Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Idea of Order at Our House

[I feel that I have used this title before.]

I did not go on the computer from Friday evening to late Sunday afternoon.  

Friday evening I was frantically finishing up some work, because it was the first weekend since I can remember that--if I frantically finished the work at hand on Friday night--I did not have any work to do.  I finished the work, and told various people that I would be unavailable over the weekend.  Then I thought, why not really be unavailable?  There's no work that needs to be done, nobody I need to be in touch with who's not in my phone/in-person vicinity...why don't I see what it's like to stay off the computer?

It was awesome.  On Saturday, there were a few moments of down time here and there where I felt the urge to check my email.  But I didn't.  There were moments of wanting to look something up or tell someone something, but I figured either I'd remember to do it later, or it didn't matter.  By Sunday it was a non-issue.

What did I do instead of work or be on the computer?  I'm not quite sure.  Let's see...

Friday night I watched a movie (stupid) and a Friends episode (funny, but especially funny in concert with how funny E found it) with the girls, then read my book for three seconds and fell asleep.

Saturday I cleaned the house, went for a run, took M and E on a shoes/tights/purse-shopping expedition, went to a bar mitzvah, drank vodka gimlets, convinced my friends to drink vodka gimlets, told hitchhiking stories while drinking vodka gimlets, watched children play silly bar mitvah games, came home and fell asleep.

Today I went for a run, had coffee with Lucy, went to E's last soccer game of the season, started cleaning the sunroom, threw out two big trash bags of destroyed games and art projects, packed a big box of outgrown games for the homeless shelter, read the NY Times, helped M with her geography project, and watched another Friends episode.

It was the most relaxing weekend I've had since I can remember.  Now the question is: how much of this was the absence of work, and how much the absence of computer?  I'm not quite sure, but I will say that it was awesome to not be on the computer, and I'm hoping that a weekend of cold turkey will help me generally decrease the computer time--not the productive time, but the poking around, reading things I don't need to read, playing games I don't need to play, based on the subterranean fantasy that I will somehow find the thing I didn't even know I was looking for that will finally satisfy me (you know, Lacan and all that).

We also, at dinner this evening, renegotiated the girls' screen time rules, because we have once again fallen into the them-heading-for-screens-all-the-time-and-me-being-made-crazy-by-them-heading-for-screens rut, which is as much a problem of my craziness as their screen obsessions (we had the same old discussions too, E pointing out that they are well-balanced children, M pointing out that we always have this problem in winter), but something had to be done.  So we came to a new policy, which is not that different from the old policy, but shaped a little more specifically to current circumstances (we have now differentiated between productive or playful activities that just happen to take place on the computer--like checking email, reading, writing, or dancing to YouTube videos--and activities that are valuable only as mindless leisure--like dressing up supermodels or staring at Zack and Cody--not that there's anything wrong with mindless leisure, which is why there is some time allotted to it, but it's a limited amount of time).  It was a very cheerful, agreeable conversation, and we are generally good at sticking to our policies for some time, until we all forget that we need them, so I am optimistic that the screen situation will become more copacetic on all fronts.

Cleaning the sunroom (go back three paragraphs, if you've forgotten) is part of the slow but steady effort to prepare for moving half the downstairs upstairs, which is just ten doorknobs, eight cabinet knobs, four light fixtures, and some bathroom accessories away.  But the irony is that, through the preparation effort, the downstairs has become so much more livable that I almost feel like we don't need the upstairs, and that renovating has been a ridiculous act of financial and cultural hubris!  

Hmm, it's more complicated than that, though, because of course the hope inspired by the renovation has inspired some of the changes--like finally cleaning off my desk in the corner of the dining room so I can actually work at it, which means I no longer feel desperate for the office I will have any day now.  But of course the desk was a disaster because the apartment is so small that there is no place to put anything which is what the new office will remedy.  Ah, it's late and I'm starting to go in circles.

But what I really wanted to write about was the living room, which has practically nothing to do with anything said above.  Our living room has always been wrong, but I've never had any idea of how to fix it.  Basically, the layout of doors and furniture made the living room as much a hallway as anything else, and about as not cozy as could be.  I felt this especially a few weeks ago, when I had some friends over, and we were sitting in the living room after dinner, and I just thought: this is not right.  It just so happened that that weekend I was taking in our downstairs' neighbor's mail, so the next morning I walked into her living room, which is just below ours, and almost identically laid out, and realized how I could rearrange the furniture!  So I went upstairs and rearranged it that very day (basically by myself--S was out of town, and I wanted to surprise him, and for some reason it was easier to move heavy furniture by myself than with two children), and it was transformed!  It's cozier, it's happier, it's less prone to chaos, and it makes me like the whole apartment better!

So really, we didn't need to renovate after all.  We just needed to stop spending so much time on screens and rearrange the living room.  Now I wonder if I can return all those doorknobs...

1 comment:

Libby said...

In a related vein, one's hair (or mine, anyway) always looks fabulous right *before* a haircut. I can't wait to see the rearranged living room and, more importantly, the renovated house.