One of my favorite, stranded-on-the-proverbial-deserted-island writers,
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, said:
“If you surrender yourself to the moments as they pass, you more richly live those moments.”
I first noted that in 1995 before cell phones were anything less than big bulky walkie-talkies. The idea made an impact on me then, and impacts me more in the craziness of today’s hyper-connected world.
“No, I don’t have a Smartphone,” I said to the twenty-something tech providing me with website help. I wanted to add, and I don’t intend to get one,” but my business life is demanding I connect to my calendar and email when I’m out of my office. Since I had to be talked into text messaging and a camera on my phone, converting to a phone that’s smarter than I am is going to be interesting.
How connected do we truly need to be to the outside world?
A friend has been asking her newsletter readers to electronically disconnect and let her know what happens. The responses have been interesting; especially the undercurrent of pride that comes through when people talk about being un-tethered from their devices.
I disconnect when I mow if you remember from one of my first blogs. I just came in from one of the last mows of the season, and my iPod stayed in the house; not clogging up my ears. All summer I mowed listening to the neighborhood around me, the occasional car on the street, the sound of the mower and the buzz of a bee soaring by my ear.
Sometimes I disconnect in the car.
I already limit talking while driving—I have Bluetooth, but it’s not always clear to my caller, so why do it? Usually, I have a MercyMe CD Mix booming at me through the extravagant Bose sound system I was excited to get in my Rogue. The songs uplift me—even the ones that make me think of people I’ve lost. At least one trip a week, I shut it off and enjoy a quiet drive.
Recently I was talking to a group about generational differences.
Their ages ranged from 25 to 60. I suggested that we would benefit from focusing on each others’ strengths and not what sets us apart. The twenty-five-year-old laughed when I said that I knew he could carry on a full conversation with me and text someone else at the same time. How do they do that? We baby boomers can multi-task big projects—have three major initiatives going on at the exact same time and get them done. The Millennials tend to have laser focus when they’re working on one big thing. Is either approach right or wrong? No.
But across the ages, we’re all too connected. Why?
The talking and texting youth are missing what’s in front of their eyes and ears. A child in a stroller, both parents and grandparents are chatting away on their phones instead of to the child. Just like the youth not looking each other in the eyes when conversing, these parents are missing moments that are fleeting and not repeatable.
I was at a fancy country club last month and a woman happened into the restroom when I did. She, ahem, sat down and made a phone call. Why? Trust me, the content was not so critical that it needed to be tethered to that moment.
Why do people on Facebook think I care that they’re making dinner or what they ate or that they’re sitting down to watch TV? I really don’t. I care what they’re thinking, how their day was, is their family doing well? That connection is important to me.
I think of Anne writing that phrase decades ago, as she worked to live in the moment and wonder what she would make of our constantly connected country. I think she’d be dismayed and wonder when we take the time to look inside ourselves and hear what we’re thinking.
My father was the king of thinking quietly.
Dad could sit on the back porch and look out at the rolling hills and woods he’d been looking at since he was born and think. He’d have his coffee or maybe a drink in the evening, a cigarette or two, his spotting scope nearby. He’d sit at the stout walnut table he’d made, and he’d think. I know this skill, this strength, contributed to him being able to cope with having Lou Gehrig’s disease. As his body failed him and his voice faltered, his brain stayed perfectly strong and he was absolutely able to keep being Dad. Thinking.
Alex is able to sit quietly like that. He and Dad would have been interesting companions, wouldn’t they? Sitting without saying anything, sharing a cup of coffee, looking at the scenery, enjoying being in the moments as they ticked past.
Me? It’s work for me to live Anne’s statement. A boss once used a stopwatch to see how long I could quietly sit still. My Dad used to type into Harry, his voice machine, and yell: Slow down!
Life’s too short, I have to… I have to… whatever it is at that moment.
I love the Internet. I love email. The fact that I can say hello to five friends across the US, in Canada, in Europe and perhaps have only minutes go by before I hear back from them is a gift. I can let them know that I’m thinking of them right … now … when a phone call isn’t always possible. What blessing.
I love to read and whether it’s my Kindle (yes, you betcha I want the new Fire) or a hardback held in my hands, if I’m reading I’m happy. I’m learning or being entertained or sometimes both. Vividly connected to the writer, blissfully disconnected from life around me.
Winter is coming. The sensory overload of good weather is tapering off. It’s time to practice being in the moment, surrendering to them as Anne so richly phrased it.