Tag Archives: technology

I Am Not A Damn Smart Phone; I Am A Body!

10 Aug

Today, in an act of defiance, I left the house for a hike and purposely left my cell phone at home. I typically take it with me even though I have a no-talking-on-the-trail rule. I like to have it in case I want to photograph something and because the hills are remote, it’s not a bad idea to carry it. Today however, I couldn’t bear to take the damn thing with me.

I debated at first. During the ten minutes it takes me to walk through the neighborhood to the mountain, I thought to call a friend I needed to get in touch with today. I also contemplated listening to a podcast. I could make use of the time and multi-task, right?

I’m so sick of multi-tasking! We reply to texts while our cars idle at traffic lights, we answer emails while we’re standing in line at the grocery store, and we talk on the phone while washing the dishes and cleaning the house. While all of this makes us extremely efficient, I am so tired of constant device time. I want to hear silence in my head for once and to look at something that is not virtual.

I never want my smart phone to become an appendage. If you look at people walking around these days, phones look like an extension of individuals’ bodies. I want my body to remain what it is – flesh and blood! I don’t want it to grow a selfie-stick or I-Phone.

On my hike, I started to feel a peace descend on me that I haven’t felt in awhile. I smelled sage, saw a butterfly cross my path as opposed to my screen, and felt myself sweating profusely in the Southern California sun. It reminded me of surfing because you can’t take your gadget out into the ocean, nor would you want to if you could. Your life depends on paying attention to what you’re doing – watching the tides and sensing the momentum of the waves.

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Our bodies too are like waves. Each inhalation and exhalation is a cycle. We need to be attune to them if we are to live in an embodied state.

For an hour and a half I was free- blessedly free. When I returned, I made breakfast and felt completely in the moment. I didn’t resent my work or my computer when I had to eventually get down to business. My body and mind had needed a break and they got one. I felt refreshed.

Seth Godin recently wrote in a blog post, “Every time I see a toddler in a stroller with an internet device in hand, I shudder.” Me too. Will that kid grow up knowing how to sense his or her body? Or how to access his or her imagination? The other day a friend and I noticed that little kids these days hold picture books and try to swipe the page or press a button. This breaks my heart. Will there come a time when books can’t hold a child’s interest because there aren’t any whistles or bells to stimulate the nervous system? Are we there already?

Technology robs us of boundaries and privacy, if we don’t set limits and reclaim quiet corners of our lives. For instance, when I was writing my book, I refused to answer non-emergency email except for during certain times of the day. I’m trying to get back to that personal protocol. I also have started to power down my devices by 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. unless I’m working on something special. I value my sleep way too much and am not a night person anyway. When I stay away from screens a few hours before bed, I sleep a full eight hours. This is something that matters to me. I am a body; not a machine.

We do everything in front of a computer. We work on-line, we pay bills on-line, date on-line, read on-line, make travel arrangements on-line, etc, etc. etc. Modernity isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. But I can carve out time for my body. I can power down, look around, and sense my surroundings. Because I am not my damn smart phone! I am a body in a human form and that is something that I never want to take for granted.

Quality Time Vs. Play Dates

6 Aug

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Certain times in our lives are more flush with close connection. For me, elementary school, high school, and college were such periods. No one carried the adult responsibilities we do today, which made friendships easy to cultivate and maintain. Everyone was in close proximity, which made things convenient, particularly when living on the university campus. There was always someone around to share a meal with or to chat with. And it didn’t matter what time of day.

I also recall wonderful summers with my grandparents that were rich in social interaction. There was a slow lazy rhythm to the August days. My grandfather would go to work while my grandmother and I ran errands, baked cookies, and tended to all things domestic. Then when my grandfather came home, we’d eat dinner together. Afterward, we’d go for a walk or work in the garden. Sometimes we watched a show on television. Other times we read books together.

In my twenties, when living in Manhattan, my friends and I would take the city by storm. We spent hours verbalizing our dreams over glasses of wine and walks in Central part. Even in my thirties, I still had some single friends with whom I pondered the meaning of life while sharing meals and life together. Although my friends’ marriages altered the dynamics of our relationships, there were still incredibly meaningful moments spent together. When my friend’s son was an infant we’d take him in the stroller for long walks, cherishing him and each other. We lived in the same neighborhood so it was easy to get together on a regular basis.

