Staying Present in a World Full of Distractions

Words on Wednesday

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

You’re checking your email (okay, really you’re trolling Pinterest for cool ideas you’ll never make – we all do it) and your son/daughter/spouse/boss comes up to you and asks you a question. You give a noncommittal response and they go away happy. As soon as you look up from your phone you think “what did they ask?” and worse yet “what did I reply?” Before you know it, you find yourself driving five hyped up ten year old boys to play laser tag, or agreeing to be Mrs Claus at the company Christmas party, or agreeing to spend the next two weeks with your in-laws!

Smartphoneitis. It’s an epidemic of serious proportions!

Look it up. It’s a real thing, I swear!

Okay, it’s not a real thing but it should be!

How do I know this? Because I spent two hours last night “watching TV” with my husband while I played Candy Crush on my phone and he scrolled through yet another Chive gallery on his iPad. Sitting watching mind-numbing TV is now no longer enough, we need to be checking our Facebook feed every 30 seconds too.


I say NO MORE!

It’s going to be tough but I promise to be present, 100% present, in all my activities from now on.

No more playing Candy Crush while watching TV.

No more checking my email while my girls try to tell me about their day at school.

No more popping into Facebook as I saute onions for dinner! (Yes, I’ve done that too. It’s a problem!)

I’ve talked about our world wide addiction to screens before and railed against them (a bit) but this time, I’m serious. Why do we need to constantly be looking at a screen, especially if we’re already doing another task? Are we that desperate to be distracted from the mundane? What is so “boring” about everyday life that it needs to be numbed by flashing screens and moving pictures? If you’re having lunch with a girlfriend then just have lunch with her. That’s all you need to be doing at that moment. Not texting your husband about grocery lists or your colleague about next weeks meeting. You know what that is? It’s rude!

So what changed? For me, it’s been brewing for a little while but was brought into painful focus the other night during a power outage.

It was 5:45 on a Saturday. I was in my Scrap Cave working on my latest LOAD layout when suddenly everything went dark. This in and of itself is a bit unusual for us. We live in a pocket of Delta that hardly ever sees power outages. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because we live so close to a substation and that gives us some sort of extra protection. Who knows! But on this night the power went out. No problem, it would be back momentarily. Right? Yes, and no. It came back on within minutes only to go out again almost immediately.

This time it seemed more permanent so I started lighting candles. I had my flashlight on my phone and the girls had found their own flashlights so there was no panic. Candles lit, I realized my phone was dangerously low on battery so I turned it off and went to join the family in the living room. My husband checked BC Hydro’s website from his phone so we knew we were in for at least an hour in the dark.

Initial needs met – light to see by, and some sort of determination of duration –  my attention turned to dinner. I hadn’t started cooking anything before the power had gone out and now, couldn’t cook anything unless I wanted to unearth the barbecue and stand outside in the rain … not an option in my books! So sandwiches is was! A stranger dinner by candle light I don’t think I’ve ever had before! Anyway, the lights were still out after dinner so we all retired to the living room. I sat with my glass of wine and watched as my husband hopped back on his phone and iPad – yes, both. My middle daughter announced she didn’t know what to do – no WiFi?! Gasp! The horrors! But once I suggested they all play a game she went away happy.

So there I am, sitting in a rather romantic candlelit room watching my three daughters play The Game of Life quite happily together, sipping wine, and wondering when my husband was going to lift his nose off the screen to maybe, oh I don’t know, TALK to me? I know, right? What a concept?

Now, I freely admit, if I’d had more battery life on my phone I probably would have been on Facebook moaning about sitting in the dark with no WiFi too! But I wasn’t. And I realized that I was kind of enjoying the quiet. The dark. The forced intimacy. It felt good to pause our normally busy, plugged in lives to just sit as a family and relax. Eventually after many pointed comments and dirty looks, my husband put his phone away and sat with me too. Usually he’s the Super Cuddler so this was a strange sensation for me!

So what did this tell me? What was my take away from our forced pause?

We need to do it more often! We are way too dependent on technology as entertainment now! We’ve forgotten how to just ‘be’! We are so used to “multi-tasking” with many tabs and screens open, that we’ve forgotten how to interact IRL.

Over the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot of learning about myself – about who I want to become, and where I want to go – so this feels like a natural point on this journey. My time at home with the girls has brought me closer to them. A closeness that I think is going to be so much more important as they start to navigate that tricky thing called ‘adolescence’. I need to remain present when they come to me with puberty questions, boy issues, friends issues, and all the rest that goes along with growing up.

If I continue to only half listen to them as I check my email or play a game, then I am teaching them that they are not as important as what is on my screen.

Simply put, that is unacceptable. And untrue! So changes need to happen. Since we can really only change ourselves, not force change on others, that is where I will start.

No to playing Candy Crush while watching TV.

No to checking my email while my girls try to tell me about their day at school.

No to popping into Facebook as I saute onions for dinner!

Yes to watching TV with my husband and/or girls and (gasp!) maybe even cuddling too!

Yes to listening to my girls stories about their day, asking follow up questions, getting them snacks, and then checking my email. Or maybe not! Maybe I’ll only check my email a few times a day instead of every hour. It’s not like I’m some high powered executive who actually has people waiting by their keyboards for my response!

Yes to popping onto Facebook as I sip my morning coffee or after the kids have gone to bed.

What do you say? Are you with me?

Make a promise to yourself to be present. Focus on one task, one person, one screen at at time. Close the extra tabs – be they literal or figurative. Allow your mind to take a break from all the stimuli and listen to the silence. You know that old saying “stop and smell the roses?” DO THAT!

I plan to.

Oh, and if I don’t reply to your text immediately, you now know why!

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