in overdrive trying to figure out how the heck to fix it, I suddenly stopped and thought, "Hey, this may not be such a bad thing, afterall."

OK, so sure, first thing this morning, I dragged out an old laptop and managed to get it up and running and online, but the connection is fairly slow, and instead of being able to sit at my kitchen table and surf, surf, surf, the only place I could set it up was up in our office, which is one of those rooms we rarely step foot in anymore, mostly because it's poorly insulated, and pretty much cut off from the heart of our home.

With this set up, I have to make an effort to access the computer, instead of having it at hand in the place I spend most of my time. I have to go upstairs, and sit in a place with no distractions. No sound of the neighbors, no watching the birds and butterflies at the window, no stepping outside for a second to see if there's a sign of fall in the air.

It didn't take long for me to start feeling like I didn't really need to be online all the time. No need to be signed into Skype, just in case someone wanted to reach me. No need to check Twitter every couple of hours, or any of the blogs I sort of follow; not even a need to check the news regularly.

It was almost like being on one of my trips.

I had plenty to do today, what with packing and all, but while I was keeping busy, I couldn't help noticing that I didn't have that compulsion to sit in front of the computer for 'just a few minutes'. There were even a few hours somewhere during the day when I didn't go upstairs to sit down even once.

What a relief! Truth be told, every now and then I've gotten the feeling that I spend way too much time in front of my laptop. I'd wonder if I was kinda isolated. Or maybe insulated? In any case, I certainly wasn't interacting face to face with all that many people (unless you consider video Skyping a face to face interacion). I don't think my social skills were necessarily suffering, but then again, I'm pretty comfortable being by myself, so I'm not sure if I'd actually know if I was lacking or awkward in multi-person settings.

(I also have to admit that I've had an occasional nagging worry that if I continued spending so much time online, that one day I might find that I had turned into some sort of old, dried up, spinsterish old lady, whose social life consisted of 'talking' with her internet 'friends'.)

A long while ago, a friend of mine told me that he purposefully did not sit down at his computer for a couple of days at a time. I thought this was really odd, especially since he made a good part of his living designing programs. His words have pretty much always been with me, and I often would find myself reflecting on them, and scratching my head. But, every now and then...

Every now and then I'd get a tiny glimmer of an understanding nanosecond, where I thought that maybe I got what he meant. But, I'd always brush it aside, not scoffing at his words, but certainly thinking 'no way' for me.

Today, I heard his words echoing again. This time, though, I lingered on them. Being unconnected didn't seem so bad. I got a heck of a lot done today. What I noticed most of all, was that while my body was working, my mind was really, really active. [Note to close friends and family who just choked on their food, while laughing so hard they fell on the floor: My mind was even more active than usual. Hard to imagine, I know. But- really!] This was different- instead of deep, concerned, philosophical thoughts, or mind-racing to what I'll be doing over the next five years thoughts, my mind amused itself with calm, peaceful wanderings. My muscles are aching right now, but my mind feels relaxed, unharried, and unhurried.

I think I could get used to being unplugged. Maybe... Well, we'll see how it all plays out when I get back from this round of travel.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shana Tova/ Happy New Year

The Jewish New Year starts tonight. There won't be any fireworks- Jews mark the new year with prayer, retrospection, and pleasant meals with friends and family.

I've been meaning to write a couple of posts all week, but with selling/not selling our home, getting ready for my trip, and all sorts of everyday business, I never found the time. Well, maybe next week (or should I say- next year ;-)).

Wishing everyone a year of smiles, and of hopes and dreams fulfilled.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Keep it Simple

It turns out that simplifying our lives isn't all that simple.

How small a place can we move into? Will two bedrooms be enough? Can we be happy without a terrace? How much of my studio should I dismantle? Where will we put all our stuff? How much privacy do we each need?

Last week we had our home appraised. Tonight, the real estate agent was in a tizzy. She had it all figured out: she knew of a young couple looking to move into a larger place. They were already familiar with our building, and wanted to buy into it. If we liked their apartment, then we could buy theirs, they could buy ours, and within a month we'd each be settling into our new homes.


Even though that was moving much too fast for us (yes, even for me), we agreed to look at their apartment. The location was perfect. The apartment was in move-in condition.

But at 90 square meters, and only two bedrooms, it feels too soon to move into a place that is so much smaller than ours. It's great that it's on street level....but not so great, because in Israel people hang out on the street until 1 or 2 am, talking, laughing, honking their horns...better to have a flight or so to walk up, and have some privacy and quiet. Can we really live without a terrace? As soon as we walked into the living room, we had an urge to push out the wall so that we could sit outside... And, where the heck would we put all our stuff?!

Back at home, we started looking around and figuring out how much we would need to get rid of in order to fit into that apartment. The cabinet filled with antique dishes I'd been collecting would have to go. OK, I can live with that. I'll keep a few of my favorites to pass on to our grandchildren, but I can part with the rest. The chests of drawers in the guest room, the extra beds and sofa beds, the closets, most of our bookcases, all the furniture in the back den, at least half my studio... no problem. Half the contents of our kitchen...well, OK. Everything in our storage room.. sure, why not.

Hmm...maybe it is doable after all. But, not in one month's time. Not even in three- not with the holidays and my subsequent trip coming up. I could be packed up and have all the extra stuff sold off by March.

Well, unless we find the perfect apartment... then I guess I could somehow, however frentic the time would be, have it all done in a month or two..

It seems like I've just finally put behind memories of packing and unpacking boxes, of daily hauls of things we were ready to discard, of hours upon hours of filing, marking, labeling, decision making, of hands raw from taping. Where did all this stuff come from?!

I've got the feeling that the biggest challenge won't be in reducing the amount of stuff we have, but rather in making sure that once we've gotten rid of it, we stop accumulating more. Maybe that should be my new meditation mantra: 'keep it simple.'