hello monday: vol. 20
Hello, Monday. I've been thinking a lot about presence as of late.
We live in a world distracted by so many things. It's a world of push notifications and ring tones, of tv on in the background, of playlists and podcasts and "watch later" queues. There's noise, noise, noise and it's so easy to get caught up in a world that fits in the palm of your hand instead of remembering that the world around you is bigger, better, and far more beautiful.
Distraction is all around us, we know this, but I've been noticing it more as of late. We split our focus so often now, it's almost as if we're incapable of focusing on a single thing at a time.
My little sister plays a game on her phone whenever she watches tv. At first I thought it was just a one-time thing, but I can't remember the last time I saw her watch a tv show or movie without also playing a game outside the context of a theatre.
But it's not just my little sister and it's not just watching movies.
We keep our phones by our side so we're always accessible. We answer texts and calls in the middle of gatherings with friends. We respond to tweets in the middle of meetings. We check emails in the middle of church and we post in Instagram in the middle of dinner.
It seems that we've lost the ability to be fully present where we're at and not thinking about whether or not so-and-so responded to our text or how many likes we've gotten on our recent social media post.
I am as guilty as the next person a lot of the time, but it's something I've begun paying more attention to, in my own life and the lives of those around me, because as much as our smartphones have opened up a whole new world, I don't want what's in that phone to become my world.
In a few months, I'll be moving into my own place again after more than a year of being a long-term guests in the homes of various members of my family. I've started looking through listings, making note of different amenities and non-negotiables, mapping the distance from one location to another.
I have a list of items I will need to buy before or as soon as I move in — like a mattress and a desk — and things I hope to find quickly, but want to take my time searching for in order to find the right piece.
Beyond pondering what furniture might go where, what colors curtains I want, and whether or not I'll get rugs again even if I don't have hardwood floors, I've been thinking about what I want the environment of my new home to be like.
For the first time since my senior year of college, I will be living completely on my own, which means, in addition to have full control over the decor in the apartment, I have full control of the "rules of the house," if you will. And one thing I know for sure — I want my home to be one of presence.
I'm still sorting out what this might look like, both for myself and for those around me, but one thing I'm seriously contemplating is a no phone rule — placing a basket in the foyer where guests drop their phone when they enter so while people are present in my home, they are truly present.
Last December, while making the 15-hour drive back from Florida to Virginia, I caught up on the many podcasts I'd neglected over the last several weeks.
An episode of one such podcast featured an interview with a woman who, quite literally, scrambled her brain because of her technology addiction. Though that isn't the clinical term for it, as a digital marketer and early adopter of all things technological, she literally began losing her memory, her ability to sleep, and more because of addiction to technology. After just a week away from tech, her brain began to heal itself.
I was nowhere near that level of technological use, but it kind of freaked me out and I knew I never wanted to be that person — or anywhere close to it.
This year, in particular, I've put some pretty strict tech boundaries in place for both the sake of my health and the health of my relationships. I stopped bringing my phone or laptop into my room past a certain time of night and I now use music as my "hey, it's time to get ready for bed" indicator and my "hey, it's time to get out of bed" alarm instead of my phone. I turned off push notifications for literally everything except messaging apps and I continue to fast from social media over the weekend.
I'm not always perfect at it, but like I've said before, I'm realizing I want my life to be one marked by digital disconnection in favor of real connection.
Lest you think I'm hating on technology, I'm not. I run an online business, write on this blog, and have made some wonderful friends because of the internet, so I'm clearly not against technology. But if it were possible to run said online business, write on this blog, and have made connections with those wonderful friends without technology, I would probably do it.
My girl, Hannah Brencher, says this: "I believe we are living in an interesting time where people talk (really loudly) about life and living life but aren’t actually doing it. I feel like we’ve become spectators. Some of us have stopped doing the work. We’ve lost hours to social media and it’s time to claim back that precious time. At the end of the day, I believe the most valuable resource I have at my fingertips is time. I want to use it wisely. I want to be a doer, not getting to the end of my life and having to say, “I watched too many people live. I never thought to put down the phone and own my life instead.”
I agree. And in the same way I don't want to talk about living instead of actually living, I don't want to talk about connecting without actually connecting.
I want to learn to put the phone down and see the the faces right in front of me, instead of the ones on the screen. I want to hear, from their actual mouths, how the people in my life are doing. I want to know something is happening because I've heard about it from their lips, not just read about it in a Facebook or Instagram post.
At the end of the day, I want to be present for the life I've been given, not just watching it back through a screen, because this life is a wild and precious gift and we only get to live it once.