When I was in high school, my older cousin went off to join the marines. He came back from training… bootcamp(?) (Dear marines, may we just lay the ground rules right now that I am going to get all these terms wrong?) with plenty of new experiences, stories, and rules for life.
I won’t get into it, because that is not my story to tell, but what I will tell you is that my mom heard one of these new rules and adopted it as her own. Yes, loves… my mom’s passion for self-improvement was so ardent that she voluntarily held herself to the standard of a marine. And people wonder where I got my crazy… But, yeah, she heard that correspondence in the marines requires “instant and willing” response as a sign of respect and responsibility, and she NEVER LOOKED BACK. She had always been great about keeping in touch with people, but from that point on she became the master. Texts, emails, calls, thank you cards, thinking of you cards, really ANY type of card, she was on it. I can still imagine her guilt tripping me by wagging her finger playfully and urging with a sing-song “instantly and willingly!”
Fast forward to 2019, and I just spent three hours trying to catch up on all my unread texts and instagram messages from half a month of letting it slip. I saved this activity specifically for my day off cause y’know what?! The more you respond, the more you get responses back, and now they just keep comin’ in. What was once my lovely empty notifications, just ten minutes ago, is now 8 new unread messages. This is my own personal circle of hell.
I want to respond instantly and willingly, but I want my responses to be thoughtful and not rushed, I can’t keep my brain focused on multiple conversations at one time, and I certainly can’t multitask with my phone and the person physically in front of me. I’m an all or nothin’ kind of girl. Sometimes I feel like owning a smartphone is directly opposed to my personal hardwiring… I’m not a marine. I don’t have the training, the skillset, or the aptitude. I once teased a recruiter in high school that I would only join if I was allowed to bedazzle my uniform… we see the issue here.
Sometimes I get to feeling so horribly guilty about this. That my mom would be so disappointed in me. That I am not a disciplined person. That I let my friends down and show them that I don’t care about them. And you know what? YEAH. Some of that is true. And then there’s the other truth that I’m just getting by the best way I know how.
The other day, someone texted me and I responded immediately. She replied “impressed. Some new record for you. I’m gonna screenshot the time stamp. For the books.” What she didn’t realize at the time was that I had just taken my new anxiety medication for the first time. I