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What’s real life?

cabin fun stub stewart state park

Over the weekend, we pedaled up to Stub Stewart State Park with some very cool Northwest folks, including The Path Less Pedaled and Swift Industries.

I didn’t bring my computer or write in my journal on our mini-adventure. I just let go. I let work go. I let my worries about writing go. And slowly but surely Radio Station KFKD stopped streaming.

Usually on the weekends, I take a digital sabbatical. However, I still use my computer for writing. Last weekend, I desperately needed a few days off. I craved a break from the glow of my computer screen and the city.

I love what I do, but it’s important to take time out to recharge the creative juices. Otherwise you start running dry. And last week, I felt like all my creative energy had been sucked out of my body.

And what’s funny is, I almost stayed home because I felt like I “should” be writing and responding to the flood of emails I received last week. I almost missed out on my real life.

That made me wonder, how many of us are missing out on real life because we have our priorities misaligned?

By “real life”, I mean living a conscious life. A life that is focused on connecting with others. Not a life that’s focused on the “should’s” or a life that’s spent in front of the computer screen or with our own unrealistic expectations. Instead, real life is about spending quality time with others and being helpful. To do that you have to take risks and you have to be a little vulnerable.

For those of us who have introverted tendencies, that can be really hard. Sometimes it’s easier to stay home and spend an hour (or more) on social networks, instead of engaging with friends. The problem is, real life doesn’t happen on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs. Sure, they are fantastic tools to share stories, but you have to get out into the world and live your own story.

So what’s real life?

  • Real life is shivering by the campfire, eating marsh-mellows and drinking beer.
  • Real life is saying thank you to your spouse for cooking up dinner on the camp stove.
  • Real life is feeling your legs burn, as you pedal your bike slowly, up a very big hill.
  • Real life is all about opening yourself up and being vulnerable.

Over the next year, I want to cultivate more of these experiences in my real life. I’ll still be writing and blogging, but I’ll probably be spending less time online.

Micro-action: Evaluate the amount of time you spend on screens, including your TV, cell-phone and the Internet. How can you cut back on your screen time and start connecting with friends, family, and community?


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  • Farnoosh February 7, 2011, 11:23 am

    Even though we are talking about real life which is mostly off-screen but doing it on-screen, I do want to say that I am in vehement agreement with you, Tammy… We cannot lose sight of spending time outdoors, with friends, traveling and exploring and living and relaxing….! I work very hard from 4:30am until way past 10 or 11pm but I do play hard too and I highly recommend everyone remember to do that too :)!

    • Tammy February 7, 2011, 11:27 am

      @Farnoosh – We have a similar schedule. 🙂 Although, I usually get up a few hours later and work for a few hours in the afternoon. It’s funny, when I left my day job last year I thought all the “should’s” would go away. But they haven’t.

      Conscious living is a constant work in progress. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Socal February 7, 2011, 11:36 am

    OMG is that your bike in the photo? How do you turn your handle bars with all of that weight on the bike? OMG I’ve tried to pack my bike and I cannot seem to balance it and ride at ease. At best I can cycle with a backpack…any advice would be great!

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 7:09 am

      @Socal – It’s actually Logan’s bike and you’d be surprised by how much weight you can carry. Although not all of the bags were full. My friend Russ was taking some shots of Swift Industry’s bags this weekend. 🙂


      Do you have a bike rack and bike bags? Weight carried low on the bike, and equally distributed, is much easier than a backpack. Plus your butt won’t hurt after a lot of pedaling. 🙂

      • Lauren M.F. February 16, 2011, 12:42 pm

        I definitely second your suggestions, Tammy, and would add that having a bike that fits properly is important as well. Imbalance can come from having components that aren’t the right length for your body. Having a comfy saddle is essential too, though my definition of comfy is not noticing it’s there, rather than being soft. I’m all about support rather than squish.

  • whitney February 7, 2011, 11:47 am

    This is exactly why I decided to leave my laptop at home on my recent vacation, and instead brought my watercolors. Even though I know I wouldn’t have access to internet, I didn’t want to get sucked into the screen when I should be staring at the ocean.

    Your questions/prompts are great to consider as I ease back into “regular life.”

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 7:10 am

      @Whitney – Nice! I’m glad the post was helpful. 🙂 Have a great week.

  • Sophia February 7, 2011, 12:32 pm

    Two things always recharge me. One, getting together with friends and connecting/reconnecting. The second is being outside. A great dinner or coffee date with friends can lift me up for several days. Social networks are a quick fix, a sort of instant high; however, the face to face interactions are the ones that really feed us at a deeper level. Hooray for good friends AND the outdoors!

  • Brooke February 7, 2011, 12:52 pm

    I’ve been thinking about cutting back on online and tv time as well. I’ve quit Facebook 3 times now, but keep going back because so many of my non-local loved ones use it as their main (or sole) means of communication with the rest of us.

    The tv is one of those things you don’t even realize you are doing, until you realize that 3 hours have past since you sat down!

    I’m thinking about starting a photo project where every day for a month, I go outside specifically to find something interesting about the natural world to photograph. The goal of this is to get myself to reconnect with “outside” and limit my internet and tv usage. Maybe it will help break some bad habits.

