Forever emptiness/wonderful moment

Like most of adult America, when I saw this Louie CK video on Facebook last week, it struck a nerve.

My kids aren't old enough to own cell phones (YET) so the power of this for me isn't about parenting, it's about my own practice of living. The nerve it struck resides close to that deep dark "forever empty" place inside me.

I've long struggled with using my phone in moderation around other people, and have drawn lines about when and how I use it in front of my children and with my husband and friends. But after watching this video, I was struck with sickening regret by how, when any quiet, private moment appears, I instinctively reach for my phone. Did anyone text, are there any new emails, what's going on on Twitter, who's updated Facebook, and on and on until it's been half an hour and this happens multiple times a day. So on Friday I thought, okay, anytime I sit down and have a moment to myself I'll leave my phone in my pocket and just sit there and feel it. Whatever "it" is at that moment.

Exhaustion, frustration, resignation, boredom are all fine, manageable. Forever emptiness, less so.

And you know what? Forever emptiness feels like CRAP.

I don't want to feel the forever emptiness because it sometimes feels like it's more powerful than me, like it might swallow me whole. Honestly, I let it take over too often; it's a fun bonus feature of my porous, depressive personality. So perhaps I am hard wired to look for distractions, like reading novels, like fiddling with my phone, to fill quiet moments with something, ANYTHING.

When does something stop being a balm and start being a crutch?


On Sunday, I went to my groovy little church. The sermon centered on Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness teachings, on finding the calm center within us, not only in quiet peaceful moments but in the dark treacherous ones as well.

Of his many meditation practices, the minister highlighted this one:

Breathe in, present moment.
Breathe out, wonderful moment.

As tears rolled down my face, I knew I had something to focus my still moments. I have a well of strength inside of me to combat the forever empty. I can feel the sadness, but I can also press past it with the strength of my own positive intention.

Perhaps the quiet moments don't have to be filled with a phone, but they also don't have to be given over to sorrow.


I can't find my phone at the moment. It's somewhere in the house, I'm sure. Maybe in the laundry pile or wedged in the couch cushions or tucked in a sweatshirt pocket. It feels odd not to have it beside me. I rarely lose it these days because I am rarely far from it.

But I'm not rushing around trying to find my phone right now. It's okay. It'll turn up.

I relish the connection to friends and family and the thrumming pulse of the internet my phone gives me. I embrace the easy distraction, which at times can be a gift and a balm and, okay fine, sometimes a crutch.

A crutch can help us lurch through our days when we need it. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all. Keep moving forward, even if it's lurching, even if it's leaning on a crutch a little too heavily some days.

Moderation in anything isn't easy. But I don't think we need to throw away our smart phones any more than we need to stay glued to them at every possible moment. Nurturing our connection to the world is wonderful. Nurturing our connection to the strong peaceful part inside of us is also wonderful.

Present moment, wonderful moment.


grammalouie said...

I am going to Kenya for three weeks and, although my phone will be with me, I do not intend to use it. It'll be there for emergency purposes only. At least that is what I am telling myself. I will report back on this experience. I suspect it will be one of total relaxation, immersion in the present moment and detachment from the world outside the bush. Stay tuned!

Pamela Hunt Cloyd said...

I thought I was OK with my phone but this hit a nerve with me too. You describe it so well - that forever emptiness. SO HARD. I feel lie it will swallow me too sometimes. :(

Kathi D. said...

I think it is a big problem our culture is facing right now. For the first time I think technology is bad (which is a lot for a girl from Silicon Valley to say!). I commend you for trying to fill those empty moments with something more meaningful. I am going to try as well. Baby steps...

Emily said...

I know all too well what you mean by filling the emptiness. For what it's worth, I don't think reading a book (an actual physical book) is a crutch. I have a habit - started in college - of baking when I am feeling. So yes, I pretty much bake something every day. Maybe you need some sort of physical task (cooking, gardening, sewing) to fill some of those big spaces.

I am rather backwards when it comes to technology and only got a smartphone about a year ago but oh how I feel the pull of it and I don't like it.

One thing I did was NOT to install apps for facebook, etc. If I want to use it on my phone I have to go through the web browser. I also disabled all the "push" notifications from everything but texts and actual phone calls so my phone does not beep or vibrate every time someone uploads a photo to photostream or comments on facebook or sends me an email. I also don't have any games on my phone other than words with friends (and I play that only with my mom - she likes to chat through it and it helps us stay connected).

I have thought about quitting facebook all together (I have gone on fasts where I don't use it for a week or so) and I also contemplate giving up my cell phone and going back to a land line only (gasp!) but I am actually pretty attached to the camera on my phone and I find I take more pictures now then I used to. We will see what happens.

(Aside: we only have one TV - a big older tube model. When it dies I am going to lobby Husband that we don't replace it.)

Sometimes I think I would make a good Amish person. Minus the religion.

grammalouie said...

Guess what, folks, three weeks in the bush of Kenya on safari without a cell phone was the best I could have imagined. There IS life without it I discovered.

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