How I am letting go of my screen and staying connected to the world
My sweet orange kitty, Nigel, let me sleep until 7:15 today. 7:15! Never before has this happened. I woke up startled, with that sinking feeling you get when you know you’re late for something important. The light was way too bright outside; I’d really blew it this time. I bolted out of bed and opened my bedroom door, where Nigel was waiting. He stood up and ran to his food bowl with a single trill emitting from his throat. Translation: feed me now.
I realized, squinting in the morning sun, that he’d survived the extra hour without food. Ok, good. Crisis averted. Now I could get back into bed and play with my phone.
No I couldn’t.
I promised myself last night that I wouldn’t. The vow took place right after I’d checked my total screen time for the day and it was over six hours. Pre-pandemic, it was usually between one and two, and even that had felt high to me.
This extraordinary amount of phone use explained why I hadn’t been able to concentrate on a single task for long periods of time in recent days. It culminated yesterday when, at 7:30 pm, I realized I hadn’t sat down to accomplish a single one of my daily goals. “I can get them all done by 10, no problem!” I surmised.
But as I sat down to accomplish the first task, I kept checking my phone.
Early on in the pandemic, I told myself that I could only check the news twice per day since I was getting very anxious, and for the most part, I’ve stuck to that. Also it wasn’t like I had some important thing happening, that I was waiting for some big announcement. I lost my job as a teaching artist; all my friends and family are accounted for; I wasn’t expecting any calls. It was just an endless cycle of checking Instagram, checking each of my five email accounts in no particular order (it helps me stay organized, okay?), playing Words with Friends (my mom kicked my ass yesterday), and occasionally looking something up online.
An hour later, I was less than halfway through my first task, and I threw in the towel. “I didn’t achieve all of my goals for today. I want to shift them to be spread out over the next couple days and into the weekend if necessary,” I wrote to my amazing coach and accountability partner. She and I have an agreement, which is that if I don’t complete my daily goals, I can reach out and tell her so that I feel complete with it and can start fresh the next day. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope for me into all-or-nothing mode, and I generally land on the nothing side of things, if you catch my drift.
I didn’t tell her about my phone. It felt like an excuse.
That’s because the phone is an excuse. It’s a hand-held device that excuses me from paying attention to what’s happening around me and inside of me in this very moment. It numbs me from my body and takes me away from my heart. It distracts me from creativity, from ideas, from my own sacred intuition.
Are phones useful? Absolutely.
Did I grow up in the eighties and nineties and survive without one? Unequivocally.
My mom and I were talking the other day. “Does Dad have an iPad or something?” I asked her. We were trying to figure out if he could play Words with Friends with us, and as far as I knew, he didn’t have a device from which he could access it. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “He still has that same old phone he’s had for years!” We burst out laughing, because I knew the phone she was talking about. It was a flip phone. Without a touch screen.
I’ve made fun of my dad about his phone off and on for years. For one thing, he can’t participate in group texts. Also, he can’t see emojis. And his phone can’t really handle hi-res photos.
I wasn’t planning on this, but perhaps it’s time for me to consider returning to the world of flip phones. Or at least removing certain apps. Or maybe just being careful about the time I spend on my device.
Or actually wait, hold on, I need to check something.
I’ll be back tomorrow. I promise.