Lately I’ve been getting frustrated with my seven-year-old’s preoccupation with technology.
During the school week he is not allowed any screen time, but as soon as the weekend hits, it seems it is all he wants to do.
Don’t get me wrong. He does many other things. He plays hockey, builds legos, plays with friends. But the strongest attraction is always toward some device and it usually has to do with Minecraft.
My agitation at his strong pull toward screens has caused some friction between us. My husband says, “Let it go,” and…ugh…usually, most of the time, he’s right.
After my meditation practice one day, I had a shift in this struggle. The day seemed so fragmented and rushed, and at the same time, completely unproductive. I was yearning for something but wasn’t sure what—until this moment, when it became quite clear.
What if my agitation with my son’s attraction to technology was actually a projection of my own agitation with myself?
What if this hot button he seemed to push was really a frustration with my own preoccupation, my unconscious behaviours; my addictions to technology?
This one hit me hard.
The truth is, I am always on my phone.
Between work, emails, social media, communicating, timing meditation, looking up recipes, checking yoga schedules, and everything else in the name of “productivity,” I am always on my damned phone.
And I don’t want to be anymore.
Thank you to Apple for figuring out how to put things on clouds and make every device I’m on ding when a message comes in, but the problem is now I almost never have any uninterrupted, true creative work time. Or time to just idle. Every action is interrupted.
A few months ago I did a 24-hour water fast and had good results. I felt detoxified and lighter, less weighed down by accumulated stress in my body. So I decided to apply the same principle to technology to see what would happen.
I chose a Sunday, the only day I had no significant obligations. I eliminated all screen use—yes, even television. No checking weather (and there was a significant snow storm). I didn’t even play music from Pandora in fear I might be derailed by some “urgent” matter, like suddenly wondering whether Hawaii is closer to L.A. or Tokyo and having to google it immediately.
On Saturday night, I turned my phone off and put it in a drawer.
I woke up the next morning, did my morning meditation, went downstairs and made tea. This is normally when I would turn on the morning news and do a first email check. Instead, I watched the snow fall. It was the dense but light kind of snow that turns the whole sky a white-ish gray. I kept finding myself kind of lost in a train of thought.
Within an hour, I had already instinctively reached to check my phone for a yoga schedule and to see the weather report, but quickly caught myself and let it go.
How much snow will fall?
Who knows. Nothing I can really do about it.
Is “my” teacher on the schedule to teach her Sunday class today?
Guess I’ll find out when I show up. In the snow that may or may not be treacherous.
It was kind of fun, the not knowing.
After breakfast, my husband took my son to hockey practice and I read an entire Domino magazine cover to cover. It was the best magazine I have ever read. I savoured each page and felt really inspired. I wondered if it had always been this good. A few times I wanted to look something up (Google addict) or send myself a note (constantly doing this)—but I didn’t.
I then did some much needed house cleaning, like addressing the random sock piles and cleaning out the fridge. You know, those corners of things you will get to when you have a wide open day? I actually did.
Then, while lying in my living room with my dogs, I started to feel a familiar, yet foreign, kind of feeling. I couldn’t figure it out for some time. It occurred to me as I was again staring outside my window.
I was bored.
I realized it had been maybe years since I was actually bored. Because there was always something calling me—an iSomething dinging or an email to be written. Random facts needing to be googled which then took me into a tunnel that ended in Bob Dylan videos on YouTube.
After sitting with the boredom for a while, some cool stuff started to happen.
I sat down at my piano and finally mastered a song I’ve been working on for months (by mastered I mean I played two hands together and got through it; I’m no Mozart). I have no idea how long I practiced, but I didn’t feel rushed and every time I felt a pull to get up and “do” something, I realized I had nothing to do. So I practiced more, until I got lost in it. Turns out I just needed some uninterrupted time to be able to finally finish it.
At this point, my son heard me playing from downstairs (he was on some device) and said, “Good job, Mom. You’ve been working hard. That sounds so good.”
I was proud. And yet, felt no urge to tell him to get off his device.
After piano, I started finishing some crafting I had started weeks ago. I watered my plants—but slowly, really noticing what they needed. I did a lot of laundry. I took a long bath. And since I couldn’t work on my laptop, I looked through my notes on a new client project and began to brainstorm the creative direction. I got a really good feel for where to begin the work and made a to do list for the week ahead.
I was truly feeling productive. This was also a familiar, yet oddly foreign feeling.
In the afternoon, I drove through the snow to my yoga class and was delighted to see my teacher there. It was a smaller than normal, beautiful, cozy snowy day practice. Nothing strenuous. Just right. I almost fell asleep in savasana, I was so relaxed. I wondered, if I had looked up the weather, whether I would have ventured out like the many that didn’t show up.
After yoga I ran a few errands and noticed the joy of uninterrupted grocery shopping. It was freeing to not be anticipating any dinging of texts. A few times I reached in my pocket for my phone only to feel my keys and nothing else.
I cooked dinner for my family and sat for a long time with my dogs in the living room. They seemed to be on my vibe. Pretty much doing nothing. I noticed how little they actually moved all day. I wondered if they were bored. Aside from their little outdoor time, all they really did was nap on and off and occasionally look at me.
It was then that I thought: life has a rhythm.
Without the endless interruptions and the constant shifting between apps and fragmented, drawn out conversations, life moves at its own pace. Some moments are beautiful, some boring, some revealing. Some very still. I was much more attuned to this rhythm and felt a stronger sense of connectedness. And strangely, although I had barely communicated with anyone except my family and hadn’t written one email, I felt very accomplished by the end of the day.
Most days I think I am battling an endlessly busy schedule and don’t have time for many of the things I want to do: play piano, create, write, practice yoga. On this day I learned that maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe if I’m living life I don’t have time for the mindless pulls of technology.
No tech Sundays might be a new institution for me. So, sorry if I don’t return texts until Monday. And if anyone knows where to find one, I’m in the market for an old record player or anything that plays music without an app.
As for my seven-year-old, I’m not going to address his relationship with technology until I untangle a bit of my own.
Author: Anna Versaci
Image: Flickr/Josue Goge
Editor: Erin Lawson