Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh, For the Love of Pete, Just Leave Me Alone!!

Do you ever feel like this? Just when you settle in with a good book the phone rings. Or the doorbell. Or your cell phone.

Or maybe you're in the powder room, soaking in a bubble bath or, ahem, attending to other needs. Suddenly, a child's voice is demanding your attention from the other side of the door.

Or you come home from a busy day out to find your answering machine full of calls for you to return. No matter that you don't really want to talk to any of these people - the mere fact that they left you a message means that you are now obligated to return the call. To not do so would be rude.

In today's look at Dr. Richard Swenson's book, The Overload Syndrome we will look at how constant accessibility contributes to a sense of, well, being overloaded. Technology that has brought us the ability to keep in contact at any given time and any given place has also removed much of the privacy and the ability to take advantage of moments of solitude. It's a double-edged sword.

I often tell my husband (when I'm in the midst of complaining about not having enough time to myself!) that I envy the fact that he gets to drive to and from work every day. All. Alone. 90% of the time that I spend in the car, the children are with me. Now, my dear friend Laurie has children who get in the car and sit quietly and look out the windows. Everyone just chills out for a bit.

Not my son.

It's as if all the questions in his adorable, 10 year old mind suddenly rise to the surface and come spilling out. "Mom, if Darth Vader and Superman had a fight, who would win?" "Do you think are lizards in Dubai?" "Why is Pluto no longer considered a planet? And why don't we hear about the newly discovered planet UB-something or other (he knows the name and loves to bandy it about - me, I almost inadvertently called it Planet UB-40 before I realized that they probably don't have any Red, Red Wine there)?

But I digress.

All of these things make it impossible to just be alone; to have time with our thoughts. It used to be that one would have natural bits of quiet built into the day. Driving from one place to another. Meandering through a store. Going on vacation. But now you can check your email, make a phone call and check your messages from home. We are very rarely unplugged these days.

Now sometimes this is a good thing. But usually whatever we are emailing or calling about could certainly wait. Our society has made everything so urgent, that we fill up every moment trying to get it all done. The truth is, the tyranny of the urgent has blotted out what is truly important. A wonderful article on this subject is here. Reading it will help you see how Jesus stayed true to His priorities in the midst of constant demands on His time.

So what are we to do? How can we disconnect, if only for a short time, and regain some of that lost solitude that we all so desperately need? Here are some steps you may want to take:

  1. Be discerning - recognize that all technology will have both positive and negative consequences. Understand this and make decisions based on which consequence dominates. Look at both sides of the coin, not just how beneficial it is.
  2. Set boundaries - Protect your home and your family from unwanted intrusions. Turn the phone off during the dinner hour. Feel free not to answer the door if you aren't expecting someone. Hubby and I have declared Sunday afternoons until 4:00 as rest time. The neighborhood children know not to come over, the phones get turned off. We may nap or swim or whatever we choose to do, but it's OUR time.
  3. Control interruptions - Choose to go to a quieter room. Maybe head to the library for a while to work or study. Work later or night or earlier in the morning when you are less likely to be disturbed.
  4. Control the telephone - It is not against the law to not answer your phone. Turn it off or unplug it temporarily. Or just let the answering machine get it. Use caller id so you don't get trapped talking for hours with your neighbor when you need to be focusing on another task.
  5. Deactivate the answering machine - If it's truly important they will call back. This way the responsibility is on them, not you. This also prevents annoying games of telephone tag!
  6. Retreat - Once in a while try to get away. Maybe just an overnight at a local hotel. Or maybe declare a retreat at home with your family. Tell people you are taking a family vacation for the weekend, shut off the phones, order pizza and just hang out together.
  7. Actively seek solitude - Use it for rest. Use it to build your relationship with God and yourself. Cultivate a contemplative life. Don't be afraid of it. If you can be content when it's just you and God, you will never suffer from loneliness. Hey, if Jesus needed to go away for solitude, how much more do we?


Leeann said...


I so hear you. Some things I am good at. I have no problem not answering the phone. I only turn my cell phone on when I am leaving the house and pretty much only answer it if it is one of the kids' schools calling. But then again, I am and always have been social on my own terms. Now, separating myself from my computer...that is another issue all together!
Many years ago, when we met and our firstborns were little screaming babies, it was my lifeline and social outlet in a very confusing and emotional time.
Where am I going with this? No idea! lol


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