Monday, August 30, 2010

Goldilocks And The Three Computer Screens

Who knew a thumb-pecked, 22-word text message that had nothing to do with me could have so much to do with what I needed to do to heal?

A friend who's on a boat that's goodness knows where or how many time zones away sent me the following message with her iPhone:  “I've been out of sorts here this summer, struggling to find my peace. I'm going to reinvent myself this year, I've decided.”

Even in her anguish my friend was determined to adjust to the current that was troubling her—and to any future currents as well.

Too bad I wasn't doing the same. I'd been out of sorts for days, but instead of acknowledging my feelings so I could do something about them, I'd been sulking. And stewing. And whining. Basically, not adjusting or reinventing.

When my friend's message arrived I was borrowing a computer--a second laptop my husband already had and thought I might want to use, rather than bring mine from Naples.  We are staying at our northern cottage for two months, and hauling one less item on the airplane had seemed like a good idea. After all, a laptop is a laptop, right?

Well, evidently not. After three days of using the thing, my picky, sensitive Goldilocks eyes felt like vice grips had a hold of them.

We tried adjusting everything we could think of--the brightness of the laptop screen, the size, style and thickness of the font, but the words and screen still felt harsh and blurry and grating.

Wearing my glasses didn't help, and adjusting my seat height, so I viewed the screen from a different angle, gave me a backache.

What's more, the cursor-pointing device, a touchpad, was too far from where I naturally positioned my fingertips on the keyboard, so my left hand ached. Plus, the delete, control and right-arrow keys were not where I was used to them being.

My husband offered to switch the mouse from a touchpad to TrackPoint—a rubber nub in the middle of the keyboard.

“But I haven't used that kind of mouse in five years,” I whimpered. “I'll just have to get used to a touchpad again when I get back to my own laptop.”

True, my own laptop was as slow as a slug, the memory was almost used up and the battery was useless, but I knew the position of every key without looking and it never made me ache.

And I anguished over it. I mean, really anguished over it. Which, clearly, wasn't helping. Nor was continually projecting into the future: What if it's like this the whole eight weeks we're here?

To make matters worse, I processed my tormented and strangled thoughts vocally, and judging from the look on my husband's face whenever I opened my mouth it had to have stressed him out.

I was so out of sorts, in fact, that by day number three I even turned down a solution. My husband proposed hooking up the laptop to a freestanding monitor. All we needed was a $20 keyboard.

Since the laptop screen seemed to be my issue, a different screen would be logical to try, right?

Yes, if I still possessed an iota of common sense, which I didn't. Because I believed I'd complained too much, I was now consumed with guilt. And guilt, when left unchecked, can do odd things. Such as convince a person she doesn't deserve a shiny new keyboard; she deserves to suffer.

Consequently, for the next ten, excruciating days I sucked it up and toughed it out, although not very serenely.

And then, on day 13 it occurred to me that being a martyr was not, as they say, working for me, and maybe I should learn from my friend's experience.

I am now typing on that $20 keyboard, gazing at a freestanding monitor and my hand and eyes don't ache.

And while I did waste two weeks acting like an eight-year-old, at least I finally focused on what was in front of me, so I could find a solution.

And give my husband some peace.
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