My husband and I recently took a five-day vacation to celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary.
Because we had only taken two trips without the children in eight years, we chose a very tropical and very romantic location.
In doing so, we chose a destination that is prime for honeymooners. We found ourselves surrounded by fresh-faced young couples with shiny new bling and adoring gazes. To see the starry-eyed newlyweds not only reminded my husband and I where we had started, but just how far we had come.
On the morning after our arrival, we were thoroughly enjoying a leisurely breakfast, (which equates to not cutting up anyone else’s pancakes or scarfing down our food without actually tasting it), when the peacefulness was awkwardly interrupted.
The young woman at the table next to us began reading several of her friends’ Facebook status updates aloud to her husband. It was apparent she found them hysterically funny as her speech flow was continually halted with fits of laughter.
I tried to continue the conversation I was having with husband about our upcoming morning hike when the woman began announcing the latest Twitter comments of her favorite celebrity.
My Hands Free journey is not about deciding if other people’s behavior is right or wrong; it is not about classifying actions as appropriate or inappropriate. I am on a journey to work on me (and believe me, there is plenty to work on). However, I would have to live in a cave if my observations of technology usage in public did not influence my decision to live Hands Free.
I had already decided I would not turn on my phone during this trip except to periodically call my sister and parents who were watching my children. I left my laptop at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to type up a quick blog post, check email or waste time on Facebook. And after this observation at breakfast, I knew I had made the right decision for me (and my marriage).
What solidified my choice to have a technology-free vacation was not the behavior of the woman reading off the screen of her iPad, it was the look on the man’s face sitting across from her.
Apathy? Boredom? Embarrassment? Disappointment? Sadness? I am not about to guess…only he knows for sure how he felt at that moment.
But I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from his face. There was this look like he wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else….only he knows for sure.
I am certain about one thing, though. I am certain that at times in my chaotic stressed out, over-committed non-Hands Free life, my husband wore that same expression.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals.
Thank God for second chances.
So for five glorious days on our tropical get-away, my husband and I were technology free. Not only did we both abandon our phones and computers, but we never once turned on the TV in our hotel room. And by “turning off” we were able to fully focus on each other. The outside world could not permeate the bubble we created where only one other person mattered.
Not only did I let go of technology distraction, but I also surrendered to “planning distraction.” I vowed to be spontaneous and just simply let things happen.
Yet despite not being on a time schedule, we found ourselves sitting in the same place, at the same time, four nights in a row.
For the first time in my life, I saw four consecutive sunsets.
Each night, my husband and I arrived on the beach shortly before the sun went down and remained there as the sky transformed to a new mosaic design of pastel perfection every few seconds.
And in those hours sitting side by side in beach chairs against a backdrop of fiery hues, I learned things I didn’t know about my husband of fourteen years. My husband listened to newfound dreams that I didn’t have fourteen years ago. We got to know each other again, the “fourteen years later” version of the person we love even more than we did on our wedding day.
I didn‘t know there could be a Sunset Moment inside a Sunset Moment, but I do now.
As you know, I am about living in realness. So I feel it’s important to include something here. My husband and I shared great conversations on this trip, yes. Without a doubt, our exchanges were at a deeper level than they are at home. But it wasn’t like that every minute of the vacation. We didn’t find ourselves conversing every single moment. We weren’t constantly pouring our hearts out or whispering seductively in each other ears like over-the-top lovers in a Harlequin romance.
Sometimes we just shared moments of silence.
Now here’s the critical part: In those silences, I didn’t reach for my phone to kill time or fill in the conversational void. I didn’t flip on the TV or the Internet to see the latest news. And after a few moments of quiet tranquility, something would come to mind for him or for me…sometimes it was something simple, but other times it was something meaningful that I was thankful I didn’t miss.
And in one of those conversational lulls, I asked myself a question that I vowed not to forget: When I am at home in my every day life, how often do I reach for “distraction” if my husband and are not actually conversing? How often do I grab for something insignificant to fill the void of the silences?
And when I do, I can pretty much guarantee conversation will not happen. When I reach for distraction, (which comes in many forms, not just technology), I kill any chance I have at a meaningful exchange.
Distraction has a sneaky way of preventing human connection without me even realizing it.
Near the end of our trip, my husband and I took a spontaneous eight-mile hike to the island’s historic lighthouse. The rustic trail was comprised of crushed shells along the exquisite shoreline.
A few feet off the beaten track, I noticed some plastic red flowers sticking out of the ground. I told my husband I wanted to check it out.
And there lovingly surrounded by sun-bleached, weathered seashells was a headstone.
When I read the engraving, I knew I was looking at Hands Free evidence at its best, a divine sign along my journey indicating the path I am on is the right one.
The top line on the headstone read: In loving memory of our sunsets together.
Someone’s dearest love was 74-years-old when she passed.
In the end, it’s the sunset moments that matter, my friends. Perhaps even the ones that happen in the silences.
I’m going to collect them while I still can.
Pick a day to evaluate how often you reach for distraction to fill the void of silence, pass wait time, or avoid doing something you rather not do. If such an urge strikes you, first notice if you are in the company of someone you care about. If you are, try conversing with that person or wait in peaceful silence together until a topic comes to mind.
By choosing conversation over distraction, you may just discover something you didn’t know about your five-year-old child, your fifteen-year-old teenager, your sixty-eight-year-old mother, or your spouse of twenty years.
Instead of reaching for distraction, go for the Sunset Moment.
The Joined In Silence by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.