Mobile Risks: Unplugging Part Two

How often are you too plugged in to notice the life we are accepting around us and the dangers of that acquiescence? Counting twenty people who were looking at their phones and/or texting and/or scrolling while driving in a two mile stretch. They were not stopped. Their cars were moving, in motion, in front of a school on a busy five-lane highway, past businesses, parking lots, bus stops, etc. Those were only the people who were holding up their phones so that I could see them. I even saw someone looking at a laptop computer. I don’t know if I am more astounded by the people doing it, or that they have so little space in their lives that they feel a need to drive and actually look at a screen/use the screen. The people drove all types of vehicles. I have no idea how many vehicles I passed going both directions and moving in, out, and through the various parking lots along the route. There were hundreds of vehicles in that stretch.

Yet, there weren’t any bicycles. I’ve been thinking about transportation more lately. I used to consider it frequently when I was in my twenties. Visiting Europe and later, very briefly living there, I discovered public transportation and felt a freedom to explore that I had never experienced in middle Tennessee in that way. My ability to get around in TN has mostly consisted of cars, though once out-and-about, the wide-open spaces in nature offer an exploration I have always loved. When I was growing up, we visited relatives with plenty of land, forests and fields, creeks and rivers, to roam. Traveling in an urban environment felt confining by comparison, since there are dilemmas with traffic and parking.

Voilà! European cities–trains, subways, trams, buses, and bicycles. I suddenly had many choices for getting to and from the cities and enjoying them. Traveling by public transport offered an amenity that anyone values who has experienced public transportation regularly–hands-free time when someone else could do the driving and I could relax, read a book, peruse any shopping I had done, chat with friends, and more. Riding a bike brought me down to the sidewalks and streets, the bike lanes, and corners, through neighborhoods and enchanting spaces. Many European cities make travel easy in this way, but the Dutch have the best system I’ve ever experienced with all of these alternatives.

By comparison, here in my home city of Clarksville (similar to many U.S. cities), the last train for commuting left decades ago and all the commuter rail possibilities went with it. I am constantly frustrated and riddled with anxiety as I watch pedestrians strive to cross a five-lane highway without a crosswalk or a stoplight from the shopping center to the bus stop. It is along the two-mile stretch I mentioned earlier. In fact, there are a few of these places where bus stops are across the five-lane highway from the businesses where people work. Pedestrians cross without a walkway or traffic light. AND, the bus stop is nothing, NOTHING, more than a sign that says BUS STOP beside the road. There are no sidewalks, no benches, no covered awnings, nothing–not even a bus schedule. All day, people risk their lives to run across the highway from their jobs to the bus stop, and there are dump trucks, semis, delivery trucks, big trucks with heavy machinery in trailers, and all manner of vehicles speeding down the highway. Some of the people I watch are disabled and/or elderly trying to get across the street. They seem scared, but they don’t have options since we have no other methods of public transportation–no trains, subways, trams, etc. I have definitely witnessed some close calls.

The majority of bike lanes in our city consist of the image of a rudimentary bike with a couple of arrows painted onto the far right side of the street/highway without any extra space. This bike lane painting within the regular traffic lane is on a major industrial highway. I see maybe two people a month risk their lives to ride a bike to and from work in this city. The people who ride those leisurely tourist bikes downtown don’t go very far and so don’t experience these problems–they stick with the sidewalks in a tiny quarter-mile radius of Public Hall and the Downtown Commons. As soon as you move out into New Providence or St. Bethlehem, even down Madison Street proper, you cannot find adequate sidewalks, crosswalks, bus stops, or bike lanes. Pedestrians are in danger in most of this city.

