In the early, snow-covered days of 2016, instead of goals for the year, I chose thoughtful questions for each month. The most consistent thing in our life over the past several years has been change. Adopting flexibility and being willing to let the change have it’s way with me has been essential for thriving during this season.
My exploration into the rhythms of rest and nature have taught me that while every winter is unique, it is also similar to other winters. There might be a mild winter or a harsh winter, but there are consistent traits that most seasons share. Instead of looking ahead at 2016 declaring how this year would be different, I made the decision to choose intentions to align myself with the rhythms of nature.
January: What are the quiet generosities this day has to offer me?
February: How can I nourish the fire deep in my soul?
March: How can I prepare the soil for planting and what must I prune that has been lost or dried up?
Physically and Spiritually, I have known this year was a season of laying fallow. “The definition of fallow is inactive. A piece of land that is normally used for farming but that is left with no crops on it for a season in order to let it recover its fertility is an example of land that would be described as fallow.”
While it would be inaccurate to describe our life as inactive, having permission to let go of figuring out what I am doing with my life and not producing has been it’s own kind of discipline. I still get a knot in my stomach when anyone asks me what I am doing with myself these days. I want to produce. I was made to produce. I cannot produce the quality I want to produce in the next phase of my life without a time of recovery, healing and learning.
On the first day of March, I woke up without a phone.
The night before I had the panicked realization that my phone was not charging. It was on red and I couldn’t back it up fast enough before the screen went dead. My original intention was to replace it by the end of the week, but what was quickly exposed to me that first day of having no phone was the beginning of a pruning like I have never known.
Boundaries are hard for all of us to learn. Accepting new limitations, creating new structures and maintaining those boundaries require a rewiring of our minds and our hearts.
When connection with the world was in the palm of my hand, I used up much of my daily reservoirs of self-control trying to resist the urge to let someone know I was thinking of them, make a lunch date, call a friend, or post something to let everyone know I am still alive.
While I have not jumped to the urges of my phone for many months, I was unaware that not responding to such a powerful force was using up so much of my energy. When my phone was unavailable, when I no longer had the ability to send or receive texts or calls, it was like all of these little soldiers who have had to vigilantly defend my boundaries, were finally getting a vacation.
So, I am trying this. Life without a phone. All three other members of my family have phones, so I have access to one when I need one. Right now, my kids and I share our phones they way we share our car. It’s not only working, I feel like I have my life back.
It’s been a long time since I have done the hokey-pokey, but life without a phone feels a lot like the last verse: “You put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, you put your whole self in and you shake it all about…”
I am not torn in a dozen directions everyday.
I am where I am.
Feeling what I am feeling.
Taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
Here are a few notes I took after my first day with no phone. It’s not convenient. But I am learning that simplicity and convenience are not the same thing:
- When someone was late for an appointment, I enjoyed reading until they arrived instead of checking my phone and sending or receiving messages about her delay.
- I learned how to text on my laptop.
- I couldn’t listen to my podcast or audio books while driving.
- I could still listen to them through my laptop.
- I drove to the school to pick up my daughter who had already been picked up. I used an 8th graders phone to call my husband and found out he had her.
- The pressure to check at some point is not there. I can’t do anything about it. It feels really good.
- I am remembering how much I love my laptop. I’ve missed it. Like being connected to it again. Unlike my phone, it has as much potential for me to create on it as it does for me to connect.
I did not think it was possible in this day and time to not have a smart phone. In all of my decluttering, it was never an item I allowed to be placed on the chopping block. Asking the question, what needs pruning has opened my mind to new solutions. As far as how can I prepare the soil for planting, the pruning of my phone has shifted my attention from what is being produced outside of me to the condition of my soil.
In therapy, I would often direct clients to “go inside” for more information about a trigger or circumstance that was upsetting them. Without much instruction they would close their eyes and tell me a truth that they did not have access to when their eyes were open and they were being engaged by the outside world.
This has been my experience with not having my phone. I have been able to go inside and hear some tender truths that were not accessible to me when everything else was.