Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Cell Phone Complex

I lost my cell phone almost two weeks ago. I haven't gotten a new one. 

When I realized it was not in all the normal places I lay it when I am not paying attention, I was baffled.I waited a couple days, calling it, feeling certain that it would pop up. I don't ever hide it that well from myself...

 Then the weekend arrived and Joel was going out of town to play multiple gigs with his band for St. Patty's weekend. When he is out of town I really like to have my phone. It makes me feel better to touch base and know he has survived the party weekend. Well, it was the strangest feeling to kiss him goodbye and watch him leave. I couldn't chat with him on the way or text him to find out if he made it (he left at 9pm on a Friday in the rain) and I wouldn't be able to find out how the gig went or when he was going to come home on Sunday. When he left, he left and that was that. It sort of made sense to me. 

I waited to feel nervous. I waited to feel worried or concerned. Those feelings didn't creep up. I just settled into what I was doing and it was nice. I was here and he was there.

Saturday, I woke up early and headed to class. I was in class from 9-5 and it wasn't until 3 that I thought about my phone. It hit me that on days in class when I have my phone, I check it about every hour. Sometimes I stop paying attention because I am thinking about how I want to text so-and-so back even though they knew I was in class and the answer could wait. This was one of the best classes I've experienced at Charlotte Spirituality Center and I began to wonder if it was because I was just really present to it.

That evening, I got home from class. I had emailed a friend earlier to pick me up for a party we were going to so I thought I'd check my email one more time. Instead I saw my neighbors on their porch and I ran over to hug them. They invited me for wine and I had a delightful hour of sunset with great people and delicious vino. My friend arrived and joined us. 

We joked that if she hadn't shown up, I would have just stayed on the porch or I would have just checked my email. Either way, I knew in that moment, I would have just gone with the flow because the flow was so good. We drove off and enjoyed our party.

I went to bed that night wondering how Joel was doing and prayed for him. I spent all the time I would have spent texting him and waiting on replies or not getting replies, just praying for him. My prayers moved quickly from prayers of safety to prayers of fullness and joy. I started imagining him feeling connected to his friends, so renewed by the music he shared with his band and the joy he has when he performs. I fell asleep happy for him and at peace that God was with him. I also knew that God was with me.

Sunday, I didn't have any plans. I thought it might be nice to hangout with some friends but I didn't email anyone, I just relaxed. I meandered to our trampoline (yes, we have a trampoline) and I laid in the sun. I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up, I looked toward the house and saw my Momma sitting there with our cat, Booger. We both giggled because she hadn't seen me and I hadn't noticed her right away. I invited her to lay in the sun with me and she obliged. Five minutes later, one of my dear friends walked into the yard. She rode her bike over because she wanted to hangout and knew she couldn't call. She hopped on the trampoline with us. Then, no lie, five minutes after that, two more friends rolled into the yard on their bikes. They emailed earlier and said they might stop by. We all hung out on the trampoline. It was good.

Right as they were all leaving, Joel pulled up. His car was full of wonderful gifts from his parent's garden. He hopped out of the car asking if I had gotten his email. I hadn't even remembered to check it that afternoon. His brother was coming to town, did I mind? Of course not! 

The whole week has gone like this. Some email touch-base, some g-chatting or video chatting but mostly, I've just gone with the flow and it has been wonderful. I've still seen lots of friends and had some very meaningful time with them. I find myself more present to each of them, to myself, to the moment. Even with work, where my phone is most necessary, things went smoothly and there wasn't a moment where I thought "Agh! I need a phone!"

I've lingered on the porch and thought about things, stared into the distance, imagined my future. It's been a gift to read for a while, draw, or write and not be interrupted by my own need to check my phone or see what time it is. It feels like there is more time, more space, more me, more others, just more. 

I am realizing how many unhealthy expectations come from cell phone use. Isn't it strange that we think that it is rude when someone doesn't answer our calls or text us back right away? How awful that if those texts or calls go unanswered, we start wondering if that person is mad at us or if we did something wrong. Our minds wander, we start beating ourselves up. Or we just wonder what they are doing and perhaps, why we aren't included in it? Then we wait for an answer...

When the answer comes we are either more flustered or annoyed or just relieved that everything is ok. Or maybe we just text back and forth or forty minutes. What kind of system is this? How did we let this happen to our precious human relationships? They can be so much more, so much richer.

Why do we have to call someone before we show up at their house or work? Isn't it the same thing to knock on the door? You don't have to answer it but if you do, the person you want to see is right in front of you! 

Maybe I romanticize it too much, but I love imagining how it must have been for my grandparents when they were young. Those letters they wrote to one another, sometimes the only correspondence they would have for months, were so thoughtful and sincere. Their words mattered and letters would be cherished because they carried weight. I love how Sundays were for "visiting" and you spent the day riding around to your friend's homes  to say "hello" and spend some time together. You just knew that was going to happen. Those times must have been longed for and could have been so life-giving.

I want that for me. With all the incredible things that a computer can provide for people, why do we need to also carry them around? I get all the arguments; GPS is so useful, 411 is convenient, calling for assistance in a time of need can save lives, you can check your email anywhere and be connected to work all the time, everyone you love is just a click away and so on... 

Have these conveniences made our lives better? I think they have in plenty of ways. The world is at your finger tips anytime day or night. The world is "smaller", right? There are good things that come with that. But do we need to carry the world around with us everywhere? 

I think cell phones, particularly smart phones, have made life a lot harder. Our demands of people's time are tougher, more stringent and consistent. We can access each other whenever we want. Sometimes it is not demands, it is just invitations, more invitations than we can ever say "yes" to but we try, don't we? We have forgotten how healthy boundaries can be. We have forgotten what it is like to not worry or how much more we worry when we carry these gadgets with us because suddenly, silence is scary and a bad sign.  What happened to "no news is good news"? Our expectations are high and sometimes unreasonable for our relationships and our work. We keep ourselves seeking and seeking and we stop being. We work longer and work when we are "not working". We miss the cool places you an end up when you get lost because you don't have GPS or the strangers that might help you out. You miss that sunset or that flower blooming in full perfection just for you to walk past it and wonder at it's beauty. We miss our stops, run red lights, have fender benders. We miss our inner thoughts, our heart voices. We can't feel God's presence because feeling connected is having our phone on to see who is reaching out for us. Someone is reaching out for us.

 I've felt that weird feeling, the one you have when you can't find your phone. For a few minutes you feel disconnected, alone. But you know what? That feeling goes away and is replaced with a fullness that I have a hard time describing. 

For me, it feels like I am freer, like I am not alone. I feel less alone than ever. I am getting to know a presence I have ignored for a long time- my own self. 

People keep asking me when I am going to get a new phone. I am sure I will have to eventually, but I am going to put it off as long as I can. When I do get a phone, I will try to use it differently than I did before. I won't let it use me. 

My days have become surprises because I can't schedule every moment, I don't know what time it is all the time. I can just be. Be with me. Be with God. Be with whoever joins me here or there, where I choose to wander. 

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