Saturday, March 4, 2017

QUIETING TECHNOLOGY: THE WHY



Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?"  
~ Mary Oliver, "West Wind"

I'm still on the change train these days.  There's so much that I'm sort of peeling it off in layers. And sometimes, when you peel away layers, what you find underneath is surprising.  

I'm asking myself, "What is making me crazy?"  "What is secretly stealing my joy and my time?"  "What causes me to look at my kids as a nuisance instead of a treasure?"

These two words bubbled to the surface:  Distraction. Expectation.  


DISTRACTION

A few weeks ago, my phone might have accidentally fallen into the toilet.  I know, I know. What is my phone even doing near the toilet? Don't judge.  You know you do it too.

It was a Sunday, and I was home from church with a feverish kid.  I quickly popped said phone in a bag of rice  (Arborio.  It was the only kind I could find, but I figured it would still work.) and said a quick prayer.  

For a brief moment, I felt a bit panicky.  What if someone needs to get in touch with me? What if I need something?  

But seriously, how often is a text urgent or cause for immediate response?  Almost never.  

And how often is the perusal of social media necessary to life?  Definitely never.  

On this accidental phone-less day, I noticed that I was way less distracted.  Before that, I wouldn't have said that I was even a distracted type of person or someone that was on my phone that much.  But not having my phone available made me aware of how often I reach for it in little moments, how often I check for a text or a like or a notification, how often I use it as an escape from my very unglamorous life. 

For the first time in a long time, I had a day uninterrupted by a ping, alarm, text, or vibration. For the first time in a long time, I actually felt productive (granted I had only one sick child home with me, so let's be clear).  I managed to tackle a few projects around the house and even some gardening outside.  I read for a forever long time to my daughter, without feeling that vibration in my pocket that even momentarily mentally distracted me from time with her, even if I didn't check it right then.  "Mom, you just got a text," she would say.  "I know, honey, I know, but I will check it later."  

Even my 1 year old will pick up my phone and hand it to me if she sees it lying around, like she knows it's an extension of me.  Personally, I think that's a little messed up.  

I've been reading the Little House on the Prairie series to my oldest.  One thing that has been so striking to me about the life of the Ingalls family is just how amazingly productive they are.  They build their own houses, catch their own food, grow their own gardens, farm the land, make their own maple syrup, care for their animals, cook everything from scratch, make their own clothes, knit their own mittens, play their own music.  

Do you know how they do this?  THEY DO ONE THING AT A TIME.  I'm so serious.  One thing at a time.  If it's harvesting time, they harvest.  If it's planting time, they plant,  If the maple trees are giving sap, they tap the trees, gather sap, and then boil to make maple syrup right then.  If they need a house, they build a house.  They aren't trying to plant and harvest and make syrup and build a house all in the same day.  Doing little bits at a time. They do until it's done.  Their eyes are focused on their work at hand.  

While I understand this is a very different than the world we live in, let's not overlook this very important lesson:

Distraction is defeating and is the killjoy to our productivity and our focus.

The day my phone was on rice, I was able to focus without wanting to stop in between every little thing to check on something...anything. And let's be honest, those things I were checking on were insignificant.  

Do you know what is significant?  Looking into my kids eyes and them knowing I value them so much more than this hand-held rectangular window to other things. I didn't have the feeling that my kids were annoying all day long because I was trying to look at something or post something or text something, constantly shooing away the "Mom, Mom, Moms!"   I saw, and I mean really saw my daughter and gave her my full attention.   

I felt lighter, less tethered to an unrealistic fantasy world, less stressed.  I did one thing at a time.  

I felt less crazy.  Less pulled in a million directions.  Less like I had to please everyone.


EXPECTATION


The weekend after Thanksgiving, we gathered our tiny humans and took a family trip to the great white north.  We needed some time away from our intense lives to just focus on one another and have some fun.  

Also on that weekend, my Instagram and Facebook feeds exploded with Christmas trees, fully holiday decorated homes, and already bought and wrapped Christmas gifts.  All finished decorating!  Wrapped gifts while watching Elf and sipping Bailey's hot cocoa!! All ready for Christmas!  

Watching all this made me hyperventilate and instantly feel behind in a season that honestly hadn't even gotten started yet.  We've never been a family that got our tree and decorated the day after Thanksgiving, and it never bothered me before..until this year, for some reason. Until I was watching everyone's best bits in little lit up squares scroll through my screen.  

I can't compete with everyone's best bits, especially without seeing the whole.  It's not the best bits that make a life.  It's the best and the worst and everything in between.  It's the realness and the rainy day you pick you tree out from the hardware store down the street and carry it home.  It's the tears that were shed when one child didn't want to walk the one block home behind that tree.  It's the hot chocolate drunk around that tree while our electricity was out during the decorating.  It's the hoping all those strands of light actually work because we can't plug them in to check.  It's the candles that soothed our family and lit our way as we decorated. It's the kids who really didn't care to be decorating and bailed about 3 ornaments in.  It's the accidentally broken ornaments and the dinner that no one liked.  It's the joy on their faces to see the tree all lit up and decorated for the first time.  Or the first presents wrapped underneath.  It's the arguments you get into over waiting to unwrapped those gifts until Christmas.  Its the growth and the stubble.  

And so, I decided to take a break from social media over the holidays.  I didn't want to feel the imaginary pressure that it would cause during an already high pressure season.  

I didn't want to measure my experience with anyone else's ruler.  And isn't that what social media slaps in our hand all too often? Someone else's ruler?  I've got enough of my own, thank you very much.  

Here's what I noticed on my social media break.

I could take things at a realistic pace for our family and not feel like I had to keep up with everyone else.  We didn't even get a tree until December 10th, and that was just fine for us.  
I cared more about the actual moments  than how that moment would look in that little lit up square.  I wasn't taking a photo in order to post it to social media, already running witty captions through my head.  I was taking a photo because I honestly wanted to remember this moment. Just us, for what that moment was, not for what I wanted people's reactions to be. I stopped thinking in those terms.

I spent a lot less time scrolling through a feed, and I really didn't miss it much.

I found I was more curious about what was going on in people's lives because I didn't already know. This made me reach out more on a person to person level, which should always be my aim.  

I don't need anyone's feedback to validate my life.


Let me add a caveat here, too.  I love social media.  Instagram is my jam.  Give me all the fun, real, beautiful, and inspirational photos.  As a stay-at-home mom, it serves as a connection point in to the outside world in an often lonely season of life.  A great, quick way to keep up with friends that I don't have much time to keep up with.  And I often need that.  

Social media and technology are not evil and are actually really great things.  We just need to make sure that they keep their rightful place in our priority lists...preferably near the bottom.  When they lead to distraction and expectation that sucks the joy out of life, when they make our kids wanting our attention seem like a nuisance, when they cause too much unhealthy comparison, we need to reign them in and shut them up.

It seems counter-cultural, but culture doesn't get to dictate what's best for me.  I do.  I told you...I'm not gonna play by their rules anymore.  

I'll be back on Monday with exactly how I'm quieting technology in my life...  


 

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