Have you ever drawn a line in the sand?
Have you ever said, “The line must be drawn here. This far, no further!”
If you haven’t, maybe you should.
If you do it often, maybe you should reconsider.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A few years ago, when broadcast television signals switched analog to digital, my mother drew a line in the sand. She went shopping with my father to buy a new TV and the digital equivalent of rabbit ears. The TV purchase included free installation. It did not include hooking up the stereo speakers or the DVD player. Suddenly, watching broadcast television became complicated. My parents couldn’t figure out how to turn on the closed captions until my brother came to their rescue. By then, my mother had drawn her line in the sand.
“This far, no further,” she said. “Don’t hook up the DVD player. Or the stereo speakers. We won’t be able to use them anyway. If there were any other way to watch TV, I wouldn’t even have this new TV in my living room.” So they quit watching movies. When I gifted my parents with Discovery Channel’s Planet Earth DVD set, she got angry with me, didn’t talk to me for a month, and who knows what she ever did with the DVDs. I certainly won’t ask.
Both my brother and I have tried to convince my parents to subscribe to cable TV, but she will not even consider it. Television, like radio, should be free. They could afford cable, but it is the principle of the matter — that television should be free. And it is also the fear of another complicated technology that they won’t be able to use.
Is the technology really that complicated? Yes, it is. But after one has hired a geek to install the new technology and configure it and also to teach one how to use it, well, it can be done. But — and this is the biggest obstacle — my mother will do just about anything to avoid appearing stupid or foolish. In this case, the obstacles are just too big, too much, so she will not even try.
I inherited (or learned) some of my mother’s phobia. With me, it is not quite a phobia. I will, with the right motivation, occasionally open myself up to appearing stupid or foolish. I can’t ever recall her taking that step.
Some of my earliest memories are about my parents arguing and my mother getting upset. Dad wanted to play canasta with a co-worker and his wife. Mom didn’t. They tried it once and something (I don’t know what) happened and they never did it again. Dad wanted to have a holiday party for family. Mom didn’t. They tried it once, but there was never another party.
Eventually, Dad gave up trying and he and Mom became suburban hermits. They don’t have any friends. They barely know their neighbors’ names. They won’t get cable TV or learn how to operate the DVD player. On the other hand, they did travel the world when they were younger, so they are not timid or too frugal to spend money for their enjoyment.
So what is the reason, the purpose for my mother’s line in the sand? Has it hurt the cable TV company? Has it made any sort of public statement? Has it prevented harm? Or benefitted anyone? In looking at the situation from outside, it appears to me that my mother’s fear of feeling stupid has prevented the empowering experience of learning something new. At the same time, it has deprived my parents of entertainment that I know they would enjoy, particularly now that they are in their 80s and don’t travel like they used to.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sometimes, however, saying “This far, no further,” requires great courage and determination. Those suffering from abuse or addiction have to find the strength to draw a line in the sand and then refuse to cross it if they are to survive and have any sort of life worth living.
“Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening. It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.”
Please follow the link above. Become familiar with the signs of emotional abuse. If you are emotionally abused, you need to recognize it and do something about it. Draw a line in the sand. If you know someone you suspect is emotionally abused, help them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There are still other times, when drawing a line in the sand is not about fear of failure or about self-preservation. There is a lot of sand between those two extremes. You might decide to take a stand and step into activism for a good cause. You might refuse to learn a new technology. Or you might find yourself doing — or refusing to do — something arbitrary without even having consciously made a decision.
Every year, around the time of my birthday, I like to take a personal inventory. I take a look at what I have accomplished and learned in the past year. I think about what I would like to do or experience or learn in the coming year. I also look a bit deeper to see if I have drawn any lines in the sand that really shouldn’t be there. Or have I failed to draw a line where one is needed?
It is a good mental exercise to go through. Sometimes, I am disappointed with myself. I can always find ways in which I want to improve. Usually, I find that I achieved something worthwhile, whether it was an encouraging word where it was needed, or a hug or a hand up. Always, I am amazed at some of the things that come to mind in the process of this annual inventory.
This year, as part of my annual inventory, I have been giving some thought to a very deep line in the sand just in front of my toes. It has to do with connectivity. And, I have to admit, it does bear some resemblance to my mother’s technology line. Time to take a closer look at it. Pick it up. Examine it. See if it is valid. Or should this line be moved or erased?
I do not have a smart phone and am proud to say that. I do not have a tablet or e-reader. Or a GPS device in the car. I have a desktop computer and a TV hooked up to a satellite dish. I have a landline phone and a DSL internet connection, but no WiFi devices. In the car is a prepaid cell phone in case of emergency; it gets used so seldom that I keep a cheat-sheet to remind me how to make a call. I have never sent a text message and have no clue how to do that. It all works. I am content.
About a month ago, my computer’s hard drive crashed. For a few days, I had no way to check my email or respond to blog comments or post a challenge for my Flickr group. That made me unhappy and fretful. Even more of a bother was my inability to receive and pay bills online. If it had taken more than a few days to get back online with a functional computer, I could have had some serious difficulties — like having to call Information to get a phone number to call a vendor to find out the amount due and where to mail a check. Not impossible, but definitely not an easy fix.
Anyway, that got me to thinking about my connectivity line in the sand. I have technology, but only to a point. I am connected to the online world, but only to a point. I will plan my trip in advance, thankyouverymuch, and not depend on some GPS on-board computer to tell me where to turn. I have a Facebook page, but I am not going to put the details of my private life out there for the world to see. I blog. I post photos. I have friends in far places whom I will never meet face to face. I like it like that. It all works for me.
Until a hard drive crashes. Or a storm takes out the power. Then what? Do my photo and blogging friends wonder what happened to me? Do my bills go unpaid? For how long?
Since I moved to my present rural home 11 years ago, there have been half a dozen power outages, but mostly for just a few hours. Once, the power was out for four days. I had a hard drive crash once before, but that was way back in 1994. These hitches in the day-to-day flow of bits and bytes don’t happen very often. Or for very long.
So is my connectivity line in the sand appropriately placed? Am I following in my mother’s footsteps and depriving myself of value because of a stubborn refusal to learn/adapt/change? Or does the expenditure of money and effort to improve the situation exceed the risk of disconnectedness?
I haven’t figured out the answer yet, but I am asking the questions, and giving serious thought to the options. Those cost-benefit analyses that I learned about in the business world are important when making personal choices, too.
Whether or not I decide to change how I am connecting to the online world, this personal inventory exercise is a good one. Do I have too many lines in the sand? Have I said, “This far, no further,” in all the appropriate places to insure my continued well-being and personal growth? Am I making reasonable choices?
There are definite benefits in sometimes taking a step back to have a closer look.