7 min read

Hiatus: Two Months of Purposeful Disconnect

What I discovered, what I lost - and how I will return to social media.
Lunaria Annua, or 'Honesty'

I am not the first person to have attempted this, I know (Marlee Grace is still completing her sabbatical) - its becoming more clear than ever that we have become so completely entwined with social media, and further away from nature. Though I have never been a complete obsessive (and nor am I completely against it, I should add), I have fallen into the trap of scrolling, of time slipping through my fingers - and quite frankly, not even questioning my habits. How quickly this became a normal part of my life; not dissimilar to eating, or tying my shoe laces. It became so ‘normal’; I would even walk, clutching my phone in my palm, like I was holding a hand, an apple or a dog lead - taking the entire world with me. I never stopped to question how I was spending my time, what platforms I was using, or why I was even doing any of this. I gave myself so freely - my trust, my life - and I’ve since come to really feel how disconnected I was from my self, my body, and others around me. We were never meant to be open to this amount of information, with no breather inbetween (as I’m learning through reading Lucy Jones’ book, ‘Losing Eden’) - and I really believe that, because of my own experience.

When the news of Sarah Everard filtered into my Instagram account, I was overcome with fear, despair and a deep sadness, and I had to hit the pause button - or, more specifically, the delete button. The anger and unrest; all of the human pain around this subject was insurmountable, and I was lost in the sea of it. It touched on so many of my own painful edges and I knew that to protect myself, to grieve and to process - enough was enough.

I started by deleting Instagram off of my phone (Facebook had never made it to on to my phone upgrade - a deliberate act) and I tweaked all of my phone’s settings not to show me any news reports or headings etc. For the first few days at least, I found myself constantly picking up my phone - it was often in the in-between parts of my day; whilst my son was running about in the morning, whilst he was eating breakfast, whilst I was on the toilet, when I was getting my son to sleep, when he was asleep, etc. Ironically, I was spending so much of my time vocalising to others that I have no time - when instead, I was filling up those available moments with scrolling. At times it was useful - I would connect with other authors, find a trail of new books to read, discover someone who would take my breath away (Adrienne Maree Brown, fyi) and unpack my own behaviours through the groundbreaking work of so many intersectional environmentalists (e.g. Leah Thomas). I grew in small steps, but I was mostly simply consuming. I had been feeling a big disconnect in my life for a while, and it wasn’t until I saw the curation of IG posts that I’d ‘liked’, that I could see for myself what I was truly passionate about - a mosaic of poems, plants, women, books (and food) repeated down my screen like window panes; a path. All transparent too, of course - because I was only inhaling; I wasn’t actually taking this information into my real life, of truly taking action or doing better. This frozenness, this numbness, was one of the first bodily sensations I noticed in my first few days of being ‘offline’ - I felt lost.

My brain had trained my fingers to hold the edges of my phone, to smooth my thumbs over the glass screen like they would have done against paper maps - except, I wasn’t actually going anywhere. I was tired of this non-existence, of this immobility and lack of vitality - I watched others taking curated steps in their own life, while my hips took the weight of my expanding waist. I acknowledge that this period of life / time has been a part of my recovery journey, a part of my survival, and I do not judge myself for this anymore - but I have been on a path seeking life for a while now. I’d finally met the marker that asked me to question this particular direction - or, more poignantly, asking me to actually start placing steps again, because I was merely standing still. It took around four or five days to really be at ease with this; to stop the incessant picking up of my phone - and eventually, gradually (at one point, checking my emails fastidiously, every hour) - I started to sit with my unsettledness. It felt prickly, unnerving, uncertain, but I was also relieved to have removed myself. I had reclaimed some power back for myself, some iota of control - that actually, I had choices, and I could make my own decisions about how and where and what I spend my time on. This was quite a revelation for me; the stirrings of movement.

