My sister-in-law once told me that God whispers before he screams. I don’t think you need to be religious to appreciate the message. Often we are given signs-little nudges or indications that something is amiss or that something needs to change but we ignore them. For some reason though, her words have stuck with me over the years and they have certainly played a big role in my first official habit.
It is not so much adding a habit as kicking a habit. You see, I am an addict. My phone is my lifeline. I email, text, schedule, talk, browse and google nonstop. At first, it was because I was starting my clinic and needed to be connected, especially since my clinic is in another city. Then it was because we were renovating the house and I needed to stay on top of contractors, orders and deadlines. The next thing you know, my smartphone has become an appendage. I wake up and it’s the first thing I turn on. I go to bed and it’s the last thing I turn off. I check it non-stop. I am the annoying friend that is always on her phone, the irritating daughter, sister and wife who is always distracted, the multitasking mother that can’t stop texting. I always had excuses. I have so much to do. I am juggling so much. I just need to send this message, make this call or quickly look this up.
Then I heard the whisper. A couple of times, my son said, “Stop texting!”. My immediate response was that I was trying to schedule a playdate, register for soccer or call the dentist. An excuse to justify my behavior-but somewhere in my soul, it nagged me.
The whisper became louder. I went to Evergreen Brickworks and lost my phone. Ironically that was a day when I told myself I was going to put my phone away and focus on the time I had at the market with the boys. This was the day after two little boys were killed in a car accident in Parry Sound. I looked at my children and appreciated them a little more, hugged them a little tighter and said a little prayer for the poor mother that had lost her children. I told myself that I would be fine without my phone for a couple of hours and needed to focus on my children.
When I did look for my phone and realized it was gone, I was remarkably calm. I have suffered enough loss in my life to recognize that there are worse things than losing my phone. I left the boys with a friend and went hunting for it. I never found it. When I got back to the children, my friend had informed them that mommy had lost her phone. My 5 year old’s eyes opened wide as he exclaimed “You lost your phone! Oh my gosh Mummy! That’s really bad right? What are you going to do?”. I looked at him and thought wow, there’s a problem when my 5-year old sees me as being so attached to an object. It was very disconcerting.
Then the scream. I ended up having to buy a new phone. I left dinner with a friend after having just bought it and started downloading an app before I started driving. I got to a stoplight and glanced at the phone to see if the app had finished downloading. I didn’t push a button, I didn’t speak, nothing. Just glanced at it. Then I heard a banging on the window. An older man was pounding on my window yelling, “Don’t do that!”.
Ok. I get it. I finally get it!
So here’s my first habit. I will not touch my phone in the car. I feel this is particularly important since I am in the car a lot. I don’t text and drive but I certainly check my phone at the stop light or in traffic. I also make calls on my Bluetooth, play music or am generally engaged with it in some capacity. But now I have 2 young boys watching me. I want to set a good example. I don’t ever want them to text and drive or be otherwise distracted while driving. How can I tell them not to do it if they grow up watching me on my phone in the car? How can I tell them to put their phones down while I hold onto mine with a vise grip?
I also will not touch my phone after getting home with the boys after school. I will put it away and not check it again until after they are happily tucked away in their beds. I know it’s a cliché, but time is precious. My boys deserve a few hours of my time that is uninterrupted by my phone.
This is the habit I want to kick. I think it will be tough. But I know it will be worth it. I have heard the scream; it’s time for action.