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My Preciousss…

Warning: gruesome photo to follow

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Two years ago last week, I bought my first laptop computer, a Sony Vaio. I wasn’t sure whether I’d really get my money’s worth from the purchase, because I don’t travel a lot and wasn’t sure I needed the portability. Still, we needed a second computer in the home, and our desktop was only a couple years old, so I bought the laptop.

I haven’t turned it off since.

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much. I’ve gotten into the habit of turning it on when I get up in the morning and I don’t usually turn it off again until I go to bed that night. For an embarrassing amount of that time, the computer is in my lap.

It’s nice to be able to sit in my easy chair and work or read forums or IM my daughter. I enjoy the sidebar feature, which I don’t have on the desktop, so I can glance at my computer and see the time, date and temperature. A google search bar is always open on the sidebar for instant answers to whatever question pops into my head. I watch only a few television shows with undivided attention; usually I read or work crossword puzzles or do other things in the evenings even if the TV is on in front of me. Since I got the computer, it is usually my distraction of choice when TV gets boring (as it so often is for me). I didn’t have to go into the office or sit at my desk, and the laptop is always right at hand, open and ready. Calling me to come work or play.

I knew I’d been spending too much time on the computer lately. I’ve been having trouble with my shoulders, to the point that I can hardly reach behind me. I don’t read as much as I once did, falling behind on my to-be-read pile. I’ve gotten a lot of writing done, but that’s because I seem to be working all the time. I used to go into the office during the days, then move to the family room and away from the computer in the evenings and on weekends. My last child started college a year and a half ago, so now my evenings are more free and the laptop is so close and accessible. With the computer right there, I start feeling guilty when I’m not working.

Even knowing how much time I spent on the computer, I don’t think I fully understood how addicted I was until last week when my laptop stopped working. Apparently, I’ve completely worn out the keyboard. After spending a couple of days with the repair-or-replace debate, I decided to order a new keyboard. I placed the order this morning, and was told it would be a week to ten days before it arrives.

A week to ten days. Without my precioussss …

I’ve heard about the relatively new phenomenon of people becoming addicted to their iPhones and Blackberries. Not owning either, and never having sent a text message, I didn’t quite get that. I’ve fussed at my son for spending entirely too much time on his video games, playing on-line until wee hours of the morning. Now I understand. Being without my laptop has made me nervous and restless and cranky. Classic withdrawal symptoms. I’m realizing how much time I’ve really spent on the computer. What I’ve been doing to my body. How many hours I’ve spent working, risking the dreaded writers’ burn-out.

I have most of my files backed up on an external hard drive (thank goodness), but I forgot to back up the last scene I wrote before the break-down (maybe 4 pages, but I want them Now!). My phone numbers and addresses are all in that computer. All my favorite websites are bookmarked in there. My music is in there (and I need my music). Has it really gotten to the point where a large portion of my life exists within that 15.4 inch computer?

For the next week to ten days, I’ll be working on the slow, cranky old desktop. I can’t carry it into the den with me. I can’t sit at it while I’m watching House or Lost or Burn Notice, because I don’t want to watch my favorite shows on the ten-year-old, 13″ office TV. I’ll have to work during the days and take the evenings off, like “normal” people. Maybe my shoulders will get better. Maybe I’ll spend more time moving around, exercising, and less time in my chair. Maybe I’ll catch up on my reading.

Can I break the addiction during the next week? Will I go back to the same bad habits when the laptop is repaired? I don’t know. I tell myself I’ll try to do better, but don’t all addicts make that resolution?

Maybe I’d better watch Wall-E again. That cute little animated movie contained several valuable lessons, as well as one of my favorite songs of the moment, Didn’t You See the Movie? by Kari Kimmel. Maybe we should all set aside our computers and video games and internet phones and TVs for a few hours and get back into the “real world.”

Or maybe, in a week to ten days, I’ll forget all these good intentions and dive right back in.

See you on my screen.

Update: I’m typing this P.S. on my laptop. The day after I ordered the keyboard, it arrived on my doorstep. Way to go, Sony! Now if only I can remember my resolutions to be more sensible …

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Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

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