Ideas To Get Offscreen And Into Real Fulfilling Life (IRFL)

Ten distractions that are pulling me offline and back into the real world

After taking a break from Instagram and Twitter over the holidays (I quit Facebook a year and a half ago, so I've luckily and happily already tackled and tamed that beast, but the others, not so much), I emerged on the other side of the break torn. On the one hand, it seems obvious that I should step away from most social media entirely. The days I was offscreen were notably more peaceful, calm and productive. But on the other hand, I do enjoy Instagram, in particular, and have my uses for all of it. Just maybe not right now. Who knows.

I'll save that decision, since I haven't fully made it, and its reasoning for another post on another day. But in the meantime, it was delightful — if a challenging kind of delight, at first — in the absence of the go-to and time-sucking insta-screen to find other ways to pass my time and keep myself from "going back in."

The most obvious and most fun use of this time was playing with my daughter. We've been making a lot of crafts together and drawing, doing matching cards and puzzles (really fun at 2.5 years as they really start to get it themselves), reading books and using our imaginations in her "castle" and "farm." 

But the minute portion of my day where I am actually alone, usually at night after my little is finally asleep, when I would typically sneak a little peeky back on Instagram, I've been tackling a to-do wish list. A "wish list" because it's projects or hobbies that I've been saying I want to recommit to for years now. Funny thing is, I seemed to have plenty of time for any and all of it this month when I wasn't on the 'gram.

I've found over the past month that these habits and hobbies fulfilled me, grounded me, calmed me down and filled me with positive and rewarding feelings when I engaged in them. Again, makes the whole thing kind of a no-brainer, and yet the struggle lives on. If you can relate, and are looking for a few ideas to distract yourself from the vortex, here are ten that I've really been enjoying, and am looking forward to making more time for this year.


I have an annual knitting project and it usually begins during the winter at a time where I am at home or near my mom. She helps me cast on, then I knit a simple scarf, she helps me cast off and then I'm done for the year. After ten years of this routine, I finally have an even, pretty lilt to my stitches and I think I'm ready to roll on to some new techniques. I worked on a beautiful white and light blue fluffy scarf throughout December that I gifted to my knitting guru, my mommy, at Christmas. Just to be crazy and different this year, I'm starting a second project to work on while I'm in Australia this next month. Two knitting projects in one year, and I might even continue on from there. Watch out! Knitting madwoman at the wheel.


This is where the real grounding is happening for me right now, and has been throughout December. I'm in a Brené Brown immersion tank right now, having started with Rising Strong (a perfect read at the perfect time), continuing on to The Gifts of Imperfection and up next, downloaded and at-the-ready is Daring Greatly. I find her to be brilliantly relatable, smart and insightful, and I have found a great deal of footing in her nuggets of wisdom. I also have a new Paulo Coelho book on deck, The Pilgrimage, which I am very excited to read. My sister apparently has a juicy summer beach read waiting for me in Australia, and there's a line of books in waiting behind that. I've always loved reading (I chose reading in my bed over playing outside on nine out of ten occasions as a kid), but over the past few years, reading has played second fiddle, at best, to social media scrolling. That shall change this year.


I am hungry to learn again. I've certainly learned a lot in the past three years about life, love and being a new mom. But that was, at times, a painful kind of growth learning. This year, I will devote time to learning that fulfills me, feels good and helps me grow in a positive way. To extend what I'm gleaning from Brené Brown's books, I've signed up for a free class on her website called, "The Anatomy of Trust" (it's free! You can sign up here, too!). I definitely need that right now and am eager to see what she has to share. I've also signed up for some free photography classes on Udemy to keep reinforcing the basics of my photography study to help me move onward and upward into some trickier techniques that I need/am curious about. Lastly, but most excitedly, I gifted myself a big gift this Christmas: Rosetta Stone's Spanish program. I've wanted to learn Spanish since My Love came into my life. And you'd think I'd have learned quite a bit already by osmosis over the past four years. And, in truth, I believe I have. But I have anxiety about speaking unless and until I better understand sentence structure and grammar, and generally putting the pieces together. I was just as nervous speaking French out loud, even though I was dreaming in French at one point in my life. The perfectionist in me prevents me from diving out there and going for it without shame, and part of the emotional work that I'm doing right now is to loosen up those reigns this year. Hopefully flooding myself with new knowledge and trust is a step in that direction.


I don't seem to have a problem with taking photos. I currently have 50,000 photos in my iPhoto/Photos library. Fifty thousand. Yeah, okay maybe it's a problem, but one I'm happy to have and I don't plan on stopping. In fact, I want to take even more photos than I do now because I absolutely love it and I want to get better and better. A lot of the photos in my library are shit. But a lot of them are amazing. However, separating the cream from the milk takes time alone. Lots of it. Which I don't really have right now, so I've been doing pockets of editing here and there when I can, but the effort is disjointed. I loved using my photos to make books and prints for my family as Christmas gifts this year. It seemed to put a bigger smile on most of their faces than I'm guessing a t-shirt would have (though choosing a frame for someone can be a bit tricky). I don't expect I will completely edit all of my photos this year, but I am hoping to figure out a system to continue to attack it piece by piece until it's done, and use that system with new photos I import to cut down on future work. Because I want to continue to take thousands of photos at a time this year. 