Within a week, I utilised the darker mornings and invested the time I would be spending scrolling, by getting out of bed and exercising (something I had been procrastinating on, for a long while) - I came across Breathe and Flow’s channel and quickly became a subscriber to their videos (they provide tailored flows for certain ailments, injuries, moods and PMT, etc, which I found really useful in making my own practice more specific to my body). Mostly though, they often finish each sequence with a period of rest, and sitting within that uncomfortability, of putting my attention back on to myself, was not easy - something I am continuing to build upon now. I picked up my books again (my 'to be read' pile is UNREAL) and reconnected with the words of Julia Cameron - more on this very soon. I also finally opened myself to the incredible book from Kerri Andrews et al (Wanderers: A History of Women Walking) - a book I have been gifted (twice!) and have been aching to absorb; to hear of other women walking through this world (which is part of my furnace - to commence contributing my own voice to this field). I was starting to ponder over spoken word, whether I might one day gain the courage to stand and speak aloud - and I fell absolutely in love with Kae Tempest (Youtube had become a bit of a crutch for the first few weeks, I will admit). I got goosebumps listening to Kae speak in interviews, of being so real and so human, and implore everyone to go listen to ‘Fire Smoke’ - what I believe to be one of the most shudderingly, achingly beautiful love songs I’ve heard in a long, long time. From there, I then began a search for others who were sharing their outdoor journeys, no matter the scale; I wanted to hear the voices of women, queer or non-binary folk, to find the folds in their paths that crossed with mine somehow - to help me gauge where I sat within all of this. I stumbled upon Abbie Barnes’ channel, and have since been indulging in her wonderful, high-quality ‘documentaries’ that span almost all of the trails across the UK (and beyond!); an incredible human who often exposes the reality of solo adventure - the moments when we meet our shadows as well as our light. It is such a gift to be able to follow along, and for me it helped add to those embers of calling that I too, want to take my space outside.

Away from screens, I dedicated myself more to communicating better with friends, and found that life was still unfolding without social media to lean on - I savoured my friends’ reactions, their stories, their presence; and I gained a few numbers in my phonebook because I was spending more time outside (often bumping into other parents, which led to a period of visiting local parks and the seafront almost every day, for weeks). Aside from parenting, I began taking more true steps towards my writing (which your eyes are now gliding over); fathoming whether I want to remain an occasional, long-form writer on Instagram, or whether I can step into a space of my own, that has the potential for community. I haven’t completely avoided the world during this break (often, topics have arisen in conversations which have spun me into moments of disconnect, and not always in a nourishing way - which has helped me start to feel my way back to a point that I can be comfortable in - not denying the real world that continues, regardless). Pain, unrest and stress still found their way to me, and perhaps I even sat with these things more fully, without social media to numb me. Having had almost two months away, and trembling with the clarity of where and how I want to add my voice, I will slowly make a return to my profiles, and this is not without resistance - the freedom I regained for myself, and the removing of myself from the turbulence, has been renewing. I know for me to connect and share to the capacity that I want, I will need to tread carefully on those tracks again. I am here to share, to keep evolving, to keep walking, after all.

And so, with some additional freckles, I also returned to my volunteering work recently (on Earth Day, no less) - trying to find my footing amongst faces I had not seen for over a year (if ever); a daunting task that thankfully, ended-up with an hour of foraging and reconnecting with the flower farm - immersing myself in the beautiful plants, fungi and creatures. The image I have included in this post is a single flower I found growing in amongst huge swathes of hedge garlic - and my I.D. books motion me towards the plant ‘Honesty’, or ‘Moonwort’ (which when investigated further, proved to be the plant bearing the transparent, disc-shaped seedpods that I have always been fascinated by).

I am willing to be vulnerable here and admit that I often seek reassurance in nature - part of my relationship with the earth has been a literal exploration of how I can communicate with the life around me better, and I find it humbling that a plant based on so much folklore and history showed-up for me during a time of working-out how best to show up for myself, and others. It is with the fragile transparency of the Moonwort seedpods that I finally plant myself here - for you, and for the Earth.

I hope to connect with you over the coming months and am so grateful for your time and presence.

Take ease,

Kay