As Murphy's Law would have it, I had a cell phone crisis while reading Chapter One of The Hands Free Mama by Rachel Mary Stafford. I reached my cell data limit a full week prior to the turnover to a blank data page. A full week early. This has never happened before. Not even close.
At first I thought it was my kids. Surely they had been streaming Netflix on my phone at basketball games all month. "Those little guys are racking up all my data!" I thought. "They really have a problem with screen time and it must be stopped. Time to tighten the reigns!"
I checked the data usage. Nope. It was me. All me.
Does it make it any better that I was live streaming lots of Joyce Meyer podcasts while driving alone to and from millions of appointments and errands over the past few weeks? They're Christian and uplifting, right?
Oh, and I must admit to watching a fair amount of The Blaze TV while preparing several freezer meals for my family. I must stay on top of current events, right?
And I watched lots of weather forecasts during our snowpocalypse. I had to keep ahead of the school closings, right?
And I also clicked through to all the lovely blogs I read while having my knee iced at physical therapy. I had forced blocks of down time so I might as well surf my blog list, right?
Because of the fear of crazy expensive overages, I was forced to put down my phone. I turned off the cell coverage and even turned off the phone overnight.
It was a wake up call and I am willing to go so far as to say it was a divine wake up call.
You know when the electricity goes out and it takes a while to remember it because you keep turning on the light switches in every room? Having no cell data was similar. I'd pick up my phone to check email, then put it down. Pick up again to check Instagram, put it down. Pick up to check the weather, put it down. It was Pavlovian - like a trained animal looking for a treat and not finding one.
I embarrassed myself by the need to hold the phone in my hand from room to room just in case the school called and my child was sick. Just in case a friend texted and I needed to respond immediately. Just in case my husband called from overseas and I might miss the chance to connect with him.
I consoled myself with the idea that at least I generally do all this streaming and checking when my kids are at school. But did I really?
It was such a good feeling to sit with them after school and not even know where my phone was. It was a blessing to fall asleep face to face with my youngest, not his face to my cheek illuminated by the light of a small screen in my hand.
Then I started to get irritated with my husband. Being forced to put down my phone while he was not made me gratingly aware of every moment he was on his phone when we could have been chatting together instead. Suddenly I was ready to impose my own limits on him as well. I got a bit grouchy - probably a sign of withdrawal.
I started reading him passages from my book. He wasn't much interested. This bugged me even more.
Finally, I realized that what was bugging me was the realization that I was extremely tethered to my phone. It was humbling. I never thought I was the one with a problem.
In her first chapter, Rachel describes that everyday life has "Sunset Moments" that we often miss because we are too busy with our to do lists and too tethered to screens to look up and notice them.
The irony is that we are so busy trying to get everything done so we can get around to having our "Sunset Moments". But they cannot be planned. The beauty of these experiences is that they occur naturally and we need to be open enough to notice them and able to slow down enough to participate fully in them when we do.
Now that my cell data has returned, I have the challenge of staying detached from my phone. It hasn't been easy but I am trying. The key has been to create a docking station in the kitchen. This is the place to drop all devices and leave them there.
My friends and family have commented that I am less reachable lately, not responding as quickly to texts. I think that's ok. I have sunsets to capture, tender spur of the moment moments to spend with children who are growing up and away from me each day. And I have a husband who needs just a bit more convincing that even he could live a little more hands free.