But then there are the seasons where no one has time to do anything. When both parents are working and kids are hyper-scheduled, and no one’s children attend schools anywhere near their homes, which results in hours of chauffeuring time. That sentence is a mouthful for a reason. It’s exhausting and exhaustion doesn’t lend itself to intimacy.

But human beings need depth intimacy. Whether falling in love or maintaining friendships, relationships need time to grow. Without that time, there are gaps in connection.

Of course when people pair up and find a significant other, most of the relationship investment gets funneled into that union. But as a friend of mine said to me the other day, (and she happens to be married), “It’s unhealthy to make your spouse your only go to for companionship. It’s way too much of a burden on one person and it makes for a stale marriage. We need to feed our friendships too.”

Modern life doesn’t accommodate well for depth relationships. With everyone’s busy schedules, we pencil in “play dates.” These might consist of a coffee, a dinner, or if we can spare a few precious hours, maybe a movie. In an age when people rarely even talk on the phone anymore, play dates are welcome. But I miss the wonder of unstructured, spontaneous time when it was easy to cross the street and hang out with someone.

The more we indulge in a frenzy of hyper-scheduled activities, the more difficult it becomes to nurture quality time. Even people living under the same roof are not necessarily bonding well. We can’t stand to sit still for longer than a few minutes before looking away and grabbing our Smart phones.

The only way off the merry ground is to step off it, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, if everyone else is still on the ride. Loneliness settles in and we wonder if anyone else is feeling it too.

Years ago I worked in an outpatient program that served the high functioning, elderly population. Not many of our clients had a history of mental illness. However, many met criteria for situational depression and anxiety brought on by the death of a spouse or retirement or illness. People were lonely and little to do during the day. They came to our program in the morning, attended a psycho-education lecture, ate lunch and then attended two process groups. Within a few weeks most folks were thriving again thanks to the friendships created and a renewed sense of meaning.

I’m a fan of play dates. In fact, I have two today. But I’m even more a fan of quality time that emerges when there is no plan, no rush, and no strain. When intimacy just happens like the sun rising and setting each day.

I’m So Old School….

30 Oct

While bemoaning about my dislike of texting as a primary communication form, a friend of mine said, “I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone.” Taking the bait, the banter continued:

“I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone even when I don’t recognize the caller ID.”

“I’m so old school, I don’t text and drive.”

“I’m so old school, I actually turn off my phone in the car.”

“I’m so old school, I actually write letters.”

“I’m so old school, I actually have stamps.”

“I’m so old school, I actually read books.”

Well, here’s today’s addition to the list: “I’m so old school, I actually want to wait in line at the bank and talk to the teller while depositing a check.”

Every time I go into the bank to deposit a check, a clerk comes up to me and says, “I can help you outside at the ATM, Miss” (usually it’s the same employee). I always turn to the individual, smile and say, “Thank you, but I’d actually like to make an in-person deposit.” Then we get into a power struggle until I acquiesce and have the person show me what to do.

I know what to do. I just don’t like sending my checks off into a black hole. I also know how to deposit checks using my phone and the bank’s app. The thing is, “I’m so old school, about once a month, I like to cue up inside the bank, so I can stand at the teller’s window and deposit a check before the teller and the window are obsolete. It’s a nostalgia thing for me. I also want a few minutes to just vedge out while waiting for my turn.

You know what? I’m also so old school that I prefer to interact with a real check-out clerk at the grocery store before he or she no longer has a job. It makes no sense to me to hire someone to “assist” customers as they check themselves out. I also occasionally want to talk with a customer service rep instead of pressing 1, 2, & 3 on my phone’s keypad until I’m so frustrated I start screaming obscenities into the cell phone. (And yes, I miss my land line and preferred it to my crappy cell phone reception where everyone sounds like they’re mumbling).

