When is the last time you spent an afternoon with someone without interruption of any kind? Where you both were fully present with each other? How did that feel?
I had to think back to quite a while ago. It had to involve a time NOT in a public place, not ordering food or drink of any kind, with cell phones muted and set aside—an extremely rare occurrence these days.
Consistently, we may schedule a meeting with someone in Starbucks or in a restaurant and start to dig deep into each others’ lives. A deep personal thought begins to take verbal shape, when . . .
- the waiter appears to take our order
- we need a drink refill
- another friend stops by to visit
- our phone beeps with email, call, reminder, or text. Oops, forgot to mute it!
- our friend’s phone rings, beeps, or dings—and they answer it, while we are in mid-sentence
I admire folks who can multi-task well. A business owner can get a boat-load of work done from any mobile position anywhere in the world. And once in a while there is an emergency we need to know about. But there are definitely down sides to allowing immediate technological access.
In relationships, something gets lost when we are sharing about a story or a personal dilemma to someone we’ve scheduled time for, and suddenly we realize we are talking to ourselves, because our companion is reading and responding to a text instead of listening. Can’t it wait a FEW more minutes so we can enjoy our time together?
What do I communicate to people when I abruptly leave a face-to-face conversation and focus on my phone or turn my eyes toward the TV? I am essentially saying, “You are not important enough to warrant my full attention.”
I often see couples or families walking or eating out together, while one parent disappears into cell-phone-land, while the others wait and hope for a quick return of ‘dad’ or ‘mom’ or ‘date’ time.
The problem is not with technology, but with our values and choices.
I remember being a young mother who always had laundry to fold, dishes to wash, meals to prepare, messes to clean up, and yet my toddler closely clung, clamoring for my expert assistance in building a tower from blocks or book reading. I decided eventually that heart tending was my highest priority. Easier said than done, with all the distractions. I had to force myself to sit in the floor and put my focus solely on becoming the best block stacking, Seuss-reading mother . . . ever.
In order for me to interpret dreams—or to connect with people at a sacred level—I must get quiet, shut down everything else to focus on the task at hand. I’d get in trouble and not deliver anything of quality if I tried to decipher dreams or try to connect at a deep level with anyone while chatting online or updating my Facebook status.
Question: How many people do you have in your life who deserve and receive your undivided, ‘unplugged’ time? Are you able to set everything aside and be fully present for them? If so, how do you manage it? If not, why not?