Monday, January 6, 2014

Wired Anxiety

By Lisabet Sarai

I woke up yesterday morning (Sunday) agonizing about this blog post. What should I talk about? We all have our worries. I didn't want to sound whiney. I thought about a post entitled 'Consider the Lilies', dealing with the futility of worry in the face of life's grand uncertainty, and the need to trust the universe. However, I concluded that would have been too preachy.

Maybe I should write a story addressing the topic, the way Garce always does? I actually came up with an idea (think about all our worries during the sex act!), but then I decided I couldn't afford to spend my time penning a random tale when I have a 60K novel due at the end of January and I'm only at the 30K mark. (I'll file that notion away in my notebook for some future date, when I've got free time – huh!)

How was I going to produce something as creative as Garce, as insightful as Giselle, as erudite as Jean? Being first to address each Grip topic is not an enviable status, believe me. The rest of the contributors can riff on my post, or take my initial direction and throw in a curve or two. Me, I'm flying blind.

All these familiar, minor worries faded, though when I got to my computer and discovered that our ADSL was down.

Oh my God! No email. No blogs. No way to check for comments or visitor stats. And forget about writing the darned blog. How was I going to post it?

These days even a single day of Internet outage is a small catastrophe for me.

I can check my “real world” email at work, but Lisabet's communications are restricted to a specific computer, with an encrypted drive to keep all my work and messages safe from prying eyes. Furthermore, these days, the business of being an author critically depends on connectivity. Without the Internet, I can't communicate with my editors, my readers, or my colleagues. There are rational reasons for me to worry about being cut off from the 'Net.

My panic, though, extended far beyond rationality. Disconnected, I felt helpless, alone, totally out of the loop. No Writers list posts flowing into my inbox. No requests for guest spots. No updates from my publisher. No notices of glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (yeah, right...)

And I realized that I worry a lot about being connected, all the time. I don't have a smart phone and my husband the security geek strictly forbids the use of Wi-Fi. When I'm away from my home office for an entire day, I start to get edgy. I know the email messages are piling up. (I typically get 100 to 200 messages a day.) I wonder when I'm going to have time to sort through them. In a very real sense, the only time I can be Lisabet is when I'm online.

When we go on a business trip or a vacation – heavens! The anxiety is grueling. Before we leave, I unsubscribe from as many lists as possible, to reduce my mail volume. I try to pre-schedule blog posts, release and contest announcements and so on. While we're traveling, it's usually difficult and/or expensive to get online. When we went to France last spring, we paid $60 for a SIM card we could use in our GSM modem, so we could check email without worrying about Wi-fi malware. And we (both) took significant chunks of time from our holiday schedule to handle critical online issues.

I remember traveling in the eighties and the nineties. No need to worry about connectivity. We could disappear for a week or two. We didn't care who was trying to contact us. Sometimes we wouldn't even look at a newspaper for a week. A simpler, easier, more innocent time, that seems now.

I wouldn't want to give up this connectivity, though. I love “talking” to all these people, all around the world. I'd be terribly isolated without the 'Net. I'd never have “met” Desiree, or Lily, or J.P. Now that I've got this wonderful blessing, though, I'm always concerned about losing it.

The broadband link is still down. We can't reach our provider – yesterday we were on hold for forty five minutes. They're doing some sort of system conversion, so that might explain this lengthy (and unusual) outage. Meanwhile, my darling techie husband hooked up the GSM modem so that we can have a minimal (slow, expensive) connection to the outside world. And so I could post this blog.

Now I'm worrying about when we'll be online again.


  1. I've been thinking about how tough it must be to go first. I'd already decided, as far as worry, "We'll see how others address this, and then I'll write my post." Thanks for kicking it off!

    As far as connectivity, I absolutely understand the worry. It's strange to me, though, because I grew up poor enough that I didn't have a computer for most of my life (I wasn't able to buy my first computer until after I got my first job out of grad school, and plenty of people are shocked when I tell them I went through college without owning a computer). Then I proceeded to get the sort of job where people are expected to be available online just about 24/7, and the change was really shocking for me. Suddenly, I found myself roving airports desperately scanning behind potted plants for free outlets and paying $15 for an hour of wifi so I could get online.

