‘Four years ago I stopped reading newspapers and watching television. I just simply checked out.”

A woman is explaining to me about how she is no longer plugged into the world — and by her choice.

Her salt and pepper hair is pulled tastefully — almost playfully — back around her head. Two-tone eyeglass frames, although contrasting colors, compliment her eclectic silver wingtip shoes.

“I once read four newspapers a day and watched the 24-hour cable news shows. Then one day, I said enough was enough and stopped. I’m much happier now.”

Her voice is friendly, strong and articulate. Listening to her you can’t help but respect her choice. One day she made a conscious decision to take back control of her life — and did so by eliminating an element of her world that didn’t contribute to her happiness.

Her smile is warm and engaging. She is not recommending others do what she did — just sharing something about her life with a stranger.

The next day, while driving to the office, I felt a spot in my heart admiring her decision. As the sun began to change the color of the sky, a handful of little unsolicited thoughts began arriving in my head. Did I check my email? Was there anything on my calendar for first thing in morning? I wonder what is going on in the world of my Facebook friends?

The world, if viewed through her eyes, is controlling me.

Today our lives are increasingly filled with fractured areas of activity constantly pulling at us for attention. And with each new avenue we allow into our lives, another piece of our mental real estate is occupied.

I read a book recently that said one of the most difficult aspects of quitting anything is that we are erasing the investment of time we’ve already put into the commitment. Not to say the sum of our investment is valuable — rather, by walking away we are somehow making an admission we were wrong. And, for most of us, that is a very hard thing to do.

Today, as more as more people become “invested” in social media or other distractive outlets, the combined urge to know as well as continue to participate can be overwhelming.

Even scientists point to the little droplets of endorphins released in our brains when communicating with all these ever-increasing leeches of time as an increasing problem.

Our bodies, they conclude, become addicted much like an addict to a substance.

Which brings me back to the very well adjusted woman with the sweptback ponytail. She, essentially, broke the chain of dependency — one feeding an outcome in her life she did not desire.

Her investment, with her fresh eyes, was not valuable at all — but rather something getting in the way of her living a healthy and rewarding life.

Her solution is not for everyone — but everyone can probably learn from her. She, when discovering the distractions in her life that were not contributing to her happiness, walked away.

Our world today is filled with distractions — and only we give them value and power over our lives. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. The programing of our minds — what we think, what we feel, what we believe — is ultimately up to us. Choose wisely.

Leonard Woolsey is the publisher of The Galveston County Daily News. You can reach him at leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.

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