I have been a bit more vacant from this space the past couple of months. Like many of us, summer ran away from me. I would normally say, "I don't know where the time went!" But, I do know. It was filled with intimate weddings which brought many tears and new members of Ben and my ever-growing family, new trails interrupted with rainstorms, a new pup who instantly became the second love of my life, endless blurred time with the best of people, and just general, necessary laziness. Blogging seemed to slip to the side for a bit. It wasn't a planned break; but nonetheless, here we are as I dust off my keyboard. Let's chat about me not having a cell phone for two weeks.
I would love to say this post was inspired by my need to disconnect, to break away from the social norm of having a device as a fifth limb. That I ran off into the mountains and reconnected with nature uninterrupted by that pesky "ping" sound. Unfortunately, I am not that inspiring. While vacationing in California for a dear friend's wedding, my phone had a quick, silent death. No warning signs present; the screen simply went dark leaving me to gaze upon a confused reflection. This is not a selfie you want to experience. After failing the initial test of power off to power on and hoping to revive my communication tool, I set it aside with no real panic. Jokingly, I commented to my friend, Kate, "No phone, eh, I'll just blog about it."
When I returned from the dreamland that is California, my nonchalant statement by the lake turned into a two week hiatus from my cell phone. No rush to have it fixed became my mantra. My phone, once inseparable from my grasp, found a nice temporary bed in my nightstand; a travel-sized journal packed for note taking during my "brave" experiment. Okay, true bravery was not exuded during this time, but it certainly was interesting. Here are the five main things I observed/learned from living sans phone:
People depend on your phone as much as you do
For two weeks, contacting me instantaneously was almost nonexistent. Unless we were face-to-face or I happened to be in arms reach of my husband, most likely the inside jokes, news or just common text and social media conversation was lost. This affected folks connected to me much more than I anticipated. Many people didn't know I was without phone and concern grew quickly. Our phones are a main source of communication and a lifeline of sorts. Take this away abruptly and there will be some panic. Lesson learned: for future phone hiatuses, I will be sure to spread the word of my lack of connectivity to save some folks' blood pressure.
What time is it?
I had no idea what time it really was. I do not own a watch and all the clocks in my house are set between 5 and 9 minutes fast. I find comfort in the fact that when I am on time, there is time to spare. Even with my husband's alarm set in the morning, I always slept through it. The snooze routine was no longer in my control and my lids won every. single. time. I was forced to pay attention to time a bit more even breaking out my first watch purchase, a Guess sterling silver classic. This watched used to be glued to my wrist as a thirteen year old, and for that I will never part with it. Many a stories live within that watch, but I do not find it pretty to wear anymore. Nonetheless, it saved me from building a sundial. Lesson learned: invest in a wear-with-everything-you-own watch.
Speaking of time, it expanded. Not only was there more time to spare, it slowed down. No more hashtag searches leading to lost hours internally giggling over the latest celebrity meme. No more Seinfeld or The Office clips keeping me up well past my bed time. No more Pinterest home/style/life take-overs. All the sudden there was time to water my plants daily, read the physical newspaper (the thirty year bucket list item I am failing to accomplish consistently), and experience the bliss of a bath. YES! I indulged in my first bath. I lit some candles, grabbed my LUSH Butterball bath bomb, the latest Marie Claire and fell into a relaxation rabbit hole. In a true Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I couldn't help but wonder; was time spent on my phone making time phony? Lesson learned: Screen time is accelerated time.
Fomo goes away.
Yes, I state for the record, that fear of missing out is not permanent. Just like many other feelings, it eventually fades. And, even more exciting to report, you do not have to be doing something social media worthy (like standing in front of a lake on top of cool mountains throwing up the peace sign) to overcome this envy.
Admittedly, for the first couple of days after returning from California, I experienced withdraw. I felt as though my grasp on friends' lives, pop culture, local and world news, inspiring Instagram content (sigh), it was slipping. WHAT WAS GOING ON?! News on TV and searching hashtags on my computer just wasn't the same. We all consume information differently, and I realized 95% of my consumption was through my iPhone.
After a bit, something miraculous happened: I started to lose interest is what others were doing on the daily. It sounds harsh. In reality it wasn't. I gave myself and my family my full attention. Information that needed to get to me did. Information which needed to be delivered to others found its way. The lack of communication, or better said the lack of following along with others, brands, etc., connected me more deeply with myself. There was no more missing out because there was nothing was known to be missed. Unawareness really was bliss. Lesson learned: By not knowing what everyone is doing at every single moment, there is more room for enjoyable, non-appraised experiences.
I was present.
This one is not a shocker. Being present is a topic of conversation constantly present. All too often folks, myself included, take pictures to prove they are there and not actually experience the "being there." They rather capture the experience then live it. Because, let's face it, you weren't there if you can't publish or post it, right?! I have fallen into this habit time and again. I might not be the worst at being present, but I am not always the best. It is a push and pull relationship, especially being a blogger. I want to share my thoughts and words and feelings, and visuals help tell the story. Sometimes it is the only way folks digest a story. Everyone doesn't always want to read my l e n g t h y words. But I am getting sidetracked...
Without a phone, focusing on what was physically in front of me to be quite easy. My attention was not stretched across a million different avenues. All my senses, not just sight, were being fulfilled equally. Screens, whether it is a phone, TV, tablet, etc., can lure you in like a hypnotist. It captures your attention and does not let go. And, often my willpower to break away from my phone, well it just wasn't powerful. Eliminate my main screen all together and it was as if I updated my eyeglass prescription after years settling for my initial vision assessment. Everything seemed more crisp and clear. Lesson learned: If you truly want to invest, concentrate, dive into something, hide your phone out of arm's length.
After these turbulent two weeks, the conclusion was clear. It was one that was known deep down inside; it just needed to be brought to the light again. Could I live a life without a cell phone? Physically, yes I can survive without a cell phone. With blogging and work and distant family and friends and bitmoji, do I want to? Absolutely not. A phone is essential in certain aspects of my life. I can admit this shame-free. I want to be able to communicate easily with distant relations and there is a level of ease which comes with owning a phone. I never want to walk into a physical bank to deposit a check EVER AGAIN. I am also horrible at directions and blindly follow Apple maps. One could argue a phone is what developed this quality, but that is a deep discussion for another post. Reeling it back in, the one thing we can always rely on is change. And, in today's nonstop hustle; having an immediate method of communication is helpful. It just is.
Everything in moderation makes a well-lived, balance life. This was the souvenir I left with from my lil' experiment. Maybe parting with your phone for two weeks sounds unthinkable, but you can start with an evening or a morning. Drink your coffee or your cocktail without scrolling. Set a time limit on your social media interaction, and then place the phone down and BACK AWAY SLOWLY. It is a silent, bold act. You will not get a pat on the back for it, but I promise you, it will help improve your mood and encourage an overall healthy outlook. I am raising my glass now to you in anticipating you will consider my advice. Small acts of wellness folks, do not underestimate them.
Carrie returns: I can't help but wonder, are you reading this on your phone?