Speeding to the airport early one morning my husband said, “Check the GPS on your phone to see if this is the fastest route.” I unzip my slim cork purse and let my fingers sift through its contents. My eyes grow big and my head gets tight. “Oh, my Gawd, I left my cellphone home.” I can picture it still plugged in on the table next to my bed. I can’t believe it and check again but I know. Should we go back? How am I supposed to go ten days without a phone?
But it is too late to turn back. I hit a shame pocket wondering how I could have left the most essential element behind. I feel ungrounded as we sit in the airport and wait to board our flight to the Midwest. I look around. Unless they were eating, every person was on a device except me. Our teen was checking baseball scores and my husband wore his ear pods to listen to the news. I shook my head, still stunned that I forgot my phone. I asked myself why. Before we left, I was running around making sure the house was clean enough for my sister, who would stay and take care of the dog. My attention was on getting her and my nephew to the car in a timely manner…or maybe that is all an excuse. It was five in the morning and I am not a morning person. And maybe the post-it in my head that said, “remember your cellphone” fell down a hole in my swiss cheese aging brain. As embarrassment hit me, I took a breath, looked at the ceiling, and asked God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
I boarded the plane and sat in the middle seat, bookended by my two guys absorbed in their phones. I craned my neck to watch the show outside the window. We soared up through a film of misty clouds, then sailed above a thick blanket of mashed potatoes. Frothy puffs of bluish-white whipped cream popped up for my viewing pleasure and I smiled. It was kind of like sky bathing.
We landed, met up with family, and shared our first real hugs in almost two years, which melted my heart. I was eager to be in their presence and soak up every moment. Since we moved in a herd of seven people for ten days, I did not need my cellphone. There were a few times I missed it though. My daughter stood looking at the ruins of a castle, her back to me, while she held her toddler. The aging grey bricks as a backdrop were stunning in the pink dusk light and I had to get a photo of that before she moved. I ran back down a hill and yelled, “Who has a phone? Can someone take that picture?” My husband fished his phone from his pocket and took the shot. Phones are for more than taking photos. They are good for safety, as you can call for help in an emergency. They are a convenient way to contact someone. Also, what about business? Every few days, I had my sister check my email, to lessen my worries that I might miss something important. She read a few things to me and I was relieved that I had no tasks to handle.
I loved swimming and floating on the lake, playing with the kids, taking rides on the jet ski, boat, and paddleboard. We cooked, ate, and cleaned up together. I noticed that as soon as they sat down when tired or needing a break, people pulled out their phones. I realized I often did that too, but I had no phone here. So, when I was alone, I let my mind wander down hallways and it would lead me through doors, where memories of the day were hanging on the wall, like paintings. For example, I revisited seeing both the joy and terror on the teenager's faces as they were pulled behind the boat while hanging on for dear life on a fast-moving inner tube. Sometimes, I grabbed a pen to write my memories or thoughts in my journal. I began to appreciate that time. Alone in my own head without distraction. For the first time, I did not use up any of my bandwidth of energy being entertained or educated, or updated by phone. This allowed me more time just waiting in a receptive stance to interact with others and my days took on a kind of flow I was not used to. FLOW- flexible, loving, open, and wonderous. One day I pictured myself in Zen robes, floating in equanimity through these vacation days.
Once we got home, I saw the dark slim phone by my bed where I had left it. It seemed foreign and I ignored it. But a few days later, I picked up my phone before bed and stayed up later than my body wanted, playing “words with friends”. My old habit. The addictive quality of using this device as a playmate pulled at me like a magnet. Soon a slight headache was brewing, a sign I was ignoring my body’s need to sleep. My phone looked at me with shining eyes that begged, “keep playing with me.” I looked at the ceiling and prayed, “God grant me the courage to change the things I can.” My phone looked hurt, as I frowned at it and powered it down. It blinked, dimmed, and then turned dark as I placed it inside the drawer.