Two twenty-fours. That’s how much time I spent this week detached, disconnected, unplugged, de-phoned. At times I even – gasp! – left my house without my smart device. I was off-line, off-the-grid, and I was coming unhinged. Constant urges to check my phone had to be battled, and fear that the world would collapse around me if I didn’t stay in touch w/ the office had to be surrendered.
And you know what?
The world is just fine.
So here is the Olympic play-by-play to that final moment of victory just a few moments ago.
Friday 4pm – I leave the office and vow that I am done for the week and will come home early and be all there for my family.
Friday 5pm – I come home and check my phone one more time.
Friday 7pm – I get through dinner but still have a craving for something. Oh yeah, that bright little screen. I know I can opt for a lesser addiction and drown myself into oblivion vegging in front of the tube but that somehow seems like giving in too.
Friday 9pm – after putting the kids down, I wander aimlessly around the house. I have forgotten what it was like growing up with rocks and pencils and crayons and – oh yeah – creativity. Boredom ensues.
Friday 10pm – Having begun a rewiring process, my brain looks for other avenues of stimulation other than the flickering lights of the modern caveman’s campfire – the bright rectangular screen. I settle down with a book.
Friday 11pm – I discover the book is actually good. Reading is actually fun. I get lost in deep thought about something.
Friday midnight – I retire for the night mentally satisfied.
Saturday morning – eyes open, I need a hit. Where is that phone da*&^it?! Where did I hide it? I NEED TO CHECK MY EMAIL !?&#^*&%*@%^%$#^
The rest of the day Saturday – I actually spend time focused on my family, on others, and not on myself. I give.
Saturday Sundown – I can justifiably look at a screen again, having observed my sundown to sundown. No, I am not Jewish, but I like that rhythm. Besides, I have to prepare for work tomorrow and practice my Sunday sermon. Turn on the screen, check the phone. No the world has not burned down. Everything is fine. One 24 down.
Two days later I observe a second “pastors Sabbath”, from Sunday – to Monday (mind you, if you think I’m taking a whole lot of time off, I’ll usually put in an avg. of 50 hrs a week, Tues to Fri, some Saturdays, full Sundays, and periodic evenings).
Sunday 2pm – I AM DRAINED. Tired. Full day at church today, lots of meetings, close conversations, etc. I usually take a few hours to wrap up in the office, prep for the week to come, but this time I am prepared to just drop it. The start of the next 24 hours ensues.
Sunday 3pm – where are the wife and kids? I am home alone and bored. Should I work until they come back? Yeah maybe I will. No maybe I won’t. I need this. I need to disconnect. I try to take a nap.
Sunday 4pm – nap fails. I’m buzzed for some reason. Where ARE THEY? Maybe I’ll check the emails, turn on the compu – there’s the garage; they’re home.
Sunday evening – I get a text (this is ok). Hit up the beach volleyball courts (it’s 70 in Houston now) and spend the evening on sand. All thought of work dissipates into glorious oblivion.
Sunday before bed – I cannot believe how good I feel; physically, mentally, emotionally, after 4 to 5 games of beach volleyball and then hot tub afterwards with some good friends. Better than the drug of working and connectivity. I forget where I leave my phone.
Monday morning – time to drop my kid off at school. Lesser urge to view email today.
Monday noon – once again, leave the house without my phone. Spend a great day with my wife and younger daughter.
Monday pm – just turn on the screen to see if there are any urgent messages. None – phew! (a pastor is on call 24-7 / 365). I lose my phone again somewhere in the house.
20 minutes ago – I wrap up my 2nd 24 hours in a week; sundown to sundown. Kids are in bed, and I have some work to do.
If you think this all sounds rather trite, in all seriousness I have spent the last 50 days in an on-going, long-term experiment of not watching TV anymore. Going 24 hrs a week without internet or looking at any screen for that matter, is just part of that experiment / experience. It has been richly rewarding, but has also had real withdrawal-like effects, which I can perhaps chronicle, in all seriousness, another time. Take away a man’s campfire, and he has nowhere to stare, nowhere to bury himself into flickering visual stimulations. He is forced to stare into the darkness, and face himself. Find new ways to cope. I’ve long since doused the fire. I am now no longer stranger to the Dark.