Years and years ago, my dad told me about going to hear a talk by a college football coach. This coach talked about how he used to come to the athletic office Â early in the morning, close the door, and sit there with his coffee for a few delicious moments before starting the day’s work. Â It was quiet time at its best.
But then, the coach explained, it all changed with the advent of the answering machine. Â â€œNow,” he explained, “when I go to my office with my coffee in the morning, I close the door and I’m no longer alone. Â Instead, I see that light on the answering machine blinking, blinking, blinking. Â Do you know what that light means? Â It means that I’m already behind.”
I still remember that anecdote, about twenty years after my dad first told it to me. Â The coach’s words rang true to me then, and they do now. Â And God only knows what that coach would say now, in the age of email. Â Now, there are ever more ways to be behind before you’ve even gotten started.
I was thinking of this earlier, when I contemplated logging onto Google Reader for the first time in [ahem] about two weeks. Â Like many of you, I subscribe to a Â merry variety of different blogs, and Google Reader gets them all nicely together in one place. Â Normally I log on in the evening, and voila! — I have about forty things to read, or at least skim. Â That’s when I log on once a day. Â When I’m back at school and my son has just started kindergarten and it’s been about thirteen days since I last looked at it … well, I’m an English teacher, so I’ll let you do the math.
I’m actually afraid to log on, at this point. Â I think I’ve created a monster. Â When it comes to blog reading, I — like the coach of yore — am already behind … frighteningly so.
This, my friends, is the double-edged sword that is the Internet. Â I love reading blogs and getting new updates. Â But there is always more to read. Â It’s like whack-a-mole at the fairground: just when you’ve gotten through the list, a few more freshly-posted entries pop up, and you realize you can’t take home the chintzy stuffed animal just yet, because you simply are not done. Â And — frankly — you never will be.
Writing this, of course, I’m fully aware of the irony: it’s not like someone is pointing a gun to my head and making me subscribe to all these blogs. Â I do it myself because I like reading them. Â And — ever more irony — as a blogger myself, I do my own part in stuffing others’ Google Readers on a fairly regular basis. Â (Sorry about that.)
What’s to be done? Â I guess on one level, the answer is simply to accept that there are certain things in life in which I will always be behind. Â I’ll never be on top of the housecleaning, I’ll always be a deadbeat mom when it comes to updating the kids’ baby books, and there will always be weeds flourishing in some corner of the garden. Â And I’ll Â never be able to read all the great things on the Internet that I would like to read. Â Â If I try, I’ll go loco, and I’ll find myself in danger of forgetting why I subscribe to these blogs in the first place: Because I enjoy reading them.
So what’s my answer? Â Well, today, it’s this: I’m going to log onto Google Reader and hit “delete” and start over from scratch. Â I know that yes, I will be missing some great stuff, but the world will go on turning all the same, and sometimes you need to give yourself that one minute of a clean inbox, just one little minute of a quiet office and a mug of coffee and no blinking answering machine, to savor the feeling that you are not behind.
And I will remind myself that scrolling through every single thing in my Google reader is really not the point. Â The point is enjoying what I read, having the time to savor it, pondering the words and insights of others and letting them illuminate my own frenetic life. Â That’s what writing and reading is all about, after all. Â I love it when others’ words help me see my own world in a new light, and I hope that’s what my own random musings are able to do for you.
That said, if you ever need to delete my posts without reading them, go for it. Â You have my blessing.