December 14, 2013

Without People & Cell Phones: How it Feels to be (Mostly) Alone this Weekend.

This weekend is the first weekend in as long as I can remember where I feel completely alone.

I have been unexpectedly and accidentally phone-less for a little over a week now. This is the first time in 10 years where I have been without a cell phone for any amount of time at all.

My first day without my phone, I had the thought, crap I really wish I had my phone right now!, six different times. There were three pictures I wanted to take, two text message chains I wanted to look through, and one thing I wanted to look up online.

It’s interesting to lose a phone (and I think I’m specifically talking about smart-phones, although I could be wrong—this could pertain to all cell phones).

There’s a sense of connectedness with a cell phone that doesn’t come with a computer, even though they do almost the same thing. As far as I can tell, the feeling of connectedness doesn’t come from the fact that a cell phone dials out and receives calls—it’s that having a cell phone makes us accountable for communicating.

It makes us accountable for getting back to people, and for answering text messages in an appropriate window of time; and it throws into sharp perspective who we are actively ignoring, or the people who are just below the threshold of what we deem important and so it is not necessary, therefore, to get back to them.

With my cell phone now gone, I’m not accountable for any of that stuff.

I can still mostly dial out and receive calls—if I plan my outings appropriately where I will have access to phones (usually just from the pockets of those around me). But what I’ve really lost is the feeling that I am accountable to be in contact with people.

A cell phone makes it so that at any given time, I can be in the middle of roughly seven or eight different conversations.

Not all of these conversations are dramatic, of course, that would be ridiculous. But they are still there, right past the lock screen, and they draw my attention to them whenever my attention has no where else to immediately be. And suddenly, I’m face-to-screen with my phone and I have decided that text messaging is more important than taking even five seconds to consider whether it might be a better use of my time to sit and watch life happen around me.

Of course I still want my phone, of course I still believe that I need my phone, and I would probably be writing differently if I knew I wasn’t going to get a phone very shortly.

But it isn’t just the phone that is contributing to the feeling of solitude.

My boyfriend is out of town this weekend.

We have been spending our entire weekend together pretty consistently for a while now. I spend most of my weekends with him because that is, quite honestly, the most enjoyable way to spend my time.

I considered, for maybe a minute and a half, spending the weekend in a sort of hazy whine—the way we sometimes kind of punish ourselves and have a mopey time when someone we love is away from us. It’s almost as if we are protesting their absence by having a crappy time without them. If we’re lucky we realize that the joke is on us because we are still the ones who are having the crappy time.

I then considered, for a longer period of time, filling my weekend with everything and everyone that has been categorized into my idea of having a good time: friends I want to see, gatherings I want to create, conversations I want to have with people, activities I have in mind, etc.

It initially sounded good to me to fill my entire weekend schedule to completion, so that moments alone involved only sleeping, cleaning, eating, and traveling.

I think that didn’t actually pan out because the idea of it is already exhausting. That, to me, feels like the whole cell phone thing—too much outward casting of my energy, like I’m throwing a whole bunch of fishing lines out to sea and I’m wildly flailing around the deck checking on the status of my poles screaming, Did I catch one yet? Did I catch one yet?!

Ultimately, it came to this: spending this weekend alone.

My communication with people has either significantly dwindled or disappeared completely, and I really only find myself in moments of human interaction when I am physically around other humans, which is new to me.

This weekend is the weekend where I get to look in the mirror and eye-lock with myself and actually take my pointer finger up and point (firmly, but not aggressively), and say, hey, you, I’m going to spend some time with you today and it’s going to be awesome. 

This means, as I sit here and write this, I am alone in my apartment.

The biggest connection I have with something around me isn’t even with the computer sitting on my lap—it’s with my Namaste wall-clock (I wasn’t sure if this was something I was going to love or hate when I got it, but it turns out I’m absolutely in love with it), which is chugging away second by second, reminding me that I have somewhere to be in three hours.

I don’t feel abandoned. I don’t feel disconnected. I don’t feel inadequate. I don’t feel rejected. I don’t feel lonely.

During various periods of aloneness throughout my life, I have felt all of those things with great distinction and great magnitude.

Right now I’m thinking, damn, I could really go for four hours.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: magic_quote & mat’s eye /Flickr.

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