Before I even wake up in the morning, I know that my phone has received messages throughout the night.
E-mails from friends and family in the States (7 hours behind me) and those living on my kibbutz that go to sleep later than I (which is nearly everyone!) and plenty of whatsapp messages from the
hundreds tens of groups I must be in.
Guilty as charged, you will find me texting, whatsapping, composing/responding to emails while walking my child to preschool, while I’m supervising my children at the playground, while at work, while in the middle of a meal with my family, while reading a book to my child before he goes to sleep, or while speaking to any one of my family members.
It’s practically taken over my life one could say.
Because, it’s the way of communicating in this day and age.
And, if you don’t have it, you haven’t a clue as to what’s going in any of your social, educational, or family circles.
But, like I said, it’s taking over my life.
My phone is ringing all the time.
And it’s a complete distraction to say the least.
A true intrusion of my life.
To give you an example, here are some of the whatsapp groups I’m in, just to name a few:
- My husband’s family group;
- The sisters-in-law of my husband’s family group;
- My family’s group;
- The parents of my children’s youth movement;
- The parents of my 8th grader’s class;
- The parents of the girls in my 8th grader’s class;
- The parents of my toddler’s class;
- The sub-neighborhood of the kibbutz that I live in group;
- The “looking for a ride out of/into Hannaton” group;
- The mindful eating groups I facilitate (there are two of them – that is, two groups, and two whatsapp groups);
- The parents of the kids who travel on the minibus to school;
- The parents (and teenagers) of the kids studying dance;
- The babysitter group (still not sure why I’m on this one since I hardly ever need one);
- The parents of the kids 7th grade and up on the kibbutz;
- The parents of the kids in the national gifted program;
- The parents of the basketball group (1st-3rd graders);
- The yishuv (community) discussion group (or place to scream/yell/complain);
- The Kibbutz Hannaton turning 30! group even though it never came to be;
- The Fabulous October 14th birthday group (there are 4 of us on Hannaton!);
- And, of course, individual friends who use this forum much more than they use text messaging.
And because my phone is ringing incessantly, I’m absolutely, no doubt about it, 100% stuck on needing to look at it, read my messages, and answer people instantaneously.
I automatically respond to the Pavlovian ding and take my out my phone to see who needs what, what’s going on, what’s the update, who forgot what, who needs a lift somewhere, who needs eggs at the market, where the next family gathering is and at what time, photos people want (need?) to share, and on and on and on.
And, if my hands are in the middle of washing the dishes or driving a car, I may very well ask one of my children to check the dinging phone and ask for their assistance… Who’s calling? Who sent an sms? Can you please respond to them in this way?
It’s quite obvious that I don’t need to be looking at nor answering my phone immediately.
But, I do.
So, knowing I’m S.T.U.C.K., I proceed to process:
- Stop and take a breath.
- Tell myself what I’m feeling – Perhaps anxious about the need to respond to people instantaneously?
- See what may be Underneath all of this: That I expect the same instantaneous response from everyone else? (Yikes!) That I believe “I am my brother’s keeper?” and that this is what responsibility is all about? That this is the right way to be? To respond immediately to others.
- Consider Choosing another perspective – This realization that I am stuck on needing to respond to my phone came to a head last week in my mindful eating group when we focused on practicing to intentionally pause throughout the day. Pause before eating. Pause before speaking. Pause before hitting send in an email. Pause before getting out of bed. It was during that week that I realized that I was stuck on my phone in an extreme way – because I never pause when I hear it ding! And, it was during that week that I realized I could Choose to pause when I hear the phone ding. I could Choose to just say, “Hm… there’s that ding again. I’ll check who that was in a few minutes. Or after lunch. Or when I get to my driving destination. Or after I put the kids to sleep. It can wait. If it’s a true emergency, whoever is trying to contact me, will call. And they’re not now, which means there’s no emergency.” I can Choose to be a responsible and committed community member, without checking my phone instantaneously. And, I can Choose not to expect instant responses from my friends, family, and community.
It won’t be easy. It will take practice. It won’t be natural for me. It’ll go against my very own, impulsive nature. But, I could Choose to try.
And, I did just that.
In fact, not only did I practice pausing, I silenced many of the groups that don’t demand immediate responses.
My phone became much quieter that week.
And I feel as if I gained a tremendous amount because of the concentrated practice: less stress, more time, more recognition of what’s going on in the present moment as opposed to the virtual life.
5. And in realizing all of this, I offered my self a sense of compassion, an oK, for getting stuck on all of this in the first place.