This year, on my birthday, I lost my phone. We were on our way to Kerala, on holiday and I felt a bit daunted to say the least, at the prospect of having to manage without my phone for the next 10 days. I mean it had everything in it- my Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, my favourite music on Soundcloud, e-mails, important messages, favourite links to absolutely everything (luckily pictures and contacts had been backed up). In short, for a person who works mostly from home, my link to the big, wide, world.
As we went up the winding hills, I adjusted to pulling out the heavy camera, rather than brandishing the phone the moment I needed a quick click. I fought with the feeling of wanting to ‘share’ each sight, sound and experience, while it was still happening. I looked to my hand, every time I heard a notification on someone’s phone. Even my daughter looked on wistfully if someone had the same ringtone as my beloved ex-phone.
It felt like I didn’t have much ‘to do’ as we waited for lunch to arrive.. till I noticed the curious painting on the wall, the quaint chandeliers, two people at the table next. It’s not that I would admit to being a screen-o-holic; in fact I had my pegged myself at being fairly mindful if we were out, especially with our children. But without the phone, there was a spaciousness that I had long forgotten. I have to admit, it felt unfamiliar. Initially, I wondered where to take my attention, and I felt a strange awe, as I could keep it there. Time was rarefied and stretched. I could use all my senses! (if you think I’m exaggerating, please lose your phone!)
Over the next few days, my husband was surprised that I didn’t take up his offer of checking for messages or updates, using his phone. My children joyously shared my mind-and eye-space with just the mountains and hills and exquisite beauty around us. Gradually, rushed semi- experiences drew out into experiences. I was ready for these to marinate, rather than share at the first chance. Glances turned to gazes.
By the time I came home and was ‘plugged in’ again to everything, I noticed the number of unnecessary notifications in my inbox- things I hadn’t even signed up for-news I didn’t need- things that needed my action, that really didn’t. A sense of urgency that was not required. A feeling of unease was trying to push itself into my space again- that every issue was a burning one, that everything was wrong with the world or that nothing was ever wrong. Information from so many sources to which you ‘had to’ react, have a view and comment upon, without even knowing it’s validity.
It dawned on me that I hadn’t missed my phone at all. I hadn’t missed always being on or being notified for everything.
I had missed the connection with those who matter to me. The ability to reach out, when I wanted or they needed.
For starters, I spent some time unsubscribing from unnecessary mails that always appeared unread and made me feel I was behind, for no reason. (Using an app called Unroll me). I now try to keep the phone at a bit of a distance, rather than treating it as a long lost appendage or vital organ.
I want to stay connected…to the spaciousness …to the breath of fresh air.
Wonder if you relate?