I was a pedestrian when my husband and I first moved back here about fifteen years ago. We chose to live close to the university so that I didn’t have far to walk to class. He worked in Nashville, and we only owned one car after coming back from Europe. Often, here in Clarksville, I was afraid as a pedestrian that I would be struck by a vehicle. The sidewalks didn’t exist in certain sections; they just ended at a ditch. Tennessee is full of hills, rolling along, so oftentimes, it’s difficult to have a clear line of sight for very far. In fifteen years, plenty of businesses and shopping centers have opened, but not much has changed regarding pedestrian-friendly incentives and modes of public transport. Shouldn’t these businesses contribute to the overall lifestyle of this city? Shouldn’t they link up to a sidewalk, bike lane, crosswalk system, and maintain their own sidewalks/bike lanes/etc?

Daily, I watch those pedestrians playing “Frogger” with their lives, and my heart beats faster, I shiver, and sometimes, I hold my breath…a few times, I’ve had the opportunity to hold the line for them, braking in my car and holding back the traffic to allow them to cross one side of the road in peace while the other vehicles wait behind me. Most of the time, the other drivers don’t care anyway–they use it as an opportunity to check their phones and send texts. Then, they get annoyed and beep at me if I let too many pedestrians get out of the middle of the road at once. Usually, the on-coming traffic won’t stop at all.
This question!: How often are you too plugged in to notice the life we are accepting around us and the dangers of that acquiescence?

How Dare You Unplug… Most Everything

“You can’t just turn off the phone. You’re paying $800, or actually more, for it,” this logical friend said. “You can ‘unplug’ without being so extreme.” I knew the air quotation marks were used, or the insinuation of them was there.

“You think it’s extreme either way?” I ask.

Pause. “A little,” Pausing. He continued, “This is the way of social interaction to some extent. You need it to communicate with people.”

Questions tumble through my head, pushing one another forward and out. Does anyone truly unplug anymore, or do most people just say that when they don’t want to answer a text? What does it mean to unplug to most people anyway? Are there levels of disengagement? And if so, how forgiving are those who function with the plug in at all times? I often have many questions about the simple act of choosing not to use technology in various ways for a period of time.

Unplugging is something I fully enjoy. I roll around in all of that space that’s created by turning off my social media. I listen deeply to myself and turn everything way down when the time arises in my life. Often, I don’t have a set time for how long I’ll remain unplugged. That time has grown longer and longer over the years.

“Shhhh, I’m watching this,” is not a phrase that my children often hear from me. I don’t shush them so that I can stare at a screen or communicate via a virtual world. I want to be present for them, especially since I first made the decision to unplug at random times in my life because I was a person who woke up and grabbed my phone, checked my social media, told my family to wait while I…, but that look of hurt bothered me, and it especially felt bad when I directed them to a screen to buy myself more screen time. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to work at times, and often that involves technology for me and many others, but we have become readily available with little timers that even tell everyone else how quickly we are likely to respond. Response times?! What about the ones in the present, in our immediate physical surroundings? I watch as people sit in their cars on their phones and stall traffic. They are delayed in response times in the actual moment.

I stopped watching television in grad school and have rarely watched anything in twelve years. At first, I still watched some children’s shows and a cooking show or two with my daughters, but now, I have no frame of reference when people discuss popular t.v. programs or current events that are media-related. I really don’t know. Many people have claimed to me that they don’t watch t.v. either, but actually they do. They have favorite programs that they record and watch. They “catch” the news, etc. When I say that I don’t watch it, I mean that I don’t watch it. The radio is even disconnected in my car (which was a malfunction at first, but I don’t want it fixed) so unless I play music through a portable speaker using my phone’s Bluetooth, my drives are silent or filled with conversation if someone is with me.

My unplug conditions might be considered extreme by many people. Sometimes, unplugging includes changing the settings of my social media profiles before I unplug. I change the public accounts to private, restrict the notifications completely, and switch the privacy settings to “Only Me” on everything possible. This allows me to remain focused and autonomous.

“What do you do?” People have asked me.

Everything except plug up when I am unplugged. I play, listen, dance, write, read, talk, trail run, hike, draw, write letters, cook, yoga, meditate, and so much more. All of this doesn’t mean that I don’t use my phone, my computer, the radio, etc. I do, just not all of the time. I still enjoy the “old ways” of being surprised about where I’m going and not looking up everything about the place on the internet, of choosing places to go spontaneously without reading online reviews, and of being in the moment with only my experiences as the influence.

