Once again, it wouldn’t be a new year without a new season of Downton Abbey. I’m pondering the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley’s thoughts on the introduction of the telephone into the house (from season 2). After having trouble while trying to make a call, she asks, “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” Despite a 100-year gap between her frustration then and mine now, I’m wondering the same thing about my own phone.
We live in an increasingly overstimulated society, in which we ingest more information that people ever have before. It seems like no matter where I am or what I’m doing, there’s a constant nagging to check e-mail, social media and texts. I say nagging because if it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t have a Smart phone. I probably wouldn’t have a basic cell phone except for emergency purposes. But there is this sense that someone else might feel ignored, or put off, if I don’t keep up. And there’s also the fear that I might miss something important. The problem is that while I’m afraid I’m missing something important, I’m missing something important that’s right in front of me.
It really dawned on me how much I’ve bought into this need to stay connected when I was at a New Year’s party over the weekend. My best friend had gone on a date and I really wanted to find out how it went. Instead of politely excusing myself and checking in with her for a quick call, I brought the phone back to the table and proceeded to text back-and-forth with her in the middle of the other conversations I was having. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized one woman disappeared from the table without me noticing and I thought perhaps she thought I was so rude that she walked away.
The thing is, I get really annoyed when people do this to me. I am shocked to realize that I caught myself doing it. And on a day-to-day basis, I do this often to Greg and the kids. I will be in the middle of texting when one of my children will ask to play a game. I will respond, “I can’t right now, I’m busy.” Now, sometimes I am; but sometimes I’m looking at random pictures of people I was friends with 20 years ago, getting updates about snow conditions, cubicle annoyances or new hair-dos. And I have to seriously consider what is actually important. Because there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and yet one could shoot a reel of my life, play it back to me, and point out at least an hour every day that’s arguably wasted. And I can’t get it back. And my family can’t either.
So I’ve had enough so-called “multi-tasking” while at soccer practice. I want to recapture the art of just being in the moment. I want to appreciate the blessing of now and what’s happening right before my very eyes. If you are my friend and you haven’t heard from me in a while, just pick up your phone and use it for its intended purpose. After all, there might be some aspects of society 100 years ago that make me cringe. But the Dowager Countess having my manners? Imagine her completely ignoring everyone at dinner with her head stuck in a newspaper. Now that would be ghastly, and possibly akin to torture.