Yesterday, my family officially “unplugged” For those who now fear that we may be robots who finally self-actualized, allow me to clarify. On Thursday, May 2, my family spent 24 hours “unplugged” from television, radio, IPods, video games, and all other electronic devices. Our only link to the outside world was our phones, which we kept on for “important calls”, but nothing more. Apart from that lifeline, we spent 24 hours electronically-isolated, hoping this temporary media-fast would allow our minds to “detox” from the poison of our culture, and maybe that we could spend time in actual, uninterrupted conversation with one another and with God.
At this point, I should disclose that my kids were less enthusiastic about this “experiment” than we were. My wife actually RELISHED the idea. Of course, she mostly ignores television and still resists the smartphone revolution. She persists in reading books with PAGES, and she goes entire days without checking email. Our unplugged day was just another day for her. . . but she spent the days leading up to it laughing at how this would cripple ME. Every time I mentioned the subject, she looked at me and laughed out loud. It made me nervous! Still, after so many crazy weeks, I actually welcomed a day of quiet!
Not my kids, though. They considered this to be a hostage situation. They howled that they were being deprived, as if we asked them to go 24 hours without air. On Thursday morning, they shuffled down for breakfast looking depressed and defeated. At that moment, I wondered if we would make it.
Having said that, here is a quick log of our day, complete with editorial comments:
6:15 – The alarm clock goes off. Apparently, we didn’t unplug that. Figures.
7:28 – Tonya offers to take the kids to school so that I can RELAX during breakfast. Thursday is normally my “day off”. (Tonya insisted that we do this on Thursday so that I can stay away from my office computer. She wants me to get the “full experience”. She said that with a sadistic laugh.)
Anyway, at 7:28 they run out the door to get in the car, running late as usual. As soon as the car pulls out of the driveway, I look around the house, feeling lost. What now? It is really, realy, really quiet.
7:30 – after 120 seconds of standing at the door listening to the silence, I pour a cup of coffee and sit down at the dining room table. “I can do this,” I think. I reach for my newspaper. The problem – we don’t subscribe anymore. Instead, I read the USA Today on my laptop. So, that wasn’t an option. In desperation, I grab the closest reading material I can find – Carolina Country – the “magazine” that comes with our membership to Energy United.
This is not a great start.
7:50 – Did you know that you can deep-fry pickles? Do you want to know how? I don’t either. I can not read Carolina Country any more. I decide to take a walk.
7:55 – It is cold outside, so I walk FAST to build body heat. Then I walk faster. Suddenly, all of the stress of the week is in my gait. I push myself. I would have passed joggers.
As I walk, I start to pray. I really like to pray while I walk, because somehow it helps me concentrate to move while I think. So I walk fast and pray deeply. I have nowhere to be and nothing to do when I got home, so I feel no rush. I pray for everyone I can remember. I also allow myself to be still and listen. I even get some ideas for the next few months that I had never considered.
It is the best prayer time I’ve had in months. 45 minutes melted away.
8:35 – Tonya is back home from taking the kids to school. As I walk in the door, she heads to the shower. I look around the house and my gaze stops on the dirty dishes. Sigh. I guess I might as well.
So I load the dishwasher, and then I start washing pots and pans. As I wash, I sing through my personal “all-time-favorites” – George Straight, David Ball, Survivor. There was even a little Poison mixed up. (“Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”). I don’t sing anything well, but I sing everything loud!
Is this better than listening to the radio? Not really. But it IS enjoyable!
9:20 – Tonya walks into the kitchen humming “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. I had hoped she didn’t hear that.
9:21 – Tonya and I have our first real conversation of the day. It’s nice. There is alot of laughing involved.
10:45 – Tonya and I leave for Downtown Lexington on a “mini-date”. That means walking through the stores on Main Street. We see lots of neat stores, lots of strange crafts, and one second-hand sofa that Tonya thinks we might NEED.
12:00 – We eat lunch at Christos in Lexington. As soon as we talk in, I know I am in trouble. First of all, I immediately notice the radio station playing as background music. Secondly, there are THREE televisions within my view as we are seated. All three are tuned to ESPN. My “danger meter” is in the red.
12:15 – Must concentrate on Tonya. Must resist urge to watch television. Must not let her see what a struggle this is!
12:20 – “Who is that man?” asked Tonya, pointing at the TV?” I’m being set up. I turn around and give the screen a 1-second, sideways glance. “That’s Junior Seau,” I answer. “He played for the Chargers before he committed suicide.”
“How do you just know that at a glance?” she asks.
“I watch alot of Sportscenter . . .”
Neither one of us say anything else on that subject.
1:00 – On the way home from lunch, we stop at a country store where I buy a six-pack of Blenheim Ginger Ale. Appropriately, the store is an “Amish Market”. Oddly, it is filled with electronic conveniences. By the way, Blenheim Ginger Ale is fantastic!
2:20 – I leave to go and pick up Jansen from school. It is a 20 minute drive. This is the first time all day I’ve been alone in the car. It is quiet! Twice I reach instinctively for the radio. After a few minutes, I actually call Tonya to ask a silly question. I think I just want to break the silence.
3:40 – Sitting in the waiting room at the Orthodontist (who is seeing Jansen), I thumb through Reader’s Digest. The article is “World’s Worst Bosses”. I wonder if Bill will be listed. He isn’t. Actually, Bill is a great boss. But there are (apparently) some scary ones out there.
4:30 – Home from the orthodontist, I ride back to town with Tonya. We are going to get that sofa!
5:30 – We are sitting around the dinner table, talking. Everyone is happy. Conversation is heavy. There is a great feeling in the air.
6:20 – I announce that I am taking a walk. All three kids come to join me. That has NEVER happened. Their grandparents come, too. We did not get much exercise, but again, conversation is heavy.
7:00 – I had planned to play a board game with the kids to help them through the trauma of the night. I don’t have to. Instead, halfway up the stairs, I hear them laughing and playing. I don’t want to mess that up. So, I grab a book and settle onto the new sofa.
8:00 – Everyone is suddenly on the sofa with me. I read out loud for a while, and then everyone goes their separate ways. The youngest is off to bed.
10:00 – My light is off. Tonya is still reading, but I’m already drifting off to sleep. The activity of the day has exhausted me. And now it’s over.
Some Lessons I Learned
So What Did I Learn From Our Unplugged Day? Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:
* I use TV/Radio as background noise. So often, all I wanted was something to cut the silence. I don’t even think I usually notice it. But when we talked into Christo’s, in the middle of a “quiet day”, it actually seemed loud. I rarely have the kind of silence I heard at times today. Am I afraid to it?
* I am also almost never STILL. I kept moving all day long. The next time we unplug, we may need to unplug more than electronics.
* When people get quiet, conversation happens.
* My kids would NEVER admit this, but they had a great day. It was good for them, too.
* When the clock is not ticking, my prayer time is much better. I had my best prayer time in a while on Thursday. I could have spent more time in prayer, too.
* There WILL be a next time. This was good for all of us.
* It was nice not to think about email/messages during the day – so nice that I almost dreaded checking them this morning.
* My friend Robert suggest that the challenge would be even better if we would commit to unplug for 3 consecutive days. I have pondered that since he said it. If I decided to try that, my kids would possibly revolt, and my wife may die of laughter. However, he may be onto something . . .
Anyway, that’s a battle for a different time. One day at a time . . .