Unsubscribed

It’s a little early to pronounce, or worse, proselytise, any resolutions for the incoming year. Not that I’ve succeeded at this before, but especially not after “My Year of Austerity” ended prematurely in a burnt pyre of ashes. That first month, of no coffee, proceeded swimmingly compared to its follow-up: abstaining from the Industrial Food Complex’s approved grade of child-friendly cocaine. From the get-go I confused the brake with the gas pedal, like a new driver riding the clutch the entire road trip, even though I was far from new to the activity of driving. Sugar is one sticky bitch to kick from habit.

So I was already bumping on and off the rails when 2020 leapt the side of the bridge entirely, like a runaway bus in a Keanu Reeve’s film, COVID jerking the wheel less than three months in. The last two years have revealed time as both mercurial and mystic, its reliability questionable, like the moment when Toto tugged the curtain back, revealing the truth and the absurdity of the situation. Contemplating this, I decided I should focus on things I’d like to change now. In my notebook, I wrote:

  1. Unsubscribe.

That’s it. That’s as far as I got. But chewing on it further, I decided unsubscribing was plenty. Every morning when I open my inbox, it flashes white like stacks of gym socks, freshly bleached, covered in cockleburs proliferating before my eyes, like the wind is at their back, squeezing into each preview, assembled first as letters, then words and sentences, the anticipation of paragraphs looming. No matter how often I cleanse (delete) these stacks of cockleburs, the pile in my inbox grows bigger still, most of the messages useless and unwelcome, like in-laws springing onto your doorstep unannounced. Swiping an unopened email left merely pushes them to the back of the line, undeterred, like a potential date/stalker on Tinder. So now I’m carving out a few extra moments to open emails, scroll to the bottom, and click the link to unsubscribe. “No” really does mean “no,”Tindergate, not just “maybe later.” Honestly, the sheer volume of emails is somewhat startling and overwhelming, a total time suck, seconds of my life, rolled into minutes and hours, stolen and never to be returned. 

Unnecessary emails are the first to go, but I’m also canceling subscriptions to newsletters as well as some podcasts. Like anyone else, I can consume only so much content in a single day. The only thing worse than “missing out” on more information, or an unforeseen opportunity, is participating with half-assed attention and enthusiasm. I’m unsubscribing in order to more fully engage.

Gary Chapman wrote a wonderful book called “The Five Love Languages.”  He describes the five ways human beings can express love to one another. We all tend to be strong in some areas and weak in others. The problem arises when a person speaks a different love language than their partner. Gary outlines our options like this: 

1. Words of Affirmation

2. Quality Time

3. Receiving Gifts

4.  Acts of Service

5. Physical Touch

You’ll have to read the book to understand more—about yourself, your partner, and human connection in general. But I like Gary’s list, and while in the throes of decluttering my inbox, it’s a valuable compass to navigate past the muck. Next year, I pledge my words will come first; this is my affirmation that my writing has ascended to the position of first chair. Quality time, with friends and family, still continues to be at the forefront of my mind and will continue to take precedence. And, after eighteen months (and more) of COVID, I hope to revitalise the normalcy of physical touch within my little circle, with a hug or a kiss, because physical connection is so important, even if it is brief and seems innocuous. Touch really does matter. These thoughts guide me as I usher this year away, unsubscribing from one, to more fully engage in another.

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

 —Ludwig Wittgenstein

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