I took the month of August off from social media. I tried for a break from all media, realizing how much I immerse myself in the printed word as a form of distraction, soothing, entertainment, ease of boredom, placeholder activity, mind quieting method, etc. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron recommends a week without reading because she notes that reading is a form of consumption that can get in the way of creation. She is sure correct.
What I found is that even if I take away the reading, I will find some other way to avoid what I don't want to do. It was truly fascinating to watch myself seeking, seeking seeking something for relief and distraction so I didn't have to focus on a big project. Taking away one's prime distraction only does so much. You also have to nurture the other side - the process of finding joy in doing the work. I'm still learning this.
My media-free month was not completely media-free. Around week three I fell into a tumbling vortex of Vanderpump Rules, the absolute and most ridiculous opposite of being media free. It's a long story. There were other transgressions too, but that one is the funniest to me. If you don't know the show, look it up and you will see what I mean. It's the danger of having downloaded Hulu to my computer a few months ago so I could watch The Handmaid's Tale. It was like candy sitting in front of me and I'm sorry to say I ate it. A lot of it. I guess I can call it "life coach research" - ha!
During that media-free month, I was also super-lucky enough to travel unexpectedly with dear friends to Tennessee to see the "total eclipse of the sun". And yes, we sang "You're so Vain" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and any other songs with sun or moon in them the whole way there.
By now you've read plenty about the eclipse, and how incredible it was. I told myself I wouldn't take a photo, that I would simply be present, but again, I couldn't help myself, so this is what my iPhone saw. It was quiet. It was awe-inspiring. The whole day and the days leading up to it felt like a remembrance of childhood when everything was new and carefree and each new season felt like a reason to celebrate. It felt like childhood summer. Cooking out, fresh cut grass, and happy people simply being.
The eclipse itself also had a quality of being something experienced before. A sense of time stopping and of deep yearning. It was special and other-worldly. I'm glad I shared the moment with my husband and with good friends.
Afterwards, I was the same person. The land around us, atop a wild mountain in the Appalachians with a very magical overgrown golf course, was the same. The animals went back to their regular lives. The sun looked exactly the same as it always does. The message I received from the whole experience was this:
"You do not need to wait for a celestial event. You do not need to wait for a message from the stars or planets. You do not need to wait for any sign, signal or permission. Everything around you is simply here to support you in connecting with your life and with the present moment. No special equipment, incantation, outside blessing, or initiation is needed. No certification, no training, no reading, no preparation. Simply be present and live."
The eclipse in all its glory had come and gone and here we were.
In that moment, I made a promise to keep doing the best I can to stop waiting for any special moment coming in the future, and to keep waking up, every moment possible, to the wonder of being alive, whether the feeling in the moment is happy or sad, frightening or amazing - to be alive and feel it.