So, about an hour into our trip, I realize that my phone, my lifeline to the outer world, has been left behind, charging in my mother’s kitchen. My mother, who lives in NJ and here I am, speeding down the highway, away from my contact lists, my internet in my pocket, my calls, and of course, my texts, Massachusetts-bound.
This is going to be such a hassle. I NEED my phone!! What if I have an emergency?!! Not softened by the logic that “emergencies” are far and few between, I continue to flip out. Somehow my phone has taken center stage in my life. Maybe it had something to do with the ever-present wish to communicate and be communicated with. Maybe it ran deeper. But, all I knew is that I felt as vulnerable as a baby bird on the first day of spring.
After some time of this internal lament, something shifted: A wild, child-like feeling of freedom began to spread over me. I was enveloped in this magic of not being accessible. Not accessible, that is, except to those who I can see, touch, hear right in the flesh. All of a sudden, I’m old-school. After all, human beings have evolved connecting only to those who are right there in the moment, in the cottage, the community, the village. To some extent, we are wired to gravitate to those in our immediate company. On the other hand, the potential for the phone to ring, or text, or whatever, somehow insulates me, keeps me safe from deeper connections to those in my presence, safer from being hurt in some way. Like all good defense mechanisms, it staves off some pain in the moment, but the costs of using it in the long run is high. I think back, how many times have I been with my children, husband, friends, only to stop and check email, or respond to a text, rather than connecting to the beings that are right there in front of me? It is as if we are each, as psychologist Sherry Turkle says, “Alone Together.” I look past those I’m with and instead try to connect to the virtual other. Though I’d never wish for it, forgetting my phone that afternoon helped me locate something much deeper.
Now my phone is back in my possession, and I wouldn’t be keeping it real if I said I’ve stopped using it. But, my relationship to my electronic buddy is changed. It no longer feels like a “life line”. It’s back in its rightful place (at least for the moment) of being part of the support system, rather than anxiously tethered to my wrist, an electronic handcuff. Sometimes I even leave it at home (gasp!) Could it be that a narrower doorway of external accessibility actually leads to a deeper connection to self, to the moment-to-moment experience, to those whom I am in the physical presence of? Or….Oh, that’s my phone ringing! Sorry, gotta take that call!