I’ve been experimenting with something lately. I actually don’t have my phone glued to my hand 24/7. And I’m sad to admit, this is tougher than I thought it would be. But I put it in my purse when I’m out and only look at it if I really need to. And while I’m home, it sits on the counter in the kitchen while I move around doing my mom and writer thing. Each day I’ve grown more accustomed to it not being right by me all the time or checking it every few minutes. It’s been a slow adjustment, but a valuable one. I’ve noticed one main thing. We’ve become a society with our heads down. All. The. Time. When we walk into the grocery store or while we eat a meal. No one looks up. And I know this because I am now looking up more and I have no one to look in the eye. I have also seen how being consumed by my phone makes me self focused and stressed. In only a short period of time, I look at the world differently.
1) Look around – When I’m not looking at my phone, I’m a better listener. I’m aware of who is around me, what they are saying, how I can encourage them. I’m completely engaged in conversation as opposed to only being half-aware. I love to encourage people. I do. And I can’t do that very well if my head is in my phone.
2) Look closely – There’s a Peet’s Tea and Coffee in the grocery store down the street from my house. I’m there every day buying an iced tea. One of the ladies who works there knows me. She has my tea ready for me before I even get to the cash register. (God bless her) We chat about life and her recent health issues. A few days ago I showed her pictures of my kids at Homecoming. She is a part of my community and I love seeing her. And I would miss the opportunity if I had my head stuck in my phone.
3) Look up – By not being consumed by what’s on my phone, I’m less consumed with myself. I know that sounds weird because all our social media is about connecting with others, right? Not necessarily. I’ll be the first to admit that checking social media is 90% to see who has liked or commented on something I posted. As much as I enjoy chatting with people on-line or seeing their photos, that’s not the only thing happening while I’m on a site. I want to lead by example to my kids. I can’t ask them to put their phones down all the time if I’m not willing to let go of mine.
We have a no phones at dinner rule in our house. And it’s a struggle for every single one of us. But we do it. And almost every night is filled with laughter and conversation, times and memories we will carry with us for life. My daughter left her phone inside and laid out back for a few hours the other day. She came and in and said she was so relaxed. Just enjoyed the evening, the sunset. Stared at the sky. Listened to the birds. Calm. Peaceful. No phone. No stress.
I also want my children to see others around them who may need a smile or a word of encouragement. My son was with me the other day when I went to get my iced tea from Peets. My friend who works there chatted with me and then we left. My son said, “Um, Mom. You might come here too often. The coffee lady knows you.” I laughed. But we had a great conversation about how that gives me an opportunity to be kind to someone each day. To look her in the eye, ask her about her grandkids. See her face light up when she talks about them. My son nodded and agreed that yes, I have a tea addiction, but also if we pay attention and get our head out of our phones, there’s a world around us waiting to be seen, lived in, listened to, and embraced.