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 7:11 am

      @Brooke – Have you considered setting a timer while you are online? I’ve been doing that recently and it’s helped a great deal. When the timer goes off I close down the Internet. 🙂

  • Caitlin February 7, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I’m a 21 year old college student and have found college to be extremely difficult. The only reason it has been difficult is due to the fact that I have no idea what I want to do or what makes me happy. I have spent all my time doing what I “should” do and have lost myself. Instead of doing things that spark my interest I’m too busy trying to fulfill requirements in something I don’t even care about. It is so easy to get lost in the “should” and it is so difficult to find our place in this life because we have spent our time being someone we are not. I guess it is important for one to remember that we are individuals and the thing we “should” be doing is what makes us happy not what other think we “should” do.

    It is my goal for 2011 to get back to life and really start living again. I have found your blog so inspirational and have found there is more to life than just living the norm. Sometimes living the norm isn’t the best option.

    • Jo February 7, 2011, 2:19 pm

      Caitlin – I wish I could’ve made that realisation when I was 21. 🙂

      Tammy – I love camping and the outdoors and I’m always amazed at how reinvigorated I feel after going away (and how much I appreciated basic things like a hot shower and being clean!). I always give myself a cut off time each day – 5pm – when I shut down the computer so I can do other things like cook dinner, be out in the garden or talk with my partner.

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 7:17 am

      @Caitlin – It’s great you’ve come to this realization at such a young age. 🙂 Also, I want to encourage you to take time everyday to focus on something that you love to do, whether it’s writing, walking, or photography. Making the time to focus on your creative priorities can make a world of difference.

      Thanks for reading! I’m so happy that you’ve found my writing helpful. Best of luck!

    • Brooke February 8, 2011, 9:22 am

      Caitlin: Imagine being 31 and back in college and still not sure what you want to do. That was me until recently, although I have since decided on a career that will give me the work life I want. I am getting a degree in horticulture. I will get to be outdoors for my job, have a green job, be close to nature, care for living things, wear comfortable clothes, no makeup, most importantly, for me, be far away from corporate America.

      My advice, though, is to try to finish school simply from the standpoint that it is so hard to get a decent job without a degree. The past 10 years of my life has been a lot of misery working jobs I hated and going from paycheck to paycheck. I wish I had finished school when I was younger.

      Whatever you do, good luck and enjoy the ride!

  • Faith | Minimalist at Home February 7, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I really loved this post, Tammy. I get so wrapped up in trying to make progress in my projects and trying to work hard to pay off debt that I put off simply living my life. I keep thinking I’ll catch up or find a point where life slows down. I’m finally beginning to realize that there will always be another project and life never slows down in a crowded household. So I’m determined to schedule more life back into my life. Thank you for posts like this and for sharing a window into your life. It really gives me motivation to purposefully slow down.

  • Christine February 7, 2011, 3:00 pm

    Another awesome post that I think everyone should read. We get so preoccupied in trying to make others happy, or trying to fulfill some role that has been taught to us. It is so important to be just a little selfish sometimes, and go out and experience something that you have always wanted to experience. And not to be afraid to maybe be a little “out of the loop” with information that is only seen on facebook, or television programs that you shouldn’t waste so much time watching.

    Caitlin, being in college really takes up a lot of your time but you can still spend some quality “me” time and enjoy small pleasures. Book away 30mins to an hour out of your busy day and read a book or take a walk. Or whatever else you enjoy. But you do need to escape a bit from the books and busy work schedule. Know that in the end, you will be thankful to get an education that will allow you to work towards something that will give you some more freedom… whether that’s a job or starting your own business.

  • Gena S February 7, 2011, 4:08 pm

    Tammy, your timing always seems impeccable! We have been talking alot about happiness and the need for our digital sabbaticals (Huge thank you for the example set and reminders, they’ve made a difference in our mindset!) how they make us choose more of “real life” less of the life that we are sometimes sucked into online. Just between working, writing, blogging, connecting, plus day to day online issues, billls, banking, travel etc. our very lives begin to feel tethered to the power cord of our laptops. As we work to limit/balance this we really appreciate the input. Also super tickled to hear that the radio frequency is changed 🙂

  • Greg W February 7, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Very interesting post. I had just been thinking about asking if you had written a blog about navigating the ins and outs of computers, Twitter and Facebook . I have resisted social media for a long time and don’t think I would handle the amount of info being passed around. My partner Ahava finished her Doctorate about this time last year so I’m very familiar with a writer spending time in front of the machine and as you suggest, it can get in the way of “Real Life”. Our solution this time around has been a month long silent meditation retreat for Ahava and a three week back country ski trip for myself. Talk about unplugging. Great post, keep up the stellar work!

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 7:13 am

      @Greg – thanks for sharing part of your story. I’ve been thinking of going on a weekend meditation retreat. Yoga helps a great deal, but there’s a lot to be said for sitting in silence. I’m SO impressed that Ahava went for a month! And your back country ski trip sounds fantastic. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words and support. You rock.

