In the past few years, with the freedom of having time which I could spend how I wanted, money which I had more control over what to spend on and the priviledge of living in such a rich part of the world, I had developed some bad habits. Most of them were related to the consumerist culture which we live in, and my own inability to resist the temptation of succumbing to thoughts of ‘everyone else has one’ or ‘I can have it if I want it’ or ‘what do I feel like doing?’I am definitely still struggling with a lot of these things.
However, through one thing and another, I’ve actually realised that I have, with God’s help, managed to drop some of these bad habits, which was a nice thought, and one I wanted to focus on a little in this post, just so I don’t forget that things are improving and can continue to, as a little encouragement.
Here’s what it looked like [this is a pre-Phoebe one!]
Checking facebook and twitter before getting up, at any point in the day I felt a bit bored, before bed and really, probably in my sleep. Thinking in tweets.
Lamenting about my clothes and making lists of things I needed to buy, doing endless ‘research’ of internet shopping and going through shops thinking about what I wanted.
Watching tv as a background noise when alone in the flat; pay half attention to whatever else I was doing, often being on the internet on pinterest or twitter before getting any uni work done.
Thankfully, lots of things have contributed to changes in these areas. We moved house, and had a baby, and those things meant I had less time to focus on what I felt like doing, and more time to concentrate on being selfless. When Phoebe was little I started reading on my kindle whilst feeding/ she was asleep on me, and whilst I watched tv quite a bit that has diminished over time. I’m now at the point where it’s not my default, to sit down on the sofa in quiet and think, turn the tv on. I used to struggle to turn it off once Neighbours, or whatever had finished, but now I don’t channel flick but switch off. I don’t really know how or where this came from, but it has organically happened and I’m so grateful. Obviously it’s not perfect. Sometimes I think if life was different and I lived alone, would I have a tv? Probably, yes. I would like to think that we have it because Josh likes watching films etc, but I have more of a pull to it than I might like to think. It’s easy, easier than putting effort into choosing a book and making my brain work to read it. But easy has taken over our culture. Everything is instantaneous, and if it’s not easy we complain. I need to take a step back from easy and focus on things that require effort, but are worth it.
My temptation to internet surf has been made a bit better by getting a smart phone, and a bit worse. I used to turn the computer on to check university emails and get stuck for hours looking at various things like twitter etc. With a smartphone I can see that there is nothing urgent, and it’s a lot easier to put down. A few months ago I decided to take a hiatus from facebook and twitter. Thankfully this means that my compulsions to go on them all the time are broken, and now I only use them to a minimum. At the moment I have the temptation of checking instagram or bloglovin when I have a quiet few minutes, and that’s a compulsion I’m trying to get out of. (Again, it’s easy and has become a habit). I don’t want the end of my day, my last thoughts before sleep to be shaped by a back-lit screen. I don’t want my first thoughts to be about the internet. On the other hand I love being able to do my Bible reading plan (she reads truth) on my phone at breakfast, so that is great. But the compulsions are still pulling me- so a mixed blessing, and something I’m trying to work on.
Being in the middle of a consumer, material driven culture has really had an effect on my feelings of having the ‘right’ to lots of things and ‘needing’ x, y and z. We are so blessed to have a roof over our head, clothes enough to clothe us for months, and food. Everything else we have is above and beyond all that, yet I still feel the ‘need’ to get more. Not only is that just going to fill up my house, and my thoughts, but that money I’m spending on myself is so needed, genuinely needed by other people. I’ve gone cold turkey with buying clothes, and just haven’t been into town shopping for months. Last week I went to get Josh some trousers and genuinely felt overwhelmed just by walking through one shop. It was so loud. Everything was shouting ‘you need this’, ‘you want me’, ‘you, you, you’, and I just wanted to get out. I’m trying to care more about what I buy by spending more time thinking about it, where it’s from and who it’s benefitting (who made it etc.), and also trying to make the clothes I want. I’ve wasted much time and money thinking ‘I want this,’ gone looking for it, not found it but bought lots of other things instead. Making things is going to test and grow my skills. It will take longer than having instant gratification of walking into a shop, but I am valuing things much more this way.
My hopes are that I’m going to be able to redirect money that I was spending on myself towards people and situations who really depend on it, and redirecting time I spent wasted on the internet or tv to more worthwhile things. I’m trying, trying being the operative word here, to use those two or three minute pauses to pray, rather than jump on my phone. Prayer matters, it changes things, it draws your heart alongside your Father’s. That is much better for my time.
All of these things are such a battle and a struggle, especially when it means going against the usual, predominant culture. Ideas of what I want, what I need, are becoming less and thinking more about what others need is my priority. It’s hard. I’m going to fail, but God has the grace to pick me up and keep me going.