The signs were all there; slow to get started in the morning, sluggish throughout the day, limited memory, could not multi-task with as much efficiency, intermittent error messages. I noticed these ailments, but was comfortable with the known, and saw them more as inconveniences, rather than indicators of a serious problem.
And then the inevitable happened. A few hours before going to the airport for a week-long trip, I plugged in my ipod to download the latest episodes of Eco Trip, and after numerous failed connection attempts the screen flashed blue, then black, and then all fell silent. Attempts to reboot only resulted in a retro command page that indicated a problem with the operating system. There was not even time to ask, “Why now, of all times, does it have to break?” I rushed it over to the Geek Squad to work on it while I was gone and hopefully return home to a running computer with data left intact.
I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was getting on an airplane that afternoon, or the knowledge that I had a lot of things backed up on an external hard drive, that allowed me to immediately surrender to the situation, accept the predicament, and move forward to repair the problem. In the past my M.O. would have been to resist the situation by asking all of the why questions, allowing the cortisol to course though my veins, and indulging the temptation to be snappy and irrational, knowing full well it would not help the situation, but giving into it all the same.
Instead, I embarked on the plane knowing that one way or another everything would work out. I’m not sure that I would say I had a sense of inner peace – in part because my husband and I also had our 3- and 7-year-old in tow- but at the very least I had a bit of detachment from the situation, a sliver of space and breathing room between the what ifs and the what is.
While we were visiting family that week, I spent part of my time talking to very a helpful special agent, and researching possible replacements as the old computer was beyond repair. Within days of our return home, I had a much more stable and efficient system, and was gratefully able to recover all of my data. Like many transitions in life, I had to make some decisions about what was important to keep and what I was able to let go of (especially when it came to the extensive number of songs, playlists, and podcasts on iTunes). There are also still some kinks to work out, and there is a learning curve with new operating system. But this experience gave me the chance to update my internal operating system and realize that I can act to resolve an issue without getting tangled up in the emotions surrounding the issue.
Of course, I should have upgraded to a better system when I saw the signs that the old system was not as effective or reliable as it had once been. Being proactive would have saved me the hassle of dealing with the problem while on vacation and taking time away from family. I wouldn’t have had to worry about the fate of all the files and contacts on my hard drive, and would have more time to research better, less costly replacements. But I didn’t take action earlier- fearing the unknown, worrying about losing something in the process, dreading the cost of a new system. In many ways my experience with my computer was a microcosm of how we are all handling problems in our society – and maybe even our lives – from the economy, to the environment, to health care, to our own health or relationships. We ignore the signs, and put off fixing something until it falls apart, leaving us to scramble to pick up the pieces, trying to fit them back into the old puzzle which has now lost its’ form.
My dear friend and amazing speaker and author, Carla Rabb DeRosa, encourages people to avoid breakdowns by doing regular maintenance on their personal computers. She advises, “The technology that will absolutely make or break your career and success in life is the programming that is running your personal computer. Your own personal computer that is located in our heads and our hearts is made up most by our thoughts, beliefs, emotions and feelings. With 90% of our actions driven by our subconscious mind and the 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day that run through our mind, it behooves us to invest in upgrading our personal computers regularly. The top three tips to avoid a crash are:
Let us envision the future that we want – for ourselves and for the world. We can’t wait until we broken by pain, or until the rivers have run dry to look for a solution. If we slide to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, we will be consumed with survival and fulfilling our most basic needs. We will not have the luxury of pondering – much less directing – our fate. This is the time for us to be proactive, stabilize systems before they crash, and lead the way to a more sustainable future. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.