I was at the gym a little while ago (ok, a couple weeks ago, but I have my totally convincing excuses, so there.). I ran and pushed through a pretty intense workout. On the cardio equipment I read magazines, quickly flipping past pages with too-long stories. During weights, I counted reps meticulously, my head speeding about with reminders, emails, calls to make, chores to do. During abs, I was pretty much fully focused on the “ouchouchOUCH, why I am doing this anyway?!” of it all.
The trouble started when I sat down to stretch. It’s been pounded into me not to skimp there, so I tried to focus. Breathe, hold, breathe, push a little bit more. Breathe.
It was excruciating. Not from tight muscles or achy joints so much as because I had to sit still and slow down. My mind kept flailing about like a drowning victim, desperately searching for something to hold. To CLENCH. I had to just. Sit. STILL.
Afterwards, the fact that the supposedly most relaxing part of my workout was, in fact, the hardest part really started to bug me. Why couldn’t I slow down? More importantly, what was I missing in all my manic rush?
Later that afternoon I waited in the car to pick Anna up at the bus stop. Jack was babbling to himself in the back and Silvia was staring blindly out the window. I grabbed my phone unconsciously and quickly pulled up my email (nothing special), news headlines (depressing) and Facebook (whatever). Then I stopped, looked up and had a little bit of a Moment. You know, when your brain sortstops and you realize you’re not alone in the universe and there’s so much more to the world than you’ve stopped to look at for even a whole minute in that entire day?
Just a little something like that.
I deliberately turned off my phone. I shook myself slightly and stretched my arms out over my head, filling my lungs with air. Silvia watched me with a grin and then reached her arms up, too. “Ahhhhh!”, she giggled, as though we were playing a game. Jack turned his head back and forth and started clapping his little hands, trying to get in on the action.
This week, I cancelled the data plan on my cell phone. I’ve started to make it a point to turn off my computer at night. This (aside from saving energy) makes it harder to just check things “real quick” in the morning while I ignore my kids and drink my coffee. Now I try to keep my computer checking more... in check.
When we are out and about, at the park or running errands or just playing out in the front yard, I’m there now, too, not wasting moments randomly checking my phone for something that isn’t there anyway.
It’s funny how the little things in life, like the digital distractions that have become so ubiquitous we don’t even notice them anymore, can take up so much space. I went to the gym the other day without a magazine, concentrating instead on the rhythmic thump of my feet and the sound of my own breathing (though the abs still left me with a whole lotta “ouchouchOUCH!”).
I can’t do it every day, or even every week. I race around in my head, sometimes totally consumed with the current wackiness around me of which I have no control. I tune out my surroundings in mindless internet auto-pilot more than I’d like. Everything is a work in progress and I am no different.
But so far, I’ve been able to manage two things, most days. When I would have been messing with my phone (and its total LACK of anything important) I talk to my kids.
And just once or twice, mostly before I go to sleep at night, I stop. My eyes close. And I take a deep breath. Hold.