Another Letter From Graddy

Honestly, I never thought I would become one of "those" people.  

You know, teenager-style, staring into a phone while walking through the park.  Immersed in some online world and oblivious to the natural beauty shaped by billions of years of evolution around them.

But I am.  I  *so* am.   I can't even remember the relatively recent days where I would lose my iPhone for days on end.  Now it is never more than a foot away.  Never.

I love this astounding new interconnectedness with the world.   My MOMS Club peers think I've disappeared.  But I haven't, I am just as vocal, and passionate, and active as ever--just inside the pixels of my phone.   I feel deeply connected to all sorts of people all over the country, all over the world!

At any time of day or night, some friend-in-repair is a message away.  What an amazing time to live in.  A whole community of like-minded people living in your pocket.   A really odd problem crosses my microscope, within seconds, my microsoldering buddy Loren in Mississippi is also glancing at it with me on his phone far away.   Later he shows me one for the record books.  I am on a ski slope--I stop for a second and smile and make a quick comment.  He is there with me, a friend in my pocket.   Another friend tells me he is getting a haircut, I snap a quick picture of the ski lift---guess where I am!   We are all there together, except not really.    My real live friend scowls--put that thing away!  I don't listen.  I take a picture of our four children together.  I make a video as I ski down a trail.   Another friend calls--oh, yes, we need to talk about this before tomorrow----I hold my poles in one hand and distractedly swoop down the trail not even aware that I'm actually talking on the phone while skiing.


That's what is missing here.  I remember reading a book on this simple concept.  "When was the last time you really took a shower?" it asks.  "No really.  You're in the shower and you concentrate on the warm feeling of the water hitting your shoulders.  You focus on just that simple joy.  You do NOT plan dinner, or think about which route is the fastest."   Ages.  Maybe never.  :(

This last day has been such a different day--even though I'm working, doing repair, emailing, shipping just like all the other days.   But today, I was cut off from communication in this scary, but interesting way.   I usually get a dozen or so emails from the website a day.  They get forwarded to my personal email address.  I readily answer them--people actively sending devices and checking on a status.  Today, there were 200.


And among the 200, were the dozen 'regular' emails that were not part of this iFixit blog post buzz.   But I couldn't find them.  They were swirled in like the cream in my coffee.  And there was no feasible way to sort through the 200.   Suddenly, what had seemed so laser-focused important yesterday was impossible today.  I was instantly overwhelmed.   The idea that I just *had* to answer those 12 emails---well now, sheesh.  200?  Whaddayagonna do?   Impossible.  Can't.    This was like switching a microscope objective.  I had been so focused on the small picture--the 12 emails.  Deeply concentrated on this microcosm of importance, ignoring everything else around me.   Now, the objective was changed to a much larger field of view.  Now there were 200.   

I had long been aware that juggling the 12 emails, and the 25-30 repairs that I'm personally capable of had me stretched to the limit of what I could accomplish.  Taking the time to build a better infrastructure was out of the question, who had time for that!

200?  Impossible.  But not really.  There are plenty of resources out there to make small changes and scale an operation.  Hire some talented folks, automate repetitive tasks.  People do this every day.   It is not a wall, but a door.    And through that door, the opportunity to do more of the things I love about repair, and less of what I don't love.

I want to teach.  I want to inspire.  I want to learn how to fix new things, and fix things faster and better.   
I don't know that it is possible for a passionate person to really ever achieve anything resembling work/life balance.  Work isn't work when it is fun! But I want to try.  I want to be more mindful.  I want to sometimes, put down this phone.  These 12, these 200---they can wait.

This week, I am going to try and tackle these jobs to help make things run more smoothly and free my time to spend on the things I really love to do.  Even when that means doing nothing.  Sitting. Listening. Being.

I am thinking these things today, when here comes the mail.  
A letter from Graddy.   Many of you know Graddy--he is 98 years old and just as sharp as a tack.   I did give Graddy an iPad last summer, and spent an afternoon with him.  That experience was like showing a child candy for the first time.  He was able to post, in real time, a comment on a great-grandchild's first car---he shared a memory of his own from the time when the world was in black and white.  I had seen the smile on his lips.
He learned, finally, of the fate of an old ship he'd once been on.   Oh the things to learn about, the people to know---intoxicating for someone whose world was becoming crushed in around him by the steady march of deafness.

But he had closed the cover on that iPad back then.  He'd clearly seen the joy of it, but instead he turned to me and asked----"Doesn't it feel, strange?  To just be so....available all the time?  To have this thing cry for your attention with these notifications?  Isn't it like a child that must be babysat?"

Today, his letter arrives, a paper copy of something he sent to someone else asking about a returned Christmas card.  
Even as relatively disconnected I am from Graddy, with only paper letters going back and forth every now and then, no instant pictures of ski slopes appearing in his pocket, I see that we are both thinking the same thing today.   Is this electronic lifestyle good for us?
Graddy's missives are always so fitting, despite the vast swaths of years that separate us.   As usual, once I read it, I feel compelled to share.  And then compelled to spend a minute--just a minute--in mindfulness.

He handwrites a personal note: 

"Dear Jessa,
How kind and loving your gift of the computer and your careful instructions, verbal and written, was given to help me be 'in the loop'.
I see myself as sort of a life-line to keep (for me at least) the unique experiences of an able and respectful person from being all lost. 

It is this desire to not lose my gathered experiences that keep me from "playing" with your good gift and becoming able in its quickness and language.

"And if I should live to be the last leaf on the tree in the Spring.  Then let them laugh at me, and at the old bough where I cling"
Lots of love, 

Broken Phone or iPad
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