Truth be told, Screen Free Week wasn’t entirely screen free. On Wednesday, I opened Safari to find a recipe for a vegan banana bread I wanted to make for a friend. On Thursday, I searched Google Maps for the telephone number of the nail place down the street when I needed an appointment. And on Saturday, I opened Word to work on an outline for a retreat I’m planning because I didn’t want to handwrite it only to spend an hour retyping it later. There are some times when screens just make sense.
But I stayed off Facebook and email. The two time-sucking culprits in my world.
The first day off screens I was twitchy. My FOMO was high. Each time I unlocked my phone for a legitimate use (say when my husband texted his ETA for dinner or to check the time of a meeting in the calendar), my thumb would automatically swipe left to where I’d “hidden” the social media apps. Fingers on autopilot. That night I moved the phone charger from my bedside table to another room for the overnight charge and didn’t know what to do with myself when I woke the next morning. I’d like to report that I got out of bed, went outside to greet the day, inhaled deeply and then sat on the front porch for a sunrise meditation, but really, I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Likely to avoid temptation.
In 2016, I was adamant that the week off screens had changed my relationship to them and that I would never return to such a toxic affair. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but I returned with a predictable vengeance. So there will be no well-intentioned (if feeble) declarations from me this time around. Except to say that there is a tangible benefit in loosening my grip on social media. My house feels calmer. I feel calmer. And so much more gets accomplished when I’m not clutching a phone like a talisman. My kids loved the attention, too.
These days (and by these days, I mean the precipice of middle age, which is where I find myself teetering), making definitive declarations is exhausting. Mostly because life has a way of hampering the follow-through. Rather than make myself feel terribly guilty because I’ve declared I’ll never do mindless screen time again (or eat sugar, or floss daily, or write a thank you note a week, or WHATEVER it is I’ve told myself I’ll do or not do for the rest of time), I might as well just be honest. Ain’t gonna happen. But weeks like this one remind me that it’s good to check myself every once in awhile.
On Wednesday, I ran into a friend who apologized for not returning a text I’d sent her weeks earlier and said she’d been in the Sonoran desert with minimal wireless coverage. “That sounds amazing,” I said, thinking more of her involuntary time offline than the warm Arizona sun. It wasn’t lost on me that this was something I could have too, anytime I wanted. Right now, in fact.
Still, a slight sadness is haunting me as I return to a Not-Screen-Free Week tomorrow. Over 200+ emails await deletion or response, 62 notifications, 3 messages and one new friend urgently require my presence on Facebook so that I can reset the count and the red dots can begin their Sisyphean climb yet again. A few of these dots will be worthy of my attention, but most will not. Which I suppose is a lesson in itself.
Five years ago, when I had a two year old and a newborn, a friend sent me a book by Katrina Kenison called The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir. I swallowed her sentences whole, devouring the reassurances of a mother who had also raised two boys, and who shared her appreciation for the every day moments that were beginning to weigh heavily on me. It was her writing that inspired me to begin to share my own, to believe that writing about the ordinary would indeed be interesting to anyone besides my mother. It was no surprise, then, that I returned to her work this week, picking up her book, Moments of Seeing: Reflections From an Ordinary Life, and savoring her bite-sized reminders to be grateful for the present. I’ve had this book on my shelf for over a year and I love it so much I hate to finish it (still haven’t). So I dip in and out when I need a quiet inspiration. Maybe you’d like some, too?
I would love to share a copy of this book with one reader here for some screen-free reading pleasure!
Here’s how it’ll work: subscribe to my blog by clicking HERE or if you’re already subscribed, leave a comment below and I’ll pick randomly on Mother’s Day and send a copy out to the lucky winner! (Did you catch that, two ways to win, subscribe HERE or if you’re already subscribed, leave a comment!). I don’t post that often, so I promise I won’t be clogging your inbox! *
Also p.s. If you’ve read this far, thank you! I’m well aware of the irony of blogging about a screen free week, posting it on Facebook and Twitter, and then hoping people will subscribe to my post. But I suppose this is all about being intentional with where we let ourselves go online, so I’m grateful if my words are something you’ve chosen to read!
Also p.p.s. My son picked a bunch of dandelions for me today. I think this may be precisely what Kenison means by appreciating the ordinary. My heart is full and I couldn’t be more grateful for these tiny yellow flowers or this little boy. I had to break the screen time today for a picture.
*This is not a sponsored post, no one put me up to this giveaway, I just love her work so much I want to share it and support an author with a purchase! (I read somewhere that FTC requires that I say that, so I’m saying it).