I am old school. I miss human interaction. Yes, the modern way might be – and I repeat – MIGHT BE – more convenient and faster, and yes, the world is changing and I need to adapt, but gosh darnit, let me have a little bit of the old fashioned stuff before it is gone.

I actually prefer having a glass of wine with people in person vs. with strangers on the Internet or with folks far away via Skype.

I miss seeing movies in the theatre instead of streaming them.

I believe in practicing psychotherapy in person vs. on the phone.

I like children interacting with people and toys vs. I-pads and Game Boys.

I like looking out the window on an airplane instead of watching an in-flight movie.

I like sitting in front of a real fire feeling its heat and hearing the crackle of its flames vs. watching an image of a fire on screen (and I want real wood and newspapers vs. some Duraflame log).

Basically, I prefer real life intimacy in all its shapes, forms and delights vs. virtual reality.

While working with the bank clerk today, the ATM couldn’t read one of my checks because a signature was below a certain part of the check. Thus, we had to go back inside after already spending ten minutes at the machine. To finish the transaction, we had to do an old fashioned deposit. While waiting for the gentleman to finish helping me – help I hadn’t wanted in the first place – I glanced at the bank teller’s line. There was none. Had I stayed in the line, I would have finished five minutes earlier. It would have been faster and more pleasant to do it the old fashioned way.

“I’m so old school, I miss the old fashioned ways.”

I’m ready to ditch the cell phone and move to a remote village in Italy. I’m ready to eat pasta and dance and laugh morning, noon and night. No, I don’t want to be a slave to status updates or stat reports. The only selfie I want is one with loved ones printed out in a frame on my desk.

I’m so old school, I want to embrace and enjoy and squeeze every ounce of potential out of my life. I want photographs posted on my heart and soul and not necessarily on-line.

How old school are you?

 

Loneliness NOS

13 Apr

There is a diagnosis yet to be added to the DSM V. It’s Loneliness NOS or Loneliness Not Otherwise Specified. There is no pharmaceutical cure for it, yet if not treated, it can destroy the well being of us all.

The illness is hitting the culture epidemically: children, teens, adults, and seniors; singles and couples. At its worse it can drive someone to take his life publicly in the US Capitol building. At least that way someone will notice another’s despair, right there on national television. In fact, noticing and showing compassion to someone in extreme psychological pain is often the panacea to despair. An act of love can resuscitate the human spirit, bringing someone back from the brink of death but for the man who died over the weekend, he missed the opportunity for support.

This epidemic hits many of us. If it takes a village, where the hell is the village?

We are far from Eden. We can be sitting next to someone watching the game while he or she texts nonstop to someone else instead of sharing it with us. Somehow our presence isn’t enough. Communication methods have intensified and yet a sense of isolation and alienation have too. Unless entwined with a lover or a pet, the sense of intimacy may end as soon as we log off from the on-line community.

Even sex habits have changed. Like in the brilliant film “Her”, it is now common to have sex over the phone or on screen. But this is certainly no substitute for the real thing – skin upon skin, sweat upon sweat. At its best, sex can be the most profoundly intimate experience of our lives. Yet we can use sex in various forms to escape, only to find ourselves even more lonely afterwards.

But is any of this really all that new? Are we more lonely than we were before?

Loneliness is the burden of humanity whether in ancient or modern times. What then does it take for connection?

Union comes with effort, luck, and vulnerability. It comes with surrendering our expectations of being fed and when we are more open to giving than receiving. It comes when we are selfless and expect nothing in return. It comes when we cry but look towards someone else who is crying and perhaps hurting even more than us. We find it in those brief moments when we are seen and witnessed. When someone lovingly holds us while we sob. When we feel the sun or wind on our face. When a group of worshippers feel the Spirt or devoted rock fans feel deep pleasure at a concert. It is a wave taking you, propelling you forward, and it’s fingers flying across a key board. It is a kitten’s purr and a child’s smile. It is an elderly person relieved to have you hold his or her hand. It is putting one’s head on the earth or holding onto the trunk of a tree while saying, “I’m here. Take me.” It is saying, “I’m sorry. I screwed it up.” It is saying, “We are all one.”

