What do you do when you don’t have your
security blanket smart phone with you? Freak out like me? Or remain calm and carefree?
I accidentally left my phone at my office while on a survey the other day. I had a sat phone and a GPS with me, so I was technically safe for work, but I kinda flipped my shit. The 5 stages of grief washed over me in a matter of minutes, but I eventually accepted my fate. My phone was not with me. And I was forced to let go.
It was pretty freeing, actually…after the panic subsided of course. There was nothing I could do about it. I was forced to spend my time elsewhere. I was forced to listen to the world around me and to my own thoughts. My job is often to listen…for a specific bird…on certain projects…and I am finely tuned to scout it’s lovely song out while I survey a property. But I have the tendency to multi-task in my busy life. I tend to obsessively check email to put out the latest fire. Or I have been known to call the office to plan for the next day. And I miss the little things amidst the distraction (not a golden-cheeked warbler call, obv).
But that day my soul quieted in technology’s absence and I could hear everything. I listed to the wind, the birds, the trees. I frowned at the unnoticed noisy traffic off the highway and sadness pinched me after realizing that this is the new normal for the beautiful old-oak woodland I was surrounded by. And that there would be no beautiful old-oak woodland sometime in the impending future.
I could even smell better. I noted the earthy wild onion and sweetened wildflowers that I was oblivious to a week before. I saw beauty for beauty’s sake, not scrutinized behind some square camera screen. Not for the benefit of social media, but for my own selfish eyes, knowing that no one else in the world is looking at this gloriously huge gray fox right now. I owned those precious moments when he bounded out of a gnarled oak, ran a few paces, and then turned around to glare at me. Because how dare I disturb him while in my thundering commotion of human presumption? I was connected to that annoyed fox and the surrounding indignant oaks, even if they did not want me there.
We talk about kids and technology, but what about adults and technology? No one is there to turn off the TV for us. No one is there to “limit our screen time.” And let’s face it, we are all kinda addicted. Not just to social media, but to all things digitized. We check the weather instead of feeling it. That Google Maps lady navigates for us instead of orienting ourselves to our surroundings or, God forbid, learning how to read a road map. We play mind-numbing games instead of, say, really observing someone for the beautiful person they are. We take our access to Wikipedia for granted. We search Bon Appétit recipes instead of scanning through our grandmother’s water-stained, hand-written recipe cards. And we whip out the phone to calculate our tip on a friendly meal.
Yet we continue to be so concerned about our children. We want to limit screen time, electronics, all things digital. We want them to be free and independent like generations past, right? But we’re not looking at the whole picture. We’re not taking into account that those parents of generations past also weren’t digitized. And I don’t know if we can ever go back to a simpler time like so many of us wish for. Simplicity parenting? Bringing up bébé? Free range kids? Rock on! But how do you really do it? Seriously. For real.
It seems like we need to not just think about our children, but ourselves as well. Because how can you let go of your child to have the freedom they deserve if you don’t value freedom yourself? How can we raise strong, independent individuals if we ourselves are completely dependent on the very things we want our kids to avoid?
As I write this post I am connected again. This time, just artificially plugged back in like an appliance. And yes, it is hypocritical of me to tout the negatives of technology for I am just as addicted as the rest of us. But I also miss that taste of freedom every so often and true connection with myself and the world around me that the social media so desperately lacks.
So I’m going to try it again this weekend. I will leave my phone at home. Shutter. I am going to take my daughter to pick berries at a strawberry farm outside of town and will have absolutely no help from technology in getting there. Poo is liquifying inside. Because I need that Google Maps lady. Bad.
But I am also excited. Exhilarated even. To savor a bucolic day in the Hill Country, to watch my pigtailed daughter pick strawberries for our pancakes (thanks, Daniel Tiger), to eat a picnic lunch and feed grass to goats sans technology seems like the best idea I’ve had in a long time. It’ll be an adventure to share between just us and the moment. To be connected again to ourselves and the world around us.
It will be difficult. There could even be some serious anxiety involved. But once I let go, maybe I’ll start to be that mom who lets go of her children too. Who lets them be free, who trusts them to learn how to navigate, look up and feel the weather, and add up the tip in their independent little heads.
Of course. That’s when I’ll get lost, have a flat tire, or miss capturing the best stinkin’ strawberry-stained moment ever. Because, you know, I’m a hot mess and that’s how I roll.