In fact, when asking someone how they are doing, two of the most common responses I hear are “Busy” and “Tired.” Unfortunately, American culture applauds busyness, cultivates exhaustion, and makes the next rung on the corporate and family ladder always more shiny and appealing than the one we’re on. We’re told to do more, be more, achieve more. We’re told that by Tweeting and using Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat that we’ll be more connected with the world. But let’s be honest–we’re not. Instead, we’re consumed with repeatedly scrolling through out news feed like robots, afraid to miss something that might have happened in the last hour, all the while, we’re ignoring the real people and relationships that are right around us.
How many times have you gone to dinner and sat with someone who is more engaged in texting the person on their phone than talking with you as you sit right across the table from them? Not only is that annoying, but it also communicates a lack of importance and value.
I’m convinced that if we’re not careful, these crazy, busy lives we lead can become more about existing than about actually living. Look at the Germans. Their average work week is 35 hours–not 40 hours, not 60 hours–35 HOURS. Checking Facebook or personal emails during work hours is strongly frowned upon, however, they are also not allowed to bring home work from the office. They work hard, but they also play hard. Getting 25-30 paid vacation days a year is the norm, and taking a month-long vacation is quite ordinary. This combination has made them more–not less–productive and happy. Can you imagine if our American society did that? Frankly, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.
This past weekend, my wife and I went away to the mountains for some time together. We rented an old train caboose that had been renovated into a beautiful bed and breakfast. It was stunning. Not only was it very romantic to sleep in a caboose and enjoy the claw-foot tub next to the bed and private hot tub on the deck, but it was also in a quiet spot on the river away from the hustle and bustle of life. And guess what? There was no cell phone reception. It was glorious.
I loved being able to unplug from life for a couple days and know that I couldn’t be bothered. Yet, in all honestly, I also caught myself (more than once) impulsively grabbing my phone to scroll through my feed. It’s ingrained in me and has become a habit-one I’m trying hard to break.
My wife and I talk often about finding a slower pace of life once she retires from the military. We dream of having a plot of land where houses aren’t lined up next to each other like sardines in a can. We dream of gardening and reading and yoga. But a slower pace of life doesn’t just happen.
It must be cultivated. It must be intentional. It must be on purpose.
If it’s not, then this fast-paced cycle of life will just continue to repeat itself until one day, we’ll wake up at the age of 80 and wondered where our lives have gone. That’s not how I want to live.
This year, I’m working hard on connecting more with real people–picking up the phone, making time for human interaction, finding ways to help others–and trying hard to minimize my time on social media. It’s a vacuum that, more often than not, leaves me feeling less connected with others and more drained of real energy.
During this season in our country where politics are inundating our news feeds, it’s easy to get depressed, frustrated, and angry. Limiting time on social media not only helps with our mood and sanity, it also creates space for the more valuable things in life like cuddling with your spouse by the fire, or reading a good book, or playing with your pups on the floor. These are the kind of things that create not only meaning, but memories.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live an unstoppable speed that causes my life to rush past me in a blur as I look out the train window. Rather, I want to sit on the deck of that caboose enjoying breakfast and coffee with my wife in stillness and calm, purposefully cultivating our life together and creating memories that will last.
At the start of this new week, I am challenged yet again to be intentional in my relationships, limit my time on social media, and deliberately live every day of my life to the fullest.