It is the perception of separation that is so painful.

In reality, we are all one.

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Is Technology Killing You?

31 Oct

There are days when if one more thing beeps at me, indicating that I have a text, email, or phone call, I want to pick up the phone and throw it against the wall. There are times when I want to smash the thing into a million pieces and scream, “Leave me the f— alone!” Can I get a witness, or am I the only person on the planet that feels this way?

Don’t get me wrong. My smart phone is a device of incredible convenience, and at times, pleasure. It allows me to work for myself, to stay connected to family and friends, and to be in a long distance relationship despite miles of geographical separation. But I think technology is slowly killing us.

The new normal is to be constantly beeped at like we’re Pavlov’s dog subjected to classical conditioning.

We are not entirely powerless here. We can have periods where we turn off the notifications and/or the phone. We can also elect to not have a phone, although in today’s business world, that isn’t really an option.

For someone who has had to work years on ironing out co-dependent behaviors, the phone presents a challenge. When it beeps at me I feel like it’s a person who IMMEDIATELY wants something from me. I have to pause and say to myself, “Your emergency is not my emergency,” or, “I’m in the middle of something. I can’t get to you right now. Whatever it is can wait.” If I’m driving in the middle of heinous traffic conditions, it’s best I focus on the road and tell the phone, “Go away! Later!” Or, if I’m in a deep intimate conversation with someone and the phone beeps or rings or vibrates or buzzes, I can pause and say, “Let me turn this thing off.”

The other day I took my car in for an oil change. My mechanic’s shop was a buzz with activity. Cars and people were lined up for his attention, the phone was ringing, and the office attendant had temporarily stepped out. Yet he didn’t seem harried or flustered. He just calmly did what he needed to do, one thing at a time. Not only that, he did it all with a smile, despite having thrown his back out. “What is his secret?” I thought. “What keeps him grounded and in the moment? Was it because there was no smart phone around?” I doubt he had one. However, I suspected his demeanor had more to do with something internal that allowed him to triage nonsense and to know the limits of what could and couldn’t be accomplished in one day.

After working at a cafe for an hour, I returned to pick up my car. It wasn’t quite ready, so I sat down on a bench to wait. Immediately, I pulled out my phone. Then I stopped myself. What the heck needed checking? I’d just caught up on all my email. At that moment, I felt a ray of warmth grace my cheek as the sun appeared from behind a cloud. I stopped. Could I just sit here for ten or fifteen minutes and do nothing? Could I just close my eyes and breathe?

I hate beeps and loud noises blasting from televisions, radios, and leaf blowers. I always have, even as a little girl. Instead, I love the sound of silence.

At the core, I gravitate to the most basic things in life: a flower; a bird; someone’s smile; a good book. As I sat there, I thought, “This is MY life. It’s up to me what I do with it.” I can make a choice. Technology can run me, or I can run technology.

At certain points in the day or night, I press the “off” button. Then I work on recharging my body, mind, and spirit. Otherwise, this device is going to crash.

Speed….

1 Apr

I don’t drive fast in parking lots because statistics reveal that more accidents happen while pulling out from a spot at the grocery store (or a few blocks from home) than anywhere else. It’s also where you might mow down a little old lady with her shopping cart or run over somebody’s toddler.

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I do drive fast on the highway. My father drove race cars for a hobby so I have some of that gene. But I drive with my eyes wide open.

Today while driving slowly in the parking lot, someone honked his or her horn at me. It wasn’t just the gesture that irritated me. It was the palpable aggression coming at me that made me want to be aggressive back. “What the hell are you in such a hurry for?!” I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I tried to feel sorry for the person instead because s/he is headed for a heart attack.

Speed. Our culture is addicted to it. Everyone is moving too fast.

We all do it to varying degrees.

Today I got a scolding from the chiropractor for my poor posture when working at the computer. While this isn’t directly related to the issue of speed, it does reflect a failure to take the time to do things right. To sit right. To get up and stretch. And to not work myself until the point of backache and exhaustion.

Today I was a little more in touch with the here and now because speed is over-rated. In fact, it’s killing us.

Remember. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins.

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