Friends, this post is longer than anticipated, but I hope you’ll stick in there with me. Maybe you wanna grab a cuppa something first. The other day, I wrote about my struggle with technology — how often it causes me to feel discontent, distracted and searching for approval somewhere out there. I’m gathering from conversations that I’m not the only one. Today, I continue on this theme by exploring a little more what technology keeps me from experiencing right here.
Her hand is a miracle.
Lately, when she tucks hers into mine, I slow to savor the warmth of her palm, those last dimples, her trust.
As we walked in the October sun yesterday, I closed my eyes so I could feel and remember this grasp.
I sit in the gym and watch her spin, jump, balance, bounce. She shines with what her body can do. Around me, rectangles glow, shining from the faces of mother and father spectators. I watch children’s eyes seek out the eyes of their people who are focused on something somewhere else. I ache.
In nearly the same moment, I wonder what I’m missing on my own glowing rectangle, what I could be swiping. I start to grab for it in my purse, then stop.
I worry they won’t know how to look people in the eye, give full attention to a conversation, string words together in meaningful ways, listen.
I worry they’ll feel connected enough through social media and technology’s soothing and won’t seek out the warmth and meaning of real hard real life.
Recently, as Sici and I drove together, we talked about the struggle to keep technology in right perspective when there’s always somewhere else you can “go.” (She doesn’t have a phone and has limited screen time, but she’s thinking about these things. We talk about these things.)
“Do you wish Facebook had never been invented?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m thankful for the relationships I’ve made that way, for the opportunity it’s given me to share my words and reconnect with old friends. But a big part of me wishes it never was because it’s just another thing to fill the empty space inside.”
“But you don’t really FILL it,” she said.
Oh, the wisdom.
I wonder if this distraction within fingertips’ reach is part of the age old desire to fill the pain rather than feel the pain, to dump something more into emptiness, hoping it will stick. It seems that today’s forms of distraction simply make it harder for us to truly feel the empty in the first place.
About a month ago, I saw links to comedian Louis C.K.’s appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show posted all over Facebook. In the interview, Louis C.K. explained why he won’t give his kids cell phones. It’s too rough to print or play in its entirety here, but the truth of his perspective sticks with me.
He argued that cell phones in particular are toxic for kids because they inhibit the building of true empathy and prevent them from feeling what they feel.
He explained, “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty.”
After Sici’s birth, nearly 12 years ago, I experienced a period of postpartum depression. All of my usual coping mechanisms failed me. I couldn’t white knuckle it, live it fast and hard to get it over with, couldn’t stay busy enough to feel needed, wanted or approved enough. I couldn’t escape it.
I felt my forever empty.
One afternoon, while my baby napped, I sat on the couch in the living room of our apartment. I thanked God for my little girl who brought joy and life and prayed that God would take the underlying sad, numb gray sorrow away so I could enjoy her more. In that moment, I felt what seemed contradictory: the invitation to feel the pain, be in it, sit with it for a while.
It will not destroy you, I heard.
Of course this is a much longer story. I ended up taking antidepressants and later received counseling, but during that baby nap, I began to experience what it was to feel without a fix, to experience God’s simple and profound presence with me right in the middle of my pain and loneliness. I felt what I wanted desperately to avoid, but I was not really alone.
My awareness of my limits, my overwhelm, my loneliness, my struggle for identity — yes, it hurt. But I was not destroyed.
In that Conan appearance, Louis C.K. described driving and a moment when the deep sadness began to come upon him. He said his first instinct was to grab for his phone and “text ‘hi’ to 50 people.” And then a Springsteen song came on the radio, and the singer moaned long and sorrowfully, and C.K. gave himself permission to just be sad. He pulled over to the side of the road and sobbed.
This release of grief, he said, was followed by euphoric joy.
He explained it this way: “because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away with a little phone [or other distractions]. You never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product, and then you die.”
As I’ve looked honestly at my right here, I see that my hand-held technology has the potential to dull the vivid right out of my everyday — the highs and the lows — if I do not keep it within right limits. I’m still trying to figure out what these are for me, but I recognize the ways my smart phone pulls me away from being here and staying here.
Although this is the place.
Where the song wails, where the sun warms, where the gymnast twirls, where her hand melts into mine.
This is Day 24 of Right Here. Throughout October, I’m joining with a community of bloggers (linking up with The Nester) — all of whom are writing each day of the month about a topic of their choosing. To find all posts in 31 Days of Right Here, click here, or see the listing below.
To continue receiving these daily words, subscribe to this blog on the sidebar at left, click here to Like Draw Near on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @AshleyMLarkin. I am immensely grateful to share the journey with you.
POSTS IN THE SERIES
An introduction: Welcome to 31 Days of Right Here
Day 1: For You, Too
Day 2: Fear’s Invitation
Day 3: My Portion
Day 4: Five Minute Friday – Write
Day 5: Rise and Shine
Day 6: My Joys Mount As Do the Birds
Day 7: A Mother’s Fierce Love
Day 8: When Life’s A Mad Rush – How To Slow Time
Day 9: The Fight For Right Here Told Through Two Tales of Epic Whining (Part I)
Day 10: The Fight For Right Here Told Through Two Tales of Epic Whining (Part II)
Day 11: Five Minute Friday: Ordinary
Day 12: When Right Here’s A Mess
Day 13: O God, We Thank You
Day 14: The Date That Almost Wasn’t
Day 15: One Thing That Makes Us Human
Day 16: That We Might See And Remember
Day 17: In Which I Hit A Wall
Day 18: Five Minute Friday: Laundry
Day 19: When You Can’t Hold All The Moments
Day 20: Let Me Walk In Beauty
Day 21: Tend This Seed
Day 22: Just One More Click Away
Day 23: A Reset
Day 24: What We Hold