my one word prompt {october twenty-two}

This little maple leaf caught my eye on a walk a few days ago.

(Contrasting colors in nature tend to hijack my attention. Coleus, for example. And lichen against a host.)

On Wednesday morning, I left my van at a service station for its NYS state inspection and took a quiet walk while I waited. (Quiet as in no audiobook.) (I just started Ann Patchett’s first novel.)

I did listen, though. To birds, chipmunks + squirrels, the emergency whistle, a train.

And my thoughts.

I’d had a headache that lasted two-days-plus, despite good hydration, nutrition and a decent night’s sleep.

Sheepishly, I’ll admit…

I think I know the culprit. I’m pretty sure it’s my phone screen.


That might sounds strange to my nearest + dearest–because I’m not, exactly, A Phone Person. When we moved, though, we decided to skip the landline.

So, cell phone it is.

And that’s created a shift.

I talk with my oldest daughter voice to voice every day, but we text a lot, too. My mom and I text-check daily. And I use it to frequently touch base with friends. Text has become a primary source for school messaging + doctor reminders (I even got a bill by text this morning!); it’s a means of communicating with the parents of Elsa’s new friends and looping in to new activities. Plus, all the usual: logistics + schedules, quick questions, reminders, etcetera.

After taking myself largely offline in September–my prompt was ‘going deep’…’creative neglect’…’what matters most?’–I felt…different. Freed up in some ways; engaged in others; missing a few things; some, not at all. It was good and insightful and paid off in spades.

I’m back online now, though. And while not on a screen anywhere near full time, I can’t help but notice the strain on my eyes.

I might not have even noticed at first, but a delicate issue with a friend, had me on a text thread for far too long last week. It was a bigger deal for her than for me, but the friendship’s important, so I gave it 100%.

(In my 20/20 rear view, I could have engaged differently. She couldn’t talk live in her workplace, but time was not of the essence–I could have asked her to call when she could. But I didn’t. Instead, I stayed on the screen.)

By dinnertime I had a piercing, and what would be a days’ long, headache at my temples.

Whether the source was screen, or tension, a combo, or something altogether separate, who knows. But it feels worthwhile to consider the obvious.

As I walked Wednesday morning…breathing, watching, listening, twirling the stem of that beautiful leaf…two things struck me:

1 : : The balm of my surroundings.

…I walked a tiny little street I never knew existed. (And I thought I knew every street in the village!). The steep spot along the gorge reminded me of a similar walk in Ithaca last summer.

…After days of rain, the creek was rushing! It was mostly dry all summer.

…I stopped to watch a big, beautiful black + white cat in a garden. And I picked up that maple leaf.

…The smell of Concord grapes is still in the air; I’m savoring every fleeting minute of it.

…I recognized a small house that’s been moved from one location to another; it now stands in a sweet grove of trees.

…I noticed an outdoor heater on someone’s side porch; we could use one in our sunroom this winter.

…I stopped walking to watch a train cross on the trellis overhead.

2 : : And, the temptation!

My phone was in my pocket, zipped shut, in case the mechanic needed to call me. I couldn’t believe it, though–the temptation was there!

…to snap a photo and text it to Audrey: The creek’s running!

…to snap a photo and text it to Troy (who was in Ohio this week): Think we can use a heater like this?

…to snap a photo and text it to our friend who loves trains: Look! Thinking of you 🙂

D’you know I mean?

Those things are nice to do! And people matter to me! But when did I start having to engage in every thought that crosses my mind…the moment it crosses my mind?

Which leads me to My One Word Prompt for October. Essentially–

How can Engage help me use my phone to communicate in healthy(er) and sustainable ways? How can my phone serve me–not the other way around?

I want to be clear. This is not ‘too much screen time’ in the sense of binge watching or the socials. (Those aren’t my jam.) It’s about how I’m communicating. It’s about how I can engage and respond and participate without…well…without a headache or blue light glasses!

Something about that leaf felt significant to me when I picked it up, so I’m keeping it pressed in the book I’m reading as a reminder of that quiet morning walk. And as a reminder of this post, this prompt, as I explore engaging differently this month.

How are you doing as we greet October…with 3 months left in our year?! Dusting off your word for the fall? Still going strong? Loving your word? Not as much as you thought you would?

6 thoughts on “my one word prompt {october twenty-two}

Add yours

  1. Oh gosh yes. Screen time is just not good for us all the time. The best thing that has happened to me is my tablet computer which is in the sitting room no longer recieves emails. As a consequence rather than checking every hour or so I now have to make an effort to come into the study and turn on the laptop.Something breaking has become wholly beneficial .
    What a good idea to dust off your word and then apply it to one aspect of your life. Look forward to reading how you get on.
    I think in terms of my word Balance- the above situation I described may well govern me this month…less is more!


  2. I know I probably spend so much time staring at screens (I have to for work, but I choose to for non-work stuff, too). I think it’s become a more all-encompassing thing to view our life through screens; there’s a tendency to want to capture everything instead of just enjoying it in the moment. I remember being at a wedding several years ago (pre-pandemic, but not that long ago) when everyone had their phones out to take pictures or video, and the officiant make a specific request to ask everyone to put their phones down so that they could see the couple be married with their own eyes rather than via a screen. I think we could all be better about doing that.


  3. With my shoulder pain, I’ve had to adjust to a whole different way of connecting (less dedicated time, different devices) … I’m still adjusting! I also made a point of really noticing the leaves last month – I saw PINK and shades of green that I had no idea were “fall” … smitten 🙂 I guess I’m still embracing my word and looking for how it’s manifesting in this new season.


  4. I think that my decision to take some painting classes this year has really altered my idea of “screen time” … I think in a good way, but Steve does not think so especially when he has messaged me and I don’t see it because I don’t even have my phone.

    And my word? Oh my… the best choice ever! I am even starting to see a few words show up with some regularity – my next word? Perhaps. I have written them down and will think about them over the coming months!


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