I have yet to fill you in on the round two stomach nightmares I enjoyed (massive sarcasm) between Christmas and New Year's Eve. I don't know if I manifested it with this post, or what, but I fell extremely ill the very next day. Almost as bad as when I went to the ER last spring but I was able to manage the discomfort this time and wait it out, so there were no holiday hospital visits involved (it felt like a drug detox, it was so miserable). When I came through the other side, it was clear that there is no putting off my digestive puzzle any longer. I have to eat really consciously, not to lose weight or meet a resolution, but to live comfortably and stop driving my body directly into a future that invites cancer or worse. Although I'm back on a relatively strict diet, I haven't felt deprived since. Instead, I've been having a lot of fun cooking and planning meals that incorporate foods, herbs and supplements that help my body fight the h. pylori bacteria and make me feel better. And I have felt awesome.


This one doesn't need much explanation other than why I'm bending the rules with a screen-based "get offscreen" tactic. The "get offscreen" really means "off social media, even though a screen's a screen and most nights, I don't feel like watching TV or movies. I'm so tired by the time I get my daughter in bed to stay and asleep, which takes about three acts, I just want to collapse and generally can't stay awake for an entire movie. Drama, comedy, foreign film... it doesn't matter. I crash. But I've always loved documentaries and have especially been loving short docs this past month, those about 30-45 minutes or so. My favorite in the world are the VICE shows and documentaries, but well, my appetite for them is greater than their output. It satiates my need to learn about something new, or dig deeper on something I already know about. I almost always walk away from a documentary inspired, whether by the content itself or the creativity of the filmmaking, and I can hang for 30-45 minutes. Max.


Our adventure-ometer has been low this month. Between my energy levels needing such drastic levels of recharging, and the chilly temperatures, we've been homebodies. Luckily, there is plenty to play with at my parents' home. However, we have some fun little adventures and routines that help us get out of the house each week. We've been loving our outings to the library, where we can not only borrow a stack of new material for bed time (mostly to keep things fresh for mommy, who reads the same books again, and again, and again...), but play with puzzles, draw, ride a turn or two in a little red wagon and listen to story time with other local kids and moms. We've also been going to yoga (mommy and kids'), and scoured the local museum in Peterborough, the Mariposa. It's a "hands-on" museum, meaning the kids can play with instruments, try on costumes and generally get into things a lot more than at a typical museum. But even just getting out for a walk or a short hike — not to work out, just to get some fresh air and change the scene for a few minutes — has given me a boost of energy each time we've ventured out throughout the month.


Watching my daughter play on her own shows me that organizing is in our genes. She loves nothing more than to take piles of things and organize them into containers. I've been the same as long as I can remember. If it's not organizing things, it's planning ahead and keeping track of what's behind. One of my favorite gifts every year throughout my life has been a new planner for the new year. But in the past few years, I've ditched it in lieu of using my phone and because in the madness of new momhood, I just didn't seem to sit down and use it. I don't know if that will be different this year, but my sister gifted me an adorable little planner for 2016. I can't tell you how excited I was at its fresh pages and I'm hoping (intending) to get back to my organized planner self this year. I'm hoping that by organizing and planning for the future, I am less likely to be forgetting something at any moment, and able to be more present.


I'm realizing as I write this, that nearly everything on this list is something I've loved or done since I was a very young child that I've, for some reason, abandoned over the past few years. Quiet thinking time is one of those things. For as long as I can remember, I've spent a good percentage of my alone time just thinking. I lay on my bed and stare at the wall or just look around the room as my mind ponders this, that and everything. I've come to realize that my brain really needs this time to sort through the endless thoughts, ideas, schemes and dreams rolling around in my head. When I deny myself this time, or worse yet, use the same time to only absorb input I'm being fed on social media, my brain has no time or space to do the work it needs to do to be healthy and productive. 


I left the best for last. Or perhaps the most obvious, if you know me at all. Writing is almost as impulsive to me as going on the 'gram, except it involves creative output and flexing the muscle I was put on this earth to tone. But it's the second one that requires a screen (aka CHEATING!), making it dangerous and more so than watching a documentary or movie. Because while I give myself free reign for the rest of the nine on this list, I need to be thoughtful when I'm writing that I'm not also sneaking in internet browse time (I tend to browse social media while writing to give myself a break from my own words so I can go back and read them with a bit of space and a breath in between). I can still have that internet time, but thoughtfully and I'd prefer myself to browse interesting blogs that serve the above and my intentions, rather than observing what others are doing with their lives. Writing time needs to be distinct, separate and fulfilling. Like right now.

As I reflect on the top ten habits and hobbies that have helped me this month, all of which I intend to bring back into my life and repertoire in a major way in 2016, I'm realizing that this list should be called: Bringing Nerdy Back In Ten Easy Steps! And I'm okay with that.

After a month of thinking, and crying, and laughing and reflection, I can acknowledge that rejecting my inner nerd, in favor of Brianna The Brand (i.e. using the time when I'm not out living my life to present myself to the world, rather than to be quiet and refuel) for so many years has resulted in a lost, inauthentic version of myself.

And really, the things I love made me cool all along. What's cooler than a knitting, reading woman who's taking courses in photography, Spanish and emotional vulnerability while snapping photos, cooking, watching documentaries, writing, making lists and noting appointments, and most importantly, staring at a wall thinking...? Not ice cold. 

And definitely not Instagram.