On Being Without A Phone

“He does not seem to me to be a free man who does not sometimes do nothing.” -Cicero

I think sometimes everything is some crazy balancing act. Eat a balanced diet, everything in moderation. Read your kid all sorts of different books, not just Dr. Seuss or he’ll start speaking in rhyming couplets all the time. And with made up words. Let your kid cry it out, because you don’t want him to be “soft”, but you know, not too much crying. A work/life balance – all work and no play makes Jon a cranky boy.

The work/life balance is a tough one. It’s just the two of us, and we’re no slick operation – and now that we live and work in the same place, it’s an even fuzzier line between work and home, and sometimes it feels like we breathe and bleed this business every minute.

We sometimes try to set boundaries and “rules,” which seem to work some of the time. We sometimes say “we’re not going to open the shop up during dinner because it’s family time (after we’re closed),” but then someone calls and says they’re in from out of town, and can we please, please please just this one time because I know exactly what I want and I’m going to be in and out so quickly…? Or we say we’re not going to pack orders after 10pm, but then we’ve just released this new ink or this new notebooks or this new limited edition pen and we’ve got all these orders we need to get out or we’ll regret it the next day, or the day after. We say no cell phones in bed, but we just need to respond to these comments on Instagram …and then check out what else is going on. Sometimes it’s hard to unplug, even for a minute.

While some of checking your phone is staying in touch with the important people in your lives, for us, a lot of it is checking on Instagram and Twitter and staying in touch with the business and e-mails and surfing the net and googling stuff that we really don’t need to know, like “my baby ate a blueberry off the floor is he going to die” or “best poutine Leslieville”.

Jon’s cell phone died the other day, and it was kind of a horrible but also great event. At first, there was also some minor panic verging on despair. To be honest, I thought he was going to cry, but he didn’t, and not just because the baby was watching. I understand the despair: disconnected from …everything! Unplugged! How can you survive without a cell phone in this age of technology??

When you take a step back, though, of course the situation is never quite so dire. We become addicted and enslaved to instant everything and always needing to keep on top of what’s going on that the thought of losing your phone is enough to give you an anxiety attack. But when you think about it, it’s all a bit absurd because the internet and social media is just this big gaping black hole that is seems to grow exponentially by the second and the fractional amount of “what you know” is a drop in the ocean. It’s hard to believe, but the internet, in fact, does not need your participation to continue on. 

While it is about balance, I think it’s also about slowing down enough to find your balance. To do nothing every once in a while.

Jon and I have been “sharing” one cell phone for about week, and it’s been kind of sort of …alright. Sharing has meant that whoever is going out to run the errand brings the phone in case of emergency, and then after, the phone winds up on the table or counter for (!) hours at a time, until one of us needs it next.

Practically speaking, Jon and I have been married for a while now, so most people who call one of us will know to call the other to get in touch (plus…we have a land line). Now that we live and work in the same place, we don’t really need to call each other for spider emergencies or lunch requests. And these days, there are emails and alerts on social media to connect.

The frenzied urge to check is absent because there’s nothing physical to grab out of my pocket to check, the phone isn’t just with me all the time. The Instagram and Twitter and Facebook feeds go on without us, and when I do log on to check things online, I’m a bit more focused because it’s so much more of an effort to do so. We’ve discovered that we don’t really need to check our phones every five minutes, because what is there can and will wait, or else maybe it wasn’t ever so important in the first place.

We hang out with the baby and watch him watch the robot vacuum doing its thing. We stand and watch the few minutes of the coffee maker percolating its life-sustaining brew, and enjoy the cup. We ponder the great mysteries of life at the grocery check out, while looking at those chocolate bars. We give the dog a good belly rub in between loads of laundry and counting inventory.

And while I occasionally think to myself, look at the baby! he’s grabbing his own foot! where’s my phone! I need to catch this moment and preserve it forever on my phone! I then realize that I don’t exactly know where my phone is, I think Jon has it, which is too bad. But then again, maybe I don’t need to capture this moment. I just need to enjoy it while I have it.

Wonder Pens Midori TWSBI

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