There & Back Again 🎒
thoughts after a month-long screen break
Hello! I hope you’ve had a good July. I cannot believe it’s August, but I feel like I say that every year after my month-long screen break, so it is what it is: entirely predictable that time, indeed, flies. Who knew1.
It was a fantastic break, but I admittedly felt a little scattershot throughout July and didn’t get as much reflective time as I’d hoped. I did, however, enjoy more time with people than was expected, which was a benefit I didn’t know I needed. More than my usual months away from the screen, I had quite a few coffee dates with friends, hung out a lot with my rapidly-growing kids2, and decluttered more than a few hotspots in the house (with plenty more to go, I assure you). And of course, the highlight of the month was our group pilgrimage to Ireland. IRELAND! I’ll write more about the experience later this week, so I’ll save my thoughts for then.
But as always, I return from my break with the astute awareness of how much better I can focus, how much longer something can hold my attention, and how much more sensitive I am to screen time (one family movie night, and my eyes are done!). I’m also much more aware of how much everyone everywhere is just staring at their phones all. the. ding-dang. TIME. At restaurants, in grocery lines, at stoplights, in waiting rooms, on walks with dogs, on public transport, and of course, let’s not forget while watching some other screen on a laptop or TV.
We truly are an addicted culture, and one of its tell-tale signs is that we all agree that we’re an addicted culture but are loathe to reckon with the idea that it probably means we, too, are personally addicted. Whenever the conversation comes up to my having left Instagram, or my being on a current screen break, or me going no (or low) phone on Sundays, or whatever, nine times out of ten a person will applaud me, then say yeah, they’d probably benefit from something like that but that either they can’t because of work, or that their phone use isn’t that bad. They only use social media to keep up with friends, they’ll usually say.
Y’all. If you have a phone in your possession, you’re most likely addicted. It’s just the truth.
And it’s likely not your fault — addiction is a feature, not a bug of these hand-held computers; they’re just operating as they’re meant to, and you’re responding as you’re meant to. We’re drawn to the dopamine hits, the desire for connection, the need to feel productive, the survival instinct to be in the know. The desire for those things isn’t bad. The problem is that our phones provide a façade salve to all that; a temporary itch-scratching at best. The dopamine hits follow with candy-like crashes that make us feel worse than before, the connection isn’t actually real (no matter how adamant we are that virtual connection is the same as in-person), we’re actually becoming less productive because of our deteriorating attention, and our phones cause us to know far too much of what doesn’t matter to our IRL lives (i.e., global issues) and far too little of what does (i.e. how our neighbor’s doing).
Ultimately: we should all take regular screen breaks! If you haven’t scheduled one yet, treat yourself to one. Your mind, body, and soul will be so grateful. I’m a fan of Andy Crouch’s recommendation: turn off your phone (as in, not just silenced—fully powered down) one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year.
A Bit of Gallimaufry & Sundry…
1. Greece 🇬🇷
Greece is filling up — sign up if you already know it should be part of your summer 2024! I’ll reiterate later this week why traveling with strangers who turn into kindred spirits is one of the best, most surprising things you could do. And to do it on a pilgrimage to an epic location like Greece! There are fewer better experiences on earth this side of heaven.
I do my best to keep pilgrimages with me as affordable as possible, and at the risk of sounding sales-y, you’ll be hard-pressed to have the experience we enjoy together at a lower rate. Truly… Sign up. I’d love, love, love to travel with you.
2. Fall Commonplace Periodical 🗞
Interested in writing a piece to share with The Commonplace audience? I’d love to consider it! The next fall periodical will release on October 1, and it’s not too early to submit something for publication. My goal is to make this quarterly periodical a community labor of love. Consider the ethos of what it is we talk about here, then get your pen moving.
3. First Light & Eventide: My New Journal 📔
First Light & Eventide officially releases at the end of this month, on August 29! Pre-order yours now if you’d like to have it ready for a new school year — we all know how crazy-busy the end of August is, so treat yourself to a surprise in the mailbox4 and you’ll be ready to go in starting a new habit of examen this fall.
4. Lex Orandi: A New Column 📿
This fall I’m starting a new column here at The Commonplace called Lex Orandi. More than any other topic, sitting (unanswered, mostly) in my inbox, asked over a meal on a pilgrimage, or tiptoed in as a topic of curiosity while having coffee with an old friend, is this: Why did you become Catholic? And sometimes a sister-form of that question: How do you reconcile with [insert Catholic doctrine or tradition of choice]? It’s what a heckuva lot of you want to know, it seems, and I get it—I would, too. So, I’ve decided to start exploring this topic in a very story-driven (as opposed to apologetic), description-not-prescription method of simply telling you my experience and what I’ve come to learn.
I get that this subject matter isn’t for everyone, so I’m making these essays purely opt-in—as in, you won’t get them unless you specifically ask for them. If you’d like to read the column (free for everyone!), simply adjust your settings in your account. Comments will be open only for Commonplace subscribers (so, you if you’re reading this), and I’m happy to receive them so long as they’re asked in a charitable spirit. I have no doubt you guys wouldn’t do anything less.
Head to your account settings (click on your profile picture, then choose ‘settings’ from the menu) and customize away:
The first installment will be later this month, so adjust your settings now and you’ll get the essay in your inbox!
New Referral Gifts 🎁
Finally—Substack has created a reward system to treat readers who refer potential new readers to this newsletter. I love this! No need for all the rigamarole of making this complicated, so here’s what’s on tap for you, as a thank-you should your mention of The Commonplace lead to any signups (free or paid):
Refer 3 new signups: One month of a comped paid subscription to TCP.
Refer 10 new signups: A free copy of my private document 100 Great Things, wherein I share 100 things I love in various categories: quotes, podcasts, life hacks, poems, and the like.
Refer 25 new signups: A free copy of my private six-page essay A Slower Life: 10 Habits to Cultivate, wherein I share ten habits I currently employ in my real life to help me live slower (now fifteen-plus years on this slowing down journey, with earned wisdom from a variety of living conditions and child-raising stages).
Thank you in advance for sharing The Commonplace! It really means so much.
Alrighty, that’s it for now… Be on the lookout later this week for an essay where I reflect on our time in Ireland, share photos from our collective experience, and duly whet your appetite for going on a pilgrimage with me. Consider yourself warned. 😉
Grateful you’re here! And I look forward to being back to regular publishing here at TCP after my month away.
Ora et Labora,
We all know.
As a 5’2 1/2” woman, I can get over the fact that I’m now the shortest one in my family — but how am I the mother of all teenagers now? It still doesn’t seem possible.
The release date isn’t until “winter 2023,” unfortunately. I’m impatient.
Anyone else forget about their pre-orders, or is it just me? It’s like ordering a present for my future self.