Last week my friend Jenn posted an article from the NY Times entitled "Ahem! Are you talking to me?: Keep your thumbs still when I am talking to you". It is a fantastic article and confirmed for me, once again, that being present, connecting deeply with those around you and focusing on what is truly important is what life is all about.
I was in St.George working diligently away on the patio with Krissy when I read this article. We had finished all of our planning for R2R2R and needed to get our work done so we could focus our energies on running on Tuesday. When I started my own business, I implemented a few things that keep me focused on my work when I am working such as Rescue Time and StayFocused so I would not invent things to do (like checking facebook or reading blogs) to avoid the important tasks. I feel like I have successfully decreased my frivolous internet surfing when I have important work to do and yet, I realized that I wasn't going far enough. I was being focused in my work, but still distracted in daily life.
I feel like most everyone I know is way to tethered to their phones, their emails, facebooks and twitter accounts. I realized after reading the 4HWW that I had fallen into that trap and was missing out on a lot of the good stuff in life, the real connections, because I was too busy trying to keep up with the endless stream of information. It was a bad habit and I had decided to kick it. When I read this article, it sunk in that I didn't just need to do it for myself, I needed to do it for those around me. I don't want to be rude to my friends, I don't want to make them feel that they aren't valued and I definitely don't want to affirm that pulling out our phones mid-sentence is ever a proper thing to do.
Life unplugged: dinner with family.
Before I went to St.George, I was making small steps towards breaking this habit-looking into getting rid of my iPhone, spending less leisure time on the internet, etc. When I was in St. George, I was able to see the real benefit of unplugging. I made a conscious effort not to tote my phone with me to the dinner table or when I was interacting with new and old friends. Instead, every night Krissy, Bryce and Melanie and I lingered over homemade dinners and talked for hours. I had several incredible and deep conversations with each of them before retiring to bed for further contemplation. We even shared some beautiful moments messing around on the guitar, piano and singing songs that I haven't thought of since I went to Flying Horseshoe Ranch as a kid. When I got around to looking on the internet or my phone, I had missed nothing. Instead, I had deep rich meaningful interactions, thoughts and felt completely present.
There are beautiful things all around, if you'd just look up from your phone!
I noticed subsequently how easy it was to leave it behind (the internet and phone) and refocus on more meaningful things. Even if that just means reading a book instead of a blog. Writing a recipe instead of drooling over photos of food. Calling a friend instead of posting on their facebook. Lingering at the dinner table with family and friends. I am not arguing that we should completely abandon technology or live a disconnected life. Instead, I am suggesting that we should reshift the balance. Find the reconnection to the life in front of us, instead of the virtual one at our fingertips.
I think one of the things I have always loved about long distance running is the inherent disconnection. The disconnection from the constant bombardment of information and the reconnection to the present moment. Running with friends and training partners makes you fully present to them and they to you. Running by yourself brings you back into yourself. When people ask me what I think about when running such long distances, I can only answer "whatever is present to me at that particular moment". Krissy asked me when we were running the R2R2R if I ever wrote my blog posts in my head while running the race and I definitely have that sensation. However, its not that I am actually writing a blog in my head, it is that I am hyper conscious of my own narrative stream of the present, I am talking myself through whatever I am facing. My blogs rarely reflect things the way they would if those moments and thoughts were captured in time. Running makes me present inherently. There have been plenty of times when I have tried to turn off my brain or get out of the moment, but I simply cannot. I absolutely love that. And like a lot of lessons in running, I try to model this in the rest of my life.
The more I disconnect, the more real and beautiful the world seems. I feel genuine connections. I feel inspired daily. I feel reinvigorated and curious. I feel more at ease and less frantic. I feel like I am becoming the person I want to be and living the life I want to lead. It may seem like a small thing, it may seem like a huge ridiculous thing, but I've come to think about it this way: as the years pass and life flicks by in an instant, what will I remember? I will remember the good people I've met and the bonds I've created. I will be filled with memories of time spent doing things I loved. I will value the life I lived which was rich and full. I will remember the real life I had when I unplugged and disconnected.