Recently, I got pulled over for driving while using my cell phone. To be clear, I was completely stopped at a stop light. Going 0 miles an hour. Glancing at my phone to double-check the address for my kid’s dentist. And yes, both kids were in the car. But yes, I was looking at my phone. While in the driver’s seat of the car.
Yep. Mommy got a time out.
Incidentally, it is a very unique experience to be pulled over (by a cop on motorcyle, no less!) while your four-almost-five year old is peppering you with questions: “Mommy, why is the policeman flashing his lights at you? What is he doing? Are you getting a ticket? What’s going on? Are you going to JAIL?” (For the record, my son seemed a little disappointed I wasn’t going to jail. He was pretty excited to see that the policeman was carrying a gun.)
At any rate, after getting over the fact that the cop wasn’t going to take pity on a harried mom in a cracker-infested Prius, I took my medicine, patiently waited for my traffic violation write-up and then we were once again on our way to the dentist.
I’m trying to figure out what the universe was trying to teach me through this experience (beyond the obvious lesson of not touching my cell phone in the car without an earpiece). One of the things I’ve been thinking about is managing my own screen time. Nice Tall Guy and I have spent a considerable amount of time discussing and devising strategies for sensibly managing our kid’s screen time and making sure we’re role modeling good behavior, too (often, more difficult than it sounds.)
But beyond managing our family’s digital life, I’ve been thinking more about my relationship to screens, electronic devices, and in fact, anything that seems to demand my attention. It’s so easy to react to things, to go on auto-pilot.
I recently did a weekend fast (limited to mineral broth, water and a morning smoothie), both for health reasons and in effort to find mental clarity. It felt really nice to have NOTHING scheduled for the weekend beyond hanging out with each other. And one of my big learnings was noticing the feelings that were coming up. And not reacting to them, but just noticing them. Almost meditating on them. Observing when feelings of hunger came up, what it felt like, and when it went away (for example, on day #1 I was ravenous and exhausted. On day #2, I was surprisingly not that hungry. I was, however, very happy to be done with the fast and CHEW food.)
How do I hold onto that learning and apply it to my everyday life? How do I respond to electronic do-dads, my kids, demands in life, instead of reacting to them? I’ll be the first to admit that some days I do better than others. Some days it just feels like life is happening to me.
But today, when I got in the car, I thought of this lovely little poem by the Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, I read years ago:
Before starting the car
I know where I am going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
If the car goes slowly, I go slowly.
And tomorrow, when I wake up (or one of my kids does that for me!), I’ll try to remember this one:
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.