    I've tried really hard to get away from the intense and constant anxiety of that now that I no longer have that job, but the habit's been hard to break. I, too, value the people I've met online, but I find that social media, e-mail, and blogging are an added layer of tasks that are hard for me to keep up with and cause me a lot of stress. I fall easily back into the sense that I need to be available and checking constantly, or else... I also love and hate it. I'm disturbed when I can't be online, but it also feels great when I'm forced to be off it and I remember what it was like not to worry about connectivity.

    Anyway, thanks for the kickoff and hope your Internet stuff gets worked out!

    1. This morning the GSM connectivity died...! But we've got that working again, at least. Our internet provider says we'll have our DSL back by Friday. FRIDAY??!! I'm about to go crazy..

      Re college without a computer... some of us went to college before personal computers existed ;^)

    2. I thought of that when I wrote my comment. :) These days, though, it is shocking (and difficult).

  2. Been there, done that, got too many t-shirts. You said it for us all!

    1. Hi, Desiree,

      I was thinking of posting a picture of Thomas E. Newman... but I figured that would be violating copyright!

  3. Boy, can I relate to the computer problem - see my comment on jean's post! Now I'm worried what to blog about 'worry'!

    1. Yes, I saw your comment - I can definitely sympathize.

      Just be glad that you don't WORK with computers, like I do.

  4. By the very fact we do so much due to computers, they allow us to multiply our commitments. When systems go down, the commitments remain.

  5. That's why we take a 2-week camping trip every summer. I announce ahead of time that I'll be unreachable, because the small towns we are close to rarely have wi-fi, and husband is a telecommunications engineer who has made me paranoid about hooking up to public wi-fi anywhere, especially in local coffee houses! One year my cover artist at a new publisher hadn't been told I'd be camping, and she sent me repeated emails over the course of a week, the final one being a very aggravated one, telling me she'd call me to get an answer. But there wasn't any cell phone reception up there either! Once I got into town my phone was chirping like a canary with repeated voice-mail message alerts. When I heard her message I told my husband I had to pay to connect to the local wi-fi while I was doing laundry, because she was so pissed at me! She was mollified once she learned where I was, coincidentally not far from her home in Canada!

    I love being connected also, but worry that not shoving my name in front of potential readers every single minute of every single day is the reason for my puny royalties checks. I prefer to worry about that rather than write what seems to be selling these days, which would feel fake to me since it's not what I want to write.

    BTW, my late Mother used to be the Queen of Worry! She'd worry when there was nothing to worry about, because something must be going to happen soon that would require her to worry, and she wanted to get a head start on it! Meanwhile my husband makes fun of me for not being able to relax...ever. He enjoys Tai Chi but tells me I'd need to find the "quiet place" in my head to participate. I tell him there's a man spinning plates on sticks in that place in my head, and when he gets them all going, the first ones are starting to slow down and fall. Even when he convinces me to watch TV with him, I crochet scarves for my kids, afghans for everyone, etc. I can't just sit there. I'd worry too much about wasting time like that! Thanks, Mom.

    1. My mother made a hobby of worrying, and she knew it. It was partly a defense against being taken by surprise by bad things, I think. Even if you couldn't control things, pre-worrying meant that you were prepared, and if those bad things didn't happen you could always move on to another batch. I suppose I do it too.

    2. Oh, can I relate! One reason I've never had children is that I KNOW I'd drive them crazy with my worrying. I was extremely overprotected and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to resist doing that to my kids.

      Hey, I even worry about our cats.

  6. Hi Lisabet!

    Me, I was` worried about coming up with a story. Performance anxiety. And then my laptop died.

    It's amazing though isn't it, how things that were a novelty when they appeared, things which were never expected to be important like online communication become so intensely important over time. Or even computers. I remember when I bought a computer for the first time, the cheapest I could get, and I felt terribly guilty like I was spending my family's money on a personal toy. Now how would we live without it?

    And people are like that too. You can cruise along just fine before you meet that special person, if ever you do, and then you can;t imagine life without them.


    1. This. These days, I work at doing things that will take me away from my computer, and I wonder about all the years I spent without one.

    2. And yet when they asked folks in Great Britain a few years ago, what they considered the most important invention of the 20th century, it wasn't laptops, computers, or even cell phones. They overwhelmingly voted for the "widget", the tiny ping-pong-ball-like thing in the cans of Guiness Draft beer, that release nitrogen into the beer when you pop the can open, thus making it taste more like a real draft like you'd get at a pub. I guess we all have our priorities, eh?


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