      • Greg W February 8, 2011, 11:30 am

        Tammy, be aware that Ahava has been practicing for probably 10 years and is what they consider an advanced practitioner with a number of week long silent retreats under her belt. Yoga is my preferred activity or a moving meditation. I’m at school studying Industrial Design and build things for a living. (homes, boats, furniture, electric bikes, etc) I spent a week in the city for a class last summer and came across a promotion from one of the yoga studios. Unlimited classes for 7 days, $24. Managed to fit in 20 classes that week around school. Kept me sane while away from the farm and in the city! Your lifestyle choices are an inspiration! Go girl Go.

  • Layla February 8, 2011, 5:12 am

    So true! I find I’ve been spending too much time reading people’s blogs and imagining living my life. I’ve decided to change my habit by starting to learn guitar (or Spanish) every time I want to get distracted by the internet.

  • Jackie Vecchio February 8, 2011, 12:06 pm

    Tammy – Oh gosh, do I agree!!! I just left my full time job to pursue doing what I love (health and lifestyle coaching)! I thought that since I now “have all this time” I would be able to easily shoosh up the shoulds during “real life” time, but it hasn’t been so easy. The shoulds are always there, it’s just knowing that going out there being with friends, family, exercising, enjoying nature, etc. are what truly matters. I say never turn down an invitation for an experience!

  • Sandra February 8, 2011, 12:49 pm

    I was just thinking how I need to re-prioritize and actually live life. I fall back on the same excuses (hiding behind my children and family) instead of creating enjoyable experiences. The kids and I spent the afternoon in the park which was way better than staying cooped up at home or just browsing online. Enjoyed your blog! Thanks!!

  • Jeanie February 8, 2011, 1:12 pm


    I would love to meet you & Logan….I’m beginning a massive roadtrip to meet my inspirations March first until….?

    I’ve sold my stuff, quitting job Feb 28TH and going. Very scared, and thrilled.

    Cup of tea or a bike ride after World Domination Summit?

    • Tammy February 8, 2011, 5:19 pm

      @Jeanie – WOW, congratulations! That is super awesome. You’ll do great! 🙂

      I’d love to connect with you. I’ll be at the WDS, so we can chat there. Or we can meet-up for tea too. 🙂

      • Jeanie February 8, 2011, 7:27 pm

        *happy dance!*

        Thank you thank you! I’m super intrigued by the tiny house/off grid idea.

        Thinking about doing that myself too….but for now, I will (mostly) live in my car and camp.

  • marianney February 8, 2011, 1:55 pm

    It is so very hard to tune out sometimes. I almost do the same thing you almost did Tammy, which is think about changing your mind about taking a day off to do something fun. My fiance and I took a 2 day snowboarding trip last week and I almost brought my laptop so I could get caught up since I had 2 extra days off work. Luckily I thought better of it and left it at home, so i wouldn’t even have the temptation to get on it. We had an awesome time and I even got some sleep that night in the hotel!

  • Val February 8, 2011, 11:01 pm

    This is great to read. I’m also a college student and usually I honestly love to study, but I’ve been out of the swing of it for a few months and I think making myself do some non-studying fun things will help. My back is finally better enough that I can swim, although I’m woefully out of shape.

  • Dave February 9, 2011, 7:19 am

    Hi Tammy, Is that your rig? I’d like to hear more about it and how you organize your bike stuff (panniers, lights, add-ons, route planning, etc.) when shopping, commuting, etc. I know a lot of that info is on other blogs, but I think your perspective would be especially insightful!

  • stlcatlady (aka Dawn) February 9, 2011, 7:44 am

    As a writer and blogger myself (thirteencats.blogspot.com) this post touched me very deeply and even brought tears to my eyes. Oh, don’t I know whereof you speak! I absolutely love the writing I do, above and beyond anything I have ever done, and yet….and yet….I find myself resonating with your post. Even this thing I love can become devouring if allowed to sever those human connections. As a fellow introvert, I find those human connections tenuous at best, and constantly in need of caring cultivation. Yesterday I pushed the writing and all that goes with it aside for a few hours. I ventured out across the icy sidewalks and streets via foot to meet a friend for lunch at a favorite mediterranean restaurant. It was a good call, and, like you, I’m so glad I made it. I think we have to keep reminding ourselves, and each other, to close the laptop, to put down the phone, to venture forth. Thank you for the reminder. 😀

  • jenny February 9, 2011, 5:42 pm

    this is so timely for me! i’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of should in my life! i’ve taken a lovely digital break and tomorrow, my son and i will be hitting the slopes. me, snowboarding for the first time.

  • NoPotCoooking February 10, 2011, 11:41 am

    I too now try not to do any computer work on the weekends. Otherwise I spend the entire weekend right here and Monday comes and I feel so sad that I didn’t do anything fun or go anywhere. It’s definitely very hard to do, but worth it!

  • Megan Swicegood February 26, 2011, 8:04 pm

    I’m new to your site, but, wow, am I glad I stumbled upon it! I love the “Real Life Is” list, particularly, “Real life is feeling your legs burn, as you pedal your bike slowly, up a very big hill.” That is just so perfect.

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