A subscriber to our site, Hannah, sent me an email after she signed up. I loved “meeting” her online, and I was also dumbstruck by one line in her email. She said, “It must be hard to keep your life spacious in the real world if you are keeping it so spacious on the web….”
Oftentimes I know what I need to pay particular attention to if it makes me feel like I might burst into tears; that’s a subtle clue! And Hannah’s comment helped me see how much I was craving the real world that I used to inhabit (as opposed to the online/computer world which I’d been living in pretty intensely to get our SPACIOUS site launched and to finish a memoir I’ve been writing).
And it hit me hard that I’d not be a very good leader for SPACIOUS (not to mention human being), heading forward, if I don’t live a spacious life myself. Which is the most obvious fact on the planet. Yet I’ve been known to experience, in various realms, a creep from intentions to new reality before I knew I’d crossed a line I never meant to cross. Isn’t that common?
I heard a priest once say that our life doesn’t go in the direction we INTEND; it goes in the direction dictated by our BEHAVIOR. Amen to that.
So as much as I intend to continue working fulltime at building our new SPACIOUS enterprise, I also know that all work and no play makes me a dull girl (and, of course, Jack a dull boy). But I don’t know Jack, so I’m just going to focus on making sure I have the balance and sabbath and life I say I value. And the relationships I want too.
I read a good article in the New York Times by John Leland about the social mores of younger adults, who generally stay connected via phone and texting to others who are not present, even when they are with someone in person.
Being 51, I still remember when that wasn’t an option, and I loved those days… when eye contact was normal, when hang-out time with someone went as long as felt right (without the promise of a “better option” being thrown into the mix), when awkward pauses in the conversation were occasions for thinking or regrouping or saying, “Well, anyway” (before resuming the conversation).
Frankly I loved it when I didn’t have to regularly face the twinges of shame that come when a friend pulls out a phone in the middle of our conversation and I think, “Why’d you decide that something else is more compelling than being with me right now? Was it something I said? Or is it just me in general?” I don’t think people mean anything by it, actually; it’s just a habit. Yet we often don’t stop to think how that particular behavior contributes to our feelings of alienation and how we are missing a lot that’s happening on the faces of specific people, particular wonders of humanity.
I do see that for myself, I have to get off the damn computer to have the spacious life that I want for me, that I want for you. I have to put away the phone sometimes (and let my brain rest from the Pavlovian panic) and tend to the person I’m with, soak in the nonverbals, listen between the lines, struggle for the right word, or just notice the wallpaper. I have to have the days where I do something physical, produce something, make a cake, wash my car, feel grass between my toes, listen to bird songs, or just stare into space.
I admit that it can be damn scary to fully be with other people, to be present to them. It feels exposing and raw and risky sometimes to step out from behind our screens and gadgets and typing and just show up as ourselves. Yet most people say they want deeper relationships, say they want to be known, say they want to have more fun. And we become what we do, not what we intend.
Why don’t we start choosing to have more times when we show up, in person, fully present, open to the other? I’ll risk it if you will.