Here I Am
Experiments in being there
My wife’s birthday is tomorrow. She wanted a particular necklace. I asked for the link until one day she said, “I just ordered it for myself. Thought that would be easier.”
The male in me loved this. He leaped for joy that marital gift-giving just reached a new level of efficiency. I imagined how Henry Ford felt when he first saw the conveyor belt rolling, reducing the time it took to build a car from 12 hours to 30 minutes. No more guessing, web-browsing, asking her mother, or tracking down friends for gift ideas.
Another side of me was disappointed. In five years we have reached a new bottom in predictability. It was this side of me that asked, “Is there anything else I can do?”
I paused in the gaping realization that I would have to do whatever she asked next. Exit strategies flooded my brain.
“Yes,” she said as if she were waiting for it, “there is. Give me you for a day. Just you. No screens, no work, just you.”
I obliged. Today I took my first true personal day from work in 7 years of employment. I took the day off for her.
If my present was to be my presence, I wanted to go all out. I told her I would do the unthinkable. I would leave my phone at home. This is hard for us millennials.
Ah yes. I am a millennial. When I discovered this, I was devastated. I am the oldest of a generation scapegoated as the ruin of society by those who don’t understand technology; the generation inheriting a hand-to-mouth middle class economic survival plan called a job, but keeping the stubborn American individualism that doesn’t ask for help. (See here for an excellent article on that.)
I am in the same generation as the students I teach. It is the generation whose attention span is so short-lived, the psychology books may have to change the number of items a human can hold in working memory from 7 to 5 (just a hunch, don’t quote me). It is the generation that doesn’t know how to write down directions, or tell time on an analog clock.
And I hate myself when I go without my phone and feel the same misery my students feel when I confiscate theirs. I feel the same disconnect, the same fear of missing out.
But it was a good day.
I embarked to be there for coffee, lunch, and a movie.
It’s sort of like the week before visiting the dentist when you brush three times a day and floss real well to make up for the other 51 weeks of negligent oral care. Or when you realize you’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching TV shows so you cram a book in one day.
I tried to compensate for months of disregard in one binge day of my full attention.
I was hoping to write about the miracles of a mundane day-date with my wife. How we re-kindled the fire for each other, fanned the flames of love, held hands in the sunlight, or laughed in our soul’s core.
But none of that shit happened. And I realized that was the point. We talked. We ate. We watched a movie then picked the kids up.
It was a good day, good because it didn’t have to be great.