This quote comes from a recent article in The New York Times on the Myth of Quality Time. One of my very best lady friends posted a link to the piece and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Not only do I love the story of author Frank Bruni’s annual family vacation, but so many of his observations hit me…hard.
For many years, putting down technology and being present when I spend time with the people who matter most has made it to the top of my “New Years Resolutions.” Put down the phone and have a conversation. No phones at the dinner table. Go for a walk with someone instead of watching a television show.
And I’ve made significant strides. Though, admittedly, I’m still glued to technology.
This morning, I read another article written by Scott Dinsmore about disconnecting to connect. About how scary it is to disconnect because of the fear of missing out or what others would think if they didn’t see a blog post published in a few weeks. That people would just stop caring, that his community would disappear. The article was about how the pause is priceless. And how “That gap between stimulus and response is where the real world takes place.”
I knew I had to write about both of these pieces.
They’re both so spot on in their messages. We can try and cordon off meals or afternoons or coffee dates and impose connectedness. We can turn our phones off at dinner or choose to take a walk and talk. And that’s good! As Bruni writes, “Better to spend 15 focused, responsive minutes than 30 utterly distracted ones.”
But what I’ve come to realize (not only with the help of these articles, but through conversations with friends and family) is that’s not enough. It’s not enough to turn your phone or computer or iPad or television off for a few hours. If we don’t actively spend extended time in-person with the ones we love, we miss out on experiences and conversations we may not have had otherwise. It’s in the moments of unplanned presence that we experience true connectedness. We can’t control the timing of human vulnerability. We can’t control when our friends will share a private, unknown story. We can’t control when our family will open up about their beliefs.
“Sustained proximity is the best route to the soul of someone.” – Bruni
It’s not just about pausing for the people we’re with. It’s also about pausing for us. Pausing so we can breathe, so we can take a minute and think about what we want from life. So we can assess where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there before the opportunity is lost. After all, time stops for no one.
Dismore mentions how vacation has really just become glorified telecommuting. How we don’t actually ever truly unplug. Even if we’re not actively checking email, we’re still thinking about the emails coming in and if we should check in. Social Media is always pinging us. Wifi is everywhere, which I’m not necessarily complaining about, but it enables us to always be connected, but never truly connected to the people we’re present with, or with ourselves.
“The pause is disappearing. That priceless space that allows us to think big, to reflect, to plan, to create — it’s becoming harder and harder to find. Which means our responsibility to save it is greater than ever.” – Dinsmore
I don’t have a concrete solution. Yes, I’m still going to make efforts to shut off technology during dinner, to go for a walk with The Boyfriend or a friend and talk instead of watching TV. But I’ll also be thinking about both of these pieces and doing my best to pause and spend as much true quality time with the people I love. Spend more time with the people I love. Those are the moments I don’t want to miss.