June 25, 2024

Go take a 5 minute break, you’re not needed right now.

There is a lot going on in the world, there always has been, there always will be. You are not responsible for managing it all.
I was out for lunch at a local pizza place. I was by myself and it was pretty much just me and my thoughts. Well there were a few other people eating in the restaurant. Oh, and there were TVs playing random shows placed around the walls. I think I counted 10 TVs each with a slightly different sports event playing. There was also music playing over the sound system in the pizza place. So there I was, practically in a zen sanctuary, on my precious lunch break, trying to relax. I set my phone down on the table and just went into my head for a few minutes. It was more or less quiet in my head, apart from parsing the music and random snippets of conversation and visual input of the silent TVs. At that moment it occurred to me, “Someone might need me, I should check my phone!”

It’s been a rough week. I got a speeding ticket on Monday. My daughter got bit by a stray cat Wednesday. Lots of concerns and built up anxiety about the future and the present all pile up to a feeling that something must be done right now. I must be needed by someone, somewhere, right now. So I have taken some time off by myself today, to step away from all the needs, in an attempt to have some time where I feel I am not needed. So I surround myself with devices that foster constant need.

I’ve yet to determine if my phone is high maintenance, or if it is me that is high maintenance. But we certainly interact with each other frequently in a high touch manner.

Also, was I high maintenance before the phone? Did I need to know this much about the people around me before I could? Now that I can remain in virtual constant contact it makes it hard to distinguish between when that contact is actually needed, and when it is just convenient.

I remember back before mobile phones were ubiquitous and ‘smart’. I recall a time when I was responsible for after hour outages at my software job. A pager was handed off to me at the end of the workday on Monday, I was told to keep it on me for the week, in case there was a problem. How I balked at the idea.

“My personal time is mine, I need the separation between my job and my life.” I yelled at my boss, quietly in my head, as I took the pager and placed it in my things to go home with.

I look back and think what a luxury it was to even be able to suggest such an idea. How amazing it was to be able to say “You won’t be able to reach me this evening, I’ll be out.” This was almost 20 years ago. It’s probably been 10 years since that level of disconnect was even possible from the world around us.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that it is possible to live your life less connected. I know there is a path to a life not always tapped in, but it’s not the mainstream path. I have friends that have a home phone and nothing more. I both marvel at this in wonder, and imagine what it would be like to go back to that. But it’s definitely the exception and not the norm any more.

So today, the average person in the US, is pretty much accessible 24/7. We put ourselves out there as being reachable and in touch. There was a time, almost forgotten now, when being out of touch was the standard. When having periods of un-reach-ability was expected. There was a time when having something called downtime was considered common.

Even now, as I sit here writing this, I pause and reach toward my pocket wanting to check my email. Wanting to see if anyone needs me. Wondering if anything wonderful, or more often terrible, has happened that I should know about.

If you are reading this and wondering, I want you to know that I don’t need you right now. The rest of the world can pretty much keep spinning without you for a bit also. Please go as far away as you can, and rest. Your time will come, you will be needed, but it’s not right now. Take a breath and regroup. We all need you to be well rested for when you’re actually needed. Right now all is well.


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