I’ve never been held hostage, but I have been in a group text.
Anyone with a smart phone can relate to this. I’m certain.
I sub in my spare time – or when I turn my auto Do Not Disturb button off at night. I like my sleep. I do not particularly like 6 AM phone calls. I was subbing the other day and had a jam-packed schedule. But I started the day right. I brought my KIND bar (heaven sent) and a hot homemade chai. I was ready for the day. Juuuuuussst kidding. By 3 PM I finally had a lull and a full, untouched cup of lukewarm chai. I sat down to double check my phone and noticed I had NINETY-NINE text messages. That’s one less than a hundred… in three hours.
Please hear me when I say that I love these people. I love my family. I love my friends and all the people that I get to stay in contact with every day. Living ten hours from these people is not nearly as difficult as it would have been thirty years ago because of these handy phones and apps. My dear college roommates (from five years ago) know more about my day-to-day activities than my husband does sometimes. We chat that often. And I’m eternally grateful. However, I am a people-pleasing anxious person. When I see ninety-nine text messages, I panic. I take a deep breath (in a brown paper bag) and carve out time to read and respond to every conversation in play. Sometimes that deep breath turns into a day, but I always try to respond. I don’t want them to think I don’t care, I justify.
Thirty-five years ago, someone would have left a message on my answering machine and I would have called her back when I got home from vacation. Now our vacations are spent sitting on a beach documenting the entire experience through our iPhones. We forget that Great Aunt Tillie was even on that trip because we never looked up from our phone or Kindle. We didn’t actually experience the vacation. Instead, we spent half of it taking pictures or updating our Facebook status about the awesome (or horrible) restaurant we visited. Concert crowds are filled with people who watch the show as they record it through their small phone screen while the real thing is on the other side and larger than life.
Even when we are with people (out shopping, attending a dinner party, a staff meeting) we have our phones handy and, sometimes, in constant use. Unfortunately, what this subtly says to our current company is that whatever is on my phone (Facebook, random chit chat, BuzzFeed) is all more important than their presence.
Patrick and I often times keep our phones by our side while we’re out to dinner or even just sitting on the couch watching a movie. Part of this is because of his job and his need to be available. Part of it is our generation’s undeniable need to be connected. Always. I once left my wedding ring at home on the way to the airport and I didn’t turn around. If I had forgotten my phone, I would have tucked and rolled out of the vehicle to get back to it.
What’s wrong with silence? Why do we feel the need to stay connected to everyone all the time? I constantly feel like I’m failing people if I don’t respond in today’s idea of a timely manner.
The first time I subbed as an aide, the classroom teacher had a nearly ten minute section set aside for silence. Students came in after recess and sat on the floor to calm down and sit in a quiet room. The lights were turned off and soft music began to play in the background. I aided for two days in that room. Day one was uncomfortable. Like what the heck do I do here? Can I get my phone out? Can we watch something? Can I write something? However, by the end of the ten-minute period, I was in heaven. Silence? In the middle of my day? Yes please! If day two hadn’t been jean day, I swear I would have worn a snuggie and crawled underneath a desk with a pillow.
I have slowly come to the realization that these people that I love and that know me so well also know my anxious heart. They know I am not intentionally absent. They know I care. They know I have busy days and that sometimes I need the afternoon to myself – unplugged.
Take time for yourself today. It will feel uncomfortable to turn your phone on Do Not Disturb at first. Even if you cannot get away from work or children, start somewhere. Stay unplugged (even for a short time) to fully engage with your physical environment. Drink that cup of coffee. Drive home from work with the radio off. Play barbies with your daughter (or play barbies alone – there’s no judgment here).
Your anxious, always on the go, heart will thank you.