You might remember that just over a week ago I wrote about our decision for me to return to work. This was never really in our plan, and though there is a real part of me that relishes the thought of something other than "mummy stuff", there is a very large part of me that is terrified.
I gave up full-time work in 2010 because of my health. I started this particular blog around the same time and so if you've been following along you'll also know that just when I started to feel well enough to look for work again I fell pregnant... and fell ill! And part way through that year I had the very same thoughts I'm having now: "I have to work, but how is that going to affect my health and my ability to be a good mother".
I managed to work when pregnant with severe sickness. Just as I managed to survive 18 months of hell in my previous employment. And just like I managed to complete a 4 year degree that included a year spent in Germany and Russia, despite being ill with (as then undiagnosed) Endometriosis causing me immense amounts of pain and exhaustion.
But managing is not always the same as "living", by which I mean the sense of enjoying who you are and what you're doing rather than merely surviving.
So something's got to give.
If there is one thing I learned from my months of CBT, it's that although I may not want my health to define who I am, I also need to recognise that I do have limits and that by trying to surpass them I make things a million times worse.
My problem is I am both passionate and ambitious. I want to change the world. I want to campaign for the things that make a difference to people's lives. I want to advocate for all those women who suffer silently and needlessly with both Endo and HG. And I know I can do this. But at what cost?
I've spent the past two years building up a profile online. I've networked and researched and communicated and built a way forward to really making a change. But it does take up a hell of a lot of time. And energy.
I get frustrated when my days are all the same, when I get no time to work on the HG book or keep up with the changing face of the media. But then I watched a Google+ Hangout the other day about social media and it made me realise just how much blogging and networking like this takes. People were talking about checking their phones while stood at the school gates and I realised that I wouldn't be able to do that. I'd be sat in an office and did I really want to spend my lunchbreak checking my Twitter feed?
Now this is a revelation in itself. I have always had a real love for the worldwide web and all that it brings. I have made some amazing friends through blogging and online forums. I wouldn't have learnt half the things I have without it. I even said to T the other day that I wish I had known about all of this before going to uni because then I might have trained in some kind of creative media or PR work. But I didn't, and so all of this is just a hobby that eats into my time so very easily.
And when I think of it that way I realise that the time investment is something I just will not have if I return to full-time work. I find it exhausting trying to stay on top of things as it is, doing so around working hours is not going to be easy.
And this is where I come back to that lesson I learned in CBT. I am not wonder woman. No woman is, but with a chronic condition that wears down my energy reserves I am even less wonder woman than most. And I have to prioritise.
I have tried to do it all before and it hasn't worked. I have also tried to limit my time online... and that hasn't worked either. I did however take a week away in May and that was magnificent. Alright, so I was on holiday at the time and that may have swayed my opinion, but it was nice letting go of the need to "keep up".
So when I started writing a list of all the things that eat away at my time at present and which ones I wanted to prioritise, it should probably have come as little surprise how much of it was based online. Which led T to suggest something I never really thought he'd suggest... a technological sabbatical.
What's that then?
Well, it goes something like this:
No phone/TV/broadband bundle
- We would still pay our license but limit our tv viewing to a certain amount of hours per week (eg 10) and have to choose that from either DVDs or what is on the basic tv channels.
- We would also have a telephone but it just wouldn't be part of a bundle
- We would buy a dongle so that we could have say 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon to log online, post and update on the blog (to keep it ticking over) and "check in" with people. We're not daft, we know people use the social media to keep in touch these days and we don't want to lose total contact.
- We would make exceptions for certain occasions (eg birthdays) and stick to it the rest of the year
Replace time online/in front of tv with other things such as:
- Going out for walks in nature
- Arts and Crafts
- Family Time
It is both a liberating and terrifying thought. There would be so much that we'd both have to give up. But is there more to gain than to lose?
Would the time I lost networking online with other HG survivors provide me with more time to actually complete the book? Or would losing that constant contact to the people who are inspiring the work mean I'd also lose the impetus to write?
Would we see more of our friends because we'd have to actually make time to go and see them? Or would we miss out on some of their biggest news because they put it on their Facebook feed and forget we're not using Facebook anymore?
Will this provide us with a much simpler life, revolving around our needs as a family? Or will it make us totally "out of touch" with the world as it changes around us?
People often throw in the whole "when we were young we didn't have the internet, so why is it such a big deal?" when this kind of conversation crops up. But they forget that nobody had the internet in those days, the world worked differently. So to leave the world of the web when everyone else is using it feels rather scary...
And I have an awful lot of commitments that I have worked hard for, which are all connected to the internet and which I'd be taking a huge risk on losing by shutting off. Things like my blog... will people lost interest and my blog fall into obscurity, or will it actually provide me with so much more to write about? And does that even matter? Have my blog and other online commitments become too important (or rather, out or proportion)?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Could you live without the internet and social media? What would it mean for you (both good and bad)?