One of the greatest benefits of this style of unplugging for me is the distance from celebrity culture that I have gained. I’m so far distanced from celebrity world that I don’t even know who they are most of the time when someone mentions a celebrity from the past decade. I might recognize a name because people talk about celebrities more than the politics that shape our lives, and often more than their own personal lives, but I don’t know celebrity faces and stories.

Another great benefit from unplugging is that I am not agitated by styles, having it all, being a “baller” or pretending that I am, ignoring accumulated debt by the focus on social status, media hype, and more. I am actually free to develop my own conclusions. One of those is what I have witnessed from others. In all of the plugging in, I actually witness a disconnect from the reality of truth with many people. I notice that people get anxiety when they don’t have their phones, if they can’t log in to something, and if they aren’t in close proximity to a screen. Most people have screens in every room of their home, even the bathrooms sometimes. I have two screens in my home–the computer and the living room t.v. I don’t even have cable t.v. or a version of it (satellite, etc).

My reasoning behind the unplugging and the limitations of technology and media influence are because I was once too influenced and controlled by it—-I have been the person who stalls traffic because I was on the phone, the person who sent simple text answers while driving, attached to t.v. programs and ballgames while forsaking activities with people in my life, constantly refreshing the status online, posting to social media and noticing the patterns of other people on social media, etc etc.

My analysis truly began after a social media bullying incident by a former friend to me. It grew to involve more than the two of us, and it devastated me. People who didn’t even know me beyond acquaintances messaged me to ask why this friend no longer “liked” my posts on social media. It takes some effort to notice who likes what on someone else’s feed, but people actually use their time to find out.

I was also one of these people who took the time to notice who liked someone else’s posts (but not because I ever used what I noticed). When it happened to me and people I don’t really even know began to smack-talk about it, I could see (as I was already feeling) the possibilities of toxicity from social media in our psyches and emotional life. It has taken me years to process what happened to me regarding online bullying and cruelty.

So, the best gain of all for me has been freedom. I don’t have the attachment to all of that confining me into a specific way of life. I find much more time to be and do…
(I have so much more to say about this, and I will continue…)

Yoga Schedule

​​Many people have asked me to create a place where all of my yoga classes and activities are listed. Yoga and writing are wrapped up together in my life, so I have many activities related to both. Sometimes, I even throw running into the mix, and there will be classes listed soon that are specifically FOR runners. You can also find this list with even more information at the thorncraftpublishing.com website. I definitely update that site much more frequently than my blogsite here, but I will try to keep it updated monthly here with a schedule since I teach in places and spaces a little different than your neighborhood yoga studio.

Classes by Shana Thornton, 200RYT:

For classes at Tennessee State Parks, participants can register at tnstateparks.com under ALL EVENTS. Detailed class descriptions are located on the TN State Parks website. Choose the date you would like to attend from the list on the Tennessee State park website.

UPCOMING CLASSES:

Dunbar Cave State Natural Area, a TN State Park

$10 per person.

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, August 4, 2018: Candlelight Yoga at the Cave

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, August 18, 2018: Candlelight Yoga at the Cave

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, August 23, 2018: Candlelight Yoga at the Cave (final Thursday night of the season)

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, August 25, 2018: Candlelight Yoga at the Cave

6 p.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday, September 8, 2018: Candlelight Yoga at the Cave (Final Class until Summer 2019)

Montgomery Bell State Park, a TN State Park
Saturdays, Summer 2019. More Information Coming Soon with a full monthly yoga schedule…

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
4p.m. – 5:15 p.m., Sunday, August 5, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
10a.m. – 11:15 a.m., Thursday, August 9, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
10a.m. – 11:15 a.m., Thursday, August 16, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m., Sunday, August 19, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
10a.m. – 11:15 a.m., Thursday, August 23, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clarksville
$10 per person.
10a.m. – 11:15 a.m., Thursday, August 30, 2018.
Gentle class. Candlelight. Mats available. Beginners welcome. Yoga Nidra at the end of practice.

