When I’m not blogging, life is happening. Here’s what’s been going on in my world this week. In honor of this week’s content, I am only including the featured image of my children, the inspiration for this post.
I’m reading Hands Free Mama again- for, like, the third time. I read bits and pieces of it often, to remind myself of the life I want to be living: a life that is fully present with those I love, not consumed with the electronic device in my hand. I have had a smartphone for four years; it was a birthday gift to me from my husband. It changed my life. I could look up recipes, check my email and Facebook, listen to music, research random information for home school or personal purposes, read books, play games with my relatives and friends. The capabilities were endless, and so was the time I began spending on it. My daughter has never known a mom that just lived in the moment, not beholden to a pink rectangle in her hand. I have devoted countless hours of my life to all that my smartphone provides, while allowing it to rob me of my very life.
Now that I am a blogger, my addiction to devices (be it smartphone or laptop- I have one of those now, too) has reached a new high. In order to be successful, I must make more connections, like more pages and posts, comment on more articles, and network to be known. Now, I have more friends than ever, follow more blogs than ever, subscribe to more newsletters than ever, and have even less face time (as in face-to-face, in person time) with my children than ever before . . . and they are standing just feet away from me!
It’s no one’s fault but my own, and I have bemoaned my circumstances frequently, but now, I have to DO something about it. Can I give up Facebook and survive as a blogger- as a person? More importantly, do I have the self-control to turn off my phone and shut down my laptop and just live? I honestly don’t know, but I have to try. I have five lives depending on it, on me, and they are not getting any younger.
My oldest, almost 12 years old, just left for boys’ camp this morning. He’ll be gone for a whole week, four hours away, for the first time in his life. The night before he left, we celebrated with family game night. I simultaneously played Life, Scrabble, and Memory with the kids, all of us and our game boards and pieces sprawled across the table. Afterwards, we went out on the back patio, where we prayed for and over Judah with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26. We finished off by lighting sparklers and tossing glow stick circles up into the clear night sky, filled with stars.
I already miss him, and yes, I shed a few tears this evening while making spaghetti with meat sauce and garden veggies (one of his favorites) and setting the table, minus one place setting. Last night, I checked his toenails before bed (sorry to include food and toenails in the same paragraph!), and I couldn’t believe the man-size feet I held in my hands! He is no longer a little boy, but a growing young man with a gentle yet independent spirit.
Then, there is the baby, my newly four year old daughter, who showered herself tonight. I love four year olds- always have- but it is hard for me to believe that my “little” Skyler is a four-year old. I have (regrettably, due to her terrible tantrums) treated her as the baby for too long, when she is ready- and able- to be a little girl with responsibilities and consequences.
They are growing up, and all of a sudden, it seems to be happening too fast. I can’t afford to miss these years, these final, formative years for each of them, committed to a relationship with my phone instead of with them. I don’t want them to think that how I behave with my phone is the way they should behave with theirs when they each get one: not making eye contact, “Mm-hmm”-ing and “Wait a minute; I’ll be right with you”-ing, or just ignoring altogether what is going on around me- the good, the bad, and the ugly (we have all of it in a household of seven).
So, I am reading the book again, committing myself to examine my ways and make real changes, be they measured or all-encompassing, I don’t quite know yet. This past week, I read an insightful post, The iPhone is Ruining Your Summer, by Jessica Smartt. In it, she talked about our incessant need to document our lives through pictures shared on Facebook instead of just enjoying the moment while it happens.
I found myself guilty of this during a precious, brief visit with my Grandma and uncles from out of town this past week. We spent the better part of the hour-long visit taking pictures. When they left, I realized that I had missed out on the opportunity to enjoy just being with them, pictures be damned (excuse my language). Reading Smartt’s article convicted and motivated me to be more conscientious and determined to put the phone down, connect more, and read more books (you know, the kind with actual pages), which I did.
Getting the stomach flu helped with that, I guess. I read two books this week while laid up. Sisters of Shiloh is set during the Civil War. Two sisters pose as male cousins and enlist in the Confederate Army: one to avenge her husband’s death, the other to protect her mentally unstable sister from harm. Then, I read Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Here is the review I wrote for our library’s summer reading contest: “I couldn’t put this book down. Each compelling story, told by a series of unique voices in reverse chronology, explores the path this quietly captivating portrait by Vermeer takes as it passes from owner to owner. Author Susan Vreeland’s mastery of art, literature, and Netherlands’ geography shines through as unobtrusively as the portrait itself, with her beautiful prose and thoughtful insights.” Vreeland is without a doubt a new favorite author of mine; lucky for me, she has several more books out, so I will have no shortage of recreational reading.
But, I digress. A newsletter I subscribe to spoke to my misgivings regarding the success of my blog should I relinquish my obsession with social media (namely, Facebook). Shawn Smucker has taken a bold step, completely disconnecting from social media, and he has taken a hit in views, but his resolve is strong to continue on his quest for real life living, without the need for fame and recognition. He wrote about his decision to quit social media here, and what he has learned so far here.
The pull to be known and admired is strong, as he describes. He compares it to the pull and power of the ring in the Lord of the Rings. I, too, struggle with that desire, but I want my desire to be for the things of God and for the love of my family and friends around me. I haven’t made any hard-fast decisions yet, like Shawn did, but I am prayerfully contemplating what steps I should take. Working through Hands Free Mama is helping me with that. She provides daily intentions or action steps to help the reader disconnect from being busy and beholden and connect to life and loved ones.
One action step I am taking this week is leaving the phone to charge at night . . . in the kitchen. I have lost sleep at night and sight of my goals in the morning taking my phone to bed with me. No more. Last night, I quickly drifted asleep in the dark, my mind blissfully unencumbered by the never-ending news feed, my eyes gratefully undamaged by the artificial illumination.
Do you struggle with an addiction to social media and schedules? Are you ready to make changes? What step will you take today to disconnect from devices in order to reconnect to your life?