I was running errands the other day, walking down Park Avenue South when  I stopped at a corner.  No big deal- that’s what you do when walking the city streets- you stop at the corner.  The only difference was, I could see the westbound street was closed to traffic- there would be no car intersecting my path.  Yet I stopped anyway.  Why?  Because I did it by rote- 30 years of crossing streets in New York – I stop at the corners.

I think certain aspects of repetitive behavior are fine- brushing teeth, washing hands…..I even believe that school kids should be taught to memorize the times tables (in my mind 5×5=25- I know there is a reason for that, but at the end of the day, 5×5=25 is 5×5=25, because it is.  I don’t want to hear they need to show work, or draw 5 groups of 5 sticks, or be told it’s OK if they got the wrong answer as long as the work is right- tell that to a boss when the till is constantly off- “I know I gave out the wrong change- but my process was right)  Oh wait- I digress- where was I?

Rote. Unconscious behavior.  Doing an action without even thinking about it.  When I wake up in the morning I look at my phone- reflexively.  I check the time, I check the message bar for texts, emails or missed calls.  I check the weather.  I just do it without thinking.

How often to you unconsciously pick up your phone to check, let’s just say, the time?  There are times we legitimately need to know the time- but most of the time, do you just reflexively do it?

This past weekend, Husband and Daughter spent some time at a relatives rented beach house.  This family consists of 3 kids, 12 and under and Mom and Dad.  The beach house had a pool complete with floats and pool toys,  a tennis court and a foosball table- I think there was even a basketball hoop.  There was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle open on the table, a bunch of board games on a shelf.  There were plenty of things to do.

My family went out to play tennis.  When they got to the court they realized there was a wasp infestation on the court.  Even though the host family had been there a week, no one had gone out to the tennis courts- they had no idea there were so many bugs you couldn’t play.

Daughter wrote up a foosball round robin tournament schedule.  There would be no prizes- just everyone playing the same game at the same time.  This was met by a chorus of “Oh- I don’t know” and “Maybe later”.  Eventually, she got the young boys to play.  But not the girl or the parents.

When they went out to dinner, the host family just pulled out their cell phones the moment they sat at the table.  My Husband tried to talk to the other Guy- but other guy was staring at his screen.  There was no actual conversation.  The only utterances were the Mom telling the kids what they could, and more often, could not eat.  “Stop eating bread.  No- you can’t get the ribeye- it has too much fat.”

Now- I wasn’t there for this meal- I was happily cleaning my apartment, watching our pets…..so how can I recreate this scene?  Because this family is on autopilot- they do the same thing every time they are anywhere.  They might all be in the same room, but they are acting as individuals, not a family unit.  They sit down, they pick up their electronic device.  They don’t talk.  It is habit.

What a habit.  Sit down with your family and pick up your phone.  I think that will be my New Years resolution.  I mean really, what’s the point of vacation if you need to talk to the other members of your family.  jigsaw puzzles?  Who does those anymore? (you  can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand- but our tradition is a winter holiday jigsaw puzzle- but I’m digressing again…)

Does a family need to play games together to be happy?  Do a Mom and Dad need to go into the pool with the kids?  Does a family need to talk to one another?  Or should we all just be on autopilot, looking at one another, but not seeing.  Hearing one another, but not listening.  Sharing space with people, but not sharing lives.  Picking up our phones because they are there, that flashing screen is infinitely more interesting…..

And I love my smart phone.  I love my ipad. I often look at them because they are there, because it is learned behavior. But maybe picking them up should be done consciously, when I have a legitimate reason- like reading all your blogs……



31 thoughts on “I Did it Without Thinking

  1. Good points. Rote behavior. I know what you mean about stopping at corners. I do it looking at my phone and just stop a few feet before, knowing the whole game you need to play to be safe. Not too close to the curb. Watch out for bikers. Watch for people crossing the wrong way. A mess!

    Great ideas in the post. That family should read this post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This technical world we live in now – I love it and hate it! I love it as it’s amazing. The world is a smaller place, the worlds information is now at our fingertips, I could go on, but I’m sure you know what I mean, but then my son’s come home and as they’re visiting/talking to us etc they are constantly on their phones, barely looking up. That’s when I hate it, but I know I have to consciously put my own phone down when I’m at my mum’s! I am actually thankful I personally grew up with no electronic devices, playing outside, running around, time with family, talking at meal times etc etc

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Love this. If I go somewhere, I make a conscious effort to leave my phone alone. I feel it is rude to be among others staring at a screen.
    We eat meals as a family, and no screens then either.
    I do feel smartphones have hindered how “present” we are in our lives vs distracted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s amazing how many of our behaviours are just hardwired default programs. Like, people can bend over and tie their shoes without interrupting the conversation they’re involved in because people don’t have to THINK about how to tie their shoes. When I first got clean and people told me to make 90 meetings in 90 days, I didn’t realize that it was a trick to get me to hardwire a new default program into my brain (otherwise, I might not have done it). These days, when I start feeling squidgy, my default is to make a meeting.

    Ultimately, I said all that to say this: you’re absolutely right. I need to stop defaulting to my “black mirror ” and start being fully present in the moment.

    And if you’ve never watched “black mirror” then do yourself a favor and go binge it ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Consciously, like when I’m reading your blog, too. Good read. Families need to see, talk and play together. Be present over presents. It takes work these days to stay in the moment but worth every effort.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, yes indeed, “black mirror” is that good. It’s as terrifying a look at our potential future as things like “the running man” and “robocop” and “terminator” were back in their day and “the matrix” was in its day

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You have excellent points in this post. This is unfortunately the norm with many families these days. My mom has established that there are no devices at the lunch/dinner table. We actually have to talk to each other. My brother and sister-in-law come over for dinner a couple times a month so it’s a nice time. I did allow my niece to break that rule yesterday because she was having a particularly rough day and it was the only thing keeping her calm.

    There are things I do on rote, like looking at my phone for the time (either cell or office phone depending on where I am) or stopping at a corner or apologizing every time I perceive that I’m in someone’s way (whether I am or not). But you have very valid points about actually setting aside some of these automatic habits to form relationships with each other.

    Do you have to play games together or do jigsaw puzzles or whatever? Not necessarily, but spending quality time together means no devices, no distractions.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always wonder why people go out together at all if they are not going to talk to one another while there. Have to check in so the whole FB world knows what you are doing! Things we do by rote should be things that need to be done so it is an automatic. That being said I put my directional on when turning onto a street when there is no other way to go! I say excuse me when I step in front of someone in a supermarket aisle because that was what I was taught to do. By the way, have a jigsaw puzzle going most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We were just at the park watching the eclipse….they suggest not taking pictures, so all I could think was, how does anyone know this happened if there are no selfies? But in another note, it was awesome seeing thousands if people all together capturing a moment in history


  9. We have family game night every Friday night. Sometimes we play golf or bowling on the Wii but mostly we play board games, and my 10 year old loves it. We also have a small trailer and do as much camping as we can sans electronics. (Okay, I take my phone but turn it off when we get to the campsite. Most times we don’t have coverage anyway.) We have never had a tv in our trailer and survive just fine. And yes we do seasonal puzzles all the time. It’s not easy bringing up a child to have a balanced life but I am giving it my best shot.

    Liked by 2 people

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