Over a week ago, my cell phone finally bit the dust. I guess it can only be thrown across the driveway so many times before it waves its white flag. Internally, I acknowledged the inconvenience of my current situation and then I decided to embrace a digital detox for the next few days. I had tried before on various occasions but I am a weak, weak person with a desire to stay “connected” and be “on call” should an emergency present itself. This time I had no choice.
So for an entire week I had no phone. I didn’t come here to the blog. I allowed myself one email and Facebook check a day. I used Christian’s phone to call my mom in the evenings. The television remained off and IPads were tucked away.
Friends, I am happy to report I am still alive and the earth is still rotating. I can sum up the week in three words- inconvenient, peaceful, and clarifying.
Yes, the reality of not having a phone is the true inconvenience of it all. We take convenience as seriously as religion in our country. We have the right to practice our freedom of religion and to go to extreme measures to make things as convenient as possible. Right? There were times I needed to call or email someone and I didn’t have their contact information. I would come home after work before picking the kids up to let the dog out to find Christian was home and had already done it- totally inconvenient. Also, there were many things I wanted to share here with so much uninterrupted think time. But, I kept my promise to myself to withdrawal from the “noise’, including the noise of the blogging world.
These inconveniences were felt throughout the week, but were most visceral the first few days, when I would reach for my phantom phone to do something and remember, with slight annoyance, there was no such phone. But then, my annoyance shifted to something else- peace. The moments at a red light when I would have reached for my phone, I found myself saying a quick prayer, or actually noticing the things around me. Had I been on my phone I never would have seen the lady in the car next to me trying to get something out of her teeth. I never would have thought to check my teeth and discovered the big black chia seed that had settled in between my top teeth. I mean, I would have recovered from the embarrassment of having something in my teeth but it sure was nice to avoid such a situation altogether.
I looked up more often- at the sky, at the clouds. Looking up is indeed good for the soul. All of our tech devices and our attachment to them practically abolish the act of looking up. I found myself reconnecting with my childhood self and the peace of a time with far fewer distractions. a time when thinking and wondering had space. I didn’t google to find answers, I walked outside to get a sense of the weather and brought an umbrella and packed the kids rain jackets “just in case”. I went for my runs with no phone pumping music through the ear buds or app to track my mileage and pace. I proved myself wrong- I CAN run without music. I found myself wondering on these runs, what did I do before I had a phone? Oh yes, I ran with a portable CD player– this thought made me chuckle. But I didn’t worry about mileage or pace. I just ran at whatever pace my legs were able to that day and I casually noted the time before leaving and upon returning from the house. I ran for 40 minutes, great. I’m happy with that.
Overall, just taking some space from being “hyper-connected” helped clarify what role I want technology to play in my life, in our family’s life. It can’t be done when you’re in the swirl of it all. The distractions and temptation to multi-task and use every ounce of our time productively keep us too far “in it” to actually reflect on what impact it’s having on our lives, and our overall well-being. Do not be fooled- it is an addiction. There is a reason why the mindfulness and slow living movements are gaining momentum. They are the panacea for our tech-induced mindlessness.
So what became so clear to me during this brief digital hiatus?
- Not being able to text your spouse in a moment of total annoyance or frustration can be a good thing. Instead, seeing each other at the end of the day, after you’ve had time to process something that’s bothering you, makes for a much better reunion. Trust me.
- Using “wait times”, such as red lights to pray, breathe, wonder, think- will ALWAYS be better for you than reaching for your phone to check email or Facebook.
- Running without music is well, kind of boring. They are the perfect pairing. I can do without the mileage notifications but not without the tunes.
- Television can be a savior when you have small children. I am a teacher and I tell parents all of the time to limit TV viewing, but the key here is moderation. A half hour show in the evenings when one spouse is attempting to put dinner on the table can be a godsend.
- Social Media is an important way to connect with others BUT not more important than the quiet reflective time needed to connect with yourself or the face-to-face time needed to connect and be present with your people. Boundaries are necessary. I can read all of my favorite blogs on simple living and articles on mindfulness via the internet but it means nothing if I don’t step out of the noise and actually DO what I know is good for me.
- I like coming to this place. I missed it. I needed time and space to realize I missed the act of writing here, and not the number of “likes” one of my post gets. Blogging can be as fulfilling or as distracting as you allow it to be. I have a renewed purpose for my writing, unattached to outcome. Yes, boundaries are in place.
So if you are reading this, thanks for hanging with me through this lengthy post. I hope something (even if it’s a reminder to check your teeth before leaving the house) resonated with you. Now, turn off your device and go have some fun. Give yourself permission to do one thing at a time today, limiting as many distractions as possible. Breathe. Read a book. Write a handwritten note. Play outside. You can catch up on the news, send that important email, or post that cute picture of your kids another day. I promise, the world will still be standing.