To Become Present

My therapist told me to turn off my phone. “Three days, don’t use it unless absolutely necessary for three days,” she said toward the end of our weekly session. “See how you are feeling by Monday.”

I had taken social media breaks before and found it abundantly helpful for my ever-present anxiety, but I always struggled in the process. Now, with summer’s end looking ever closer and the news of my country and the world growing ever more depressing, I found my anxiety had spiked and I was growing desperate for some form of relief.

And so on a Friday evening, I shut my phone off. All the less tempting to slip onto various social media pages or look at the news if I didn’t even have my phone on—that was the idea—and it was an acute one at that. Nearly immediately I would pick my phone up and look at it, expecting my lock screen to light up and then open to my phone’s main background. But instead I was greeted with the reflection of my impatient face, staring at a darkened screen with the briefest confusion before realization took over.

The phone would be set down, only to be grabbed again a few more times, but eventually the muscle memory of viewing my phone would lessen and I was finally, blissfully, free from its hold. 

And so my weekend began with mind drifting back towards my phone. I wondered what friends were doing, what exciting news they may share, what was happening locally or regionally or globally. I had that dastardly fear of missing out but by the next morning I woke with the sun shining, slipping tendrils of light between the slats of our blinds, and felt suddenly present.

The phone remained on my bedside table and I lay in bed, looking out the window at the light blue sky and the butter yellow sunlight on the still-full trees. I picked up a magazine I had received months prior and finally began to read it while my son sang in the living room and my husband made breakfast in the kitchen.

A rare morning where I wasn’t the first one up and out of bed, but it seemed to highlight the uniqueness of the day. Without every free moment filled with aimless scrolling, without using my phone to distract me from the very inkling of boredom, I suddenly felt as if I had more time to the day.

More time to draw with my son, both of us lying on our bellies on the floor.

More time to sip hot coffee while looking out a window.

More time to get further along in that book.

More time to shuffle the cards of an oracle deck, only to withdraw one and see what wise advice it could give and commit its message to heart.

More time to take walks and listen to the birds, look at the leaves and note their subtle changes as we edged toward autumn, and smell the scents of all the gardens filled with summer’s flower glory.

It wasn’t just a matter of stepping away from my phone and the time I spent staring at it, it was also stepping away from the stress and anxiety it caused. With an anxiety disorder, and living in unprecedented times, being informed became something that cost me my mental well-being. By Sunday I realized that unprecedented times would happen whether I was witnessing the breaking news or not. The news would still be there by the end of the weekend and it wouldn’t change anything to know it during the weekend versus after. So I spent another day discovering all I was too distracted by, fully submerging myself into the simplicity of these moments that previously would be distracted by such a small device. 

Making pickles,

Canning beets,

Cleaning the kitchen after cooking,

A family movie session,

Watching the birds at the feeder,

And laying in bed during nap time and reading a book, while hearing the shrill of the cicadas outdoors. 

Three days. Three days focused wholly on the life before me. Three days to remind myself that living in the present, here and now, was not only a stress relief but so much better than anything I could find on a phone.

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