Upcoming Workshop:
Yoga and Writing Exploration Workshop

2p.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, August 25, 2018.
At Yoga Mat studio. 227 Dunbar Cave Rd. Clarksville, TN.
Register on the MINDBODY APP. $15 per person
Explore writing techniques and styles of yoga. Discover the creativity and self-expression of blending writing and yoga in this 3-hour workshop. From meditation to pranayama to flow styles of yoga, this workshop will give you an opportunity to explore yoga and writing as you grow in your practice and voice.
Workshop teachers: Shana Thornton, 200RYT, editor of the BreatheYourOMBalance yoga book series, and Amanda Rush, 200RYT, writer and co-owner of Yoga Mat studio.

With all three practices (writing, yoga, and running), I will always be a student first, a listener. I am also truly a Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance. You can find me on their registry here. I keep up with my hours and extra studies. My practice is always growing.

I do publish a yoga book series, BreatheYourOMBalance, which is also a registered trademark. We do accept outside work for the book series during open reading periods. Visit Thorncraft Publishing for information about the book series and open reading times.

Wishing you all easy breaths,
Shana

Giving the Writer’s Elbow: A Weekly Nudge

Writing prompts have always compelled me to simply write, especially if they push me into a creative thought that I wouldn’t have considered as a starting point for a story and/or a new surprising slant that I can use within a working story. Sometimes, a writing prompt isn’t packed full of profound information, but it’s more about the timing being in sync with your story dilemma. A writing prompt can create one of those sudden moments of knowing after being blank.

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Week 5, January 2017. Theme: NERVOUS HABIT. Create a nervous habit for one of your characters. If not the main character, choose a minor character who needs more description in order to come alive in the story. This habit could add an element of humor and/or realism to your story. The habit could be a sound they make, an action toward themselves or others, or an inability to act. The habit could create a central conflict for the character (consider habits such as cutting, binge eating, and other forms of serious, repetitive self-harming). Likewise, the habit could be more of a side-note, something endearing and entertaining without being central to the conflict. Adding a habit could show more depth to a character or to the overall story.

I give the writing nudge to those who need an extra elbow or two, and I’m sharing one of my prompt journals throughout this year on the Thorncraft website. You’ll find a new writing prompt every week, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning for all the midnight writers out there.

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Writers, Week 11 of The Nudge is here, and we’re thinking about the foundations of mobility. Write On…Theme: BASIC MOBILITY. How do your characters stand? How do they walk? Are they incapable of walking/running/jumping for some reason? What does their stride look like if they run? Do they have a particular stance and is it altered when they are nervous or lack confidence? What kind of shoes do they wear? Experiment with basic mobility in your story. Find more suggestions related to creative nonfiction and poetry about this prompt on our home page. All photos & prompts by Shana Thornton.

The current Nudge is on the Home page http://www.thorncraftpublishing.com and we’re up to Week 16 this week.

Check out some of the prompts from past weeks here (Weeks 1-9): http://www.thorncraftpublishing.com/the-nudge.html
On the website, prompts include suggestions for fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.

Throughout this blog, I’ve given a few examples and the photos that accompany them. Some weeks, taking the photos inspires me as much as the ideas behind the prompts.

I started writing the writing prompts themselves when I wanted to encourage my students to write and so I developed prompts beyond the ordinary journal topics given in most composition courses. I wanted to stimulate style and storytelling, and simultaneously I started to manage an online weekly writing prompt with another author/editor. Suddenly, a series of writing prompts would sweep over me while I was making dinner and running in the forest, or whatever else I might be doing. The prompt process became part of my own inspiration for my novels and short stories. Each prompt became a nudge that shouted, “Go! Write about this if you can’t think of anything else. Go on, do it!”