I slowly sink down into the tub with an audible sigh, the warmth tucking me in. Slithering forward until the back of my head is submerged, the sounds become muffled as water surrounds my ears, the buzzing forcibly muting thoughts of anything else, sucking me into the moment at hand. I rest there for a minute, taking slow, cognizant breaths, eyeing the ceiling, noticing details I previously had not, like the peace that silence extends and, of course, things that need cleaning.
A few times per week, I take baths. Quiet, warm, and cozy, they’re my winter indulgence. Typically, I grab a book, a bathrobe… and my phone. The intention is always to read, but often I don’t make it there, planning to quickly check email. Mindlessly and with inevitability, my fingers walk from Google to Facebook to Instagram … And then 20 minutes have passed as quickly as they came, my body too warm to stand another second, face damp with sweat, I emerge having squandered my bit of reprieve and solitude.
But what is it, the payoff? To disconnect from life? Responsibility? Or the alternative- connection and the search for stimulation? In all likelihood, a bit of both.
On days when things are rewarding, the phone doesn’t receive a second thought, banished to the darkness of the nightstand drawer for hours on end. Those moments, when my entire family is home and together, brimming with interaction and activity, it acts as an enemy, overwhelming me, reminiscent of a heavy rock strapped to my back. Even a text message can feel like an assault.
Other days, it’s akin to a best friend, offering comfort and distraction amidst the predictability of weekday chores and schedules, a lifeline instead of a burden.
How can this dichotomy exist, and with such emotional polarity?
The missing link appears to be purpose. But, the to-do list of motherhood IS purposeful. Laundry, cleaning, cooking- all purpose laden because they involve an enormous role that we’ve taken on. We can’t omit them from our weeks. They are part of parenting, but so is going to the park with your husband and children and climbing the treehouse together, or confiscating your five-year old’s scooter to ride as fast as you can downhill.
The difference is that those things are fun, they’re fulfilling. My heart literally feels full after moments of that kind, a balloon slowly inflating, and my chest stays swollen for hours beyond.
Laundry, not so much.
But, we can’t run off all the time in search of satisfying interactions with friends and family. The purposeful drudgery has to happen, to remind us of how sweet the alternative is, and so your son can get back into his favorite sweatpants after you do it, his face lighting up and inflating your balloon of a heart a lil', on a Tuesday morning.
It’s okay to sometimes lose yourself in the phone. The folded underwear and rumpled shirts in front of you won’t mind. Inspiration and information abound on social media, even if a lot of sifting is required to get there. Embrace the connection that can be found as you sit on a to-do list that isn’t nearly as fun as riding fast down a hill or racing your son and losing fair and square with a belly laugh.
But, on this to-do list day in the tub, my phone was at 1%, so I set it aside and noticed my senses, experienced being unstimulated, and got my hair wet. These moments, alone and silent, shouldn’t be stolen by mindless social media surfing. There's a discomfort with idleness that we've all come to feel because stimulation is consistently at our fingertips in a plethora of forms. Birthing, allowing, and nurturing occasions of nothingness can help center us and rebalance that habitual restlessness. Instead of finishing the bath sweaty and heavy, I felt dewy, light, and uplifted; ready to conquer the list, to answer the calls of the crock pot below, to be present with my daughter and the boys, after they returned from school.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s not about good or bad, yes or no. This isn’t a black and white issue. Sometimes we need that connection, even if it’s vaguely false in its cyber nature. But, it’s important to protect the moments that we can fill up without it, guard them with our heart balloons so that we can be walking on high as often as life permits.
*Tips for helping with phone addiction:
-Turn your phone to grayscale. Pictures aren’t nearly as interesting in black and white. Just press the home key 3 times to switch back and forth.
-Move your apps that prove to be the greatest offenders around, so your fingers can’t mindlessly wander to them.
-Commit to keeping the phone in a drawer for the first 20 minutes upon waking. Starting off on the right foot can set the tone for the rest of your day. Of course, this requires nixing it as an alarm clock.
-Make certain rooms tech-free, like the bathroom. (You might have to think in there. Gasp!)
-Give yourself 10 minutes with it at night, and then agree to tune into your spouse instead.
-Never while eating, and please, never with friends.