26 May 2010

ctrl + alt + del

Let's be honest. I don't love change, and I am a good five to ten years behind the times.

I am a girl who prefers to write with pencils on paper, to borrow and browse books from the library, to shop inside stores, to listen to CDs and yes, I still rely upon my land-line, fold-out maps and the US Postal Service.

I am marginally -- at best -- connected to a social network, and since "America" (as Islanders affectionately refer to the mainland) is now a ferry ride away, it's only gotten worse (or better, depending on who you ask).
I washed and have not yet replaced my cell phone, I lost my watch nine months ago, and I stopped watching the news and reading headlines altogether.

Nevertheless, my laptop remains a centerpiece in my life and in my home.
For years, we have met on this chair over a cup of tea at least twice each week. Here, I have confided many of my innermost thoughts and entrusted the only evidence of many memories. My computer serves as a means by which to make sense of -- and a conduit of connection to -- people I love, to myself and to the world. It provides entertainment, distraction and background noise for my family. It DJs our dance parties and leads my biweekly Pilates class.

In spite of my emerging independence, I depend on this machine for its many hats and roles. It's like family or a classic black pant or this chair I've settled into. It is comfortable, appreciated, but too often overlooked. It's beloved and still useful after all these years -- mostly functional, but sometimes misunderstood. I engage a fraction of my computer's capacities and capabilities, but beyond its surface lies a world I will neither master nor fully comprehend. I am growing more and more OK with this fact.

Not often, but from time to time, my computer freaks out. For reasons I don't understand, it bogs down, slows down or completely checks out. I'm left guessing about what went wrong -- a glitch? a bug? processing too much information at once? I'm unsure how to proceed. This can feel frustrating, confusing and sometimes debilitating. I suppose that's the blessing and the curse of knowledge, relationship and dependence.

A little time and space can help. If I can let my expectations go, close down a few programs and step away for a while, things often work themselves out. At minimum, I gain some perspective. But this computer is complex. When I return to a comatose computer, I sometimes start freaking out too. I just start pushing random buttons: Power. Space Bar. ESC. Q,W,E,R,T,Y; I call upon the holy trinity: CTRL+ALT+DEL.

And then there are those days -- the few and far between that seem to be a little more frequent lately -- when nothing seems to work. My computer is frozen in time and either unwilling or unable to budge. To the savvy, the trendy, the cosmopolitan, the techie and the preteen, my computer confirms evidence that suggests it is a dispensable dinosaur.

When all else fails, I unplug my computer, remove its battery and look the other way. Naive? Detrimental? Prolonging the inevitable? Perhaps. But, extreme measures have always worked for me. When I eventually plug in and power my computer back on, things settle back to normal.

I touched (and was captivated) by my first Ipad while we were in "America" over the weekend. I don't think it even has CTRL, ALT or DEL.
I got the hard sell on the countless reasons why a Mac will serve me better in life. Probably.

Whether I wish to face the music or not, times and people are changing. Connection is instantaneous, and it matters. Computers are no longer computers, and in some cases, neither are people. Newer, faster, smaller, sleeker models are ever-present. Upgrades are always available. Space and time are shrinking. And in the absence of effort, insight and intention, little remains sacred.

I'm sorting through what it means to retain, to regain and to relinquish control. I'm considering and reconsidering realistic, practical, sustainable and communal alternatives. I'm contemplating what (or who) to delete. And I'm still trying to discern when it's appropriate to escape and when it's time to restart, to plug-in, to upgrade or to move on.

I learned a thing or two from my computer this week. I was spinning, and honestly, it felt good and necessary for me to freak out, to unplug and to reboot.

Sometimes, in order to restore optimal functioning, you just need to disengage completely and to begin again, right? Sometimes you sell your stuff, move to an island, hack off all your hair with kitchen shears and start over. And over. And over.

For me and for now, this big 'ole laptop works. The Ipad is pretty amazing though.


aimee said...

abi- i'm grateful you're connected enough to share on this blog. i love catching glimpses into your island life.
and, they're right, macs really are that much better.

Juli said...

Laughing to myself as I read this and realize how deeply embedded I am in tech-nol-ogy. This last weekend we went up to the mtns and there is no internet access, cell phone access is very minimal, & the tv/dvd thing wasn't working. And I was blissful. Read 2 books and jon and i sat in the hot tub looking at the milky way.

We might end up on an island someday. I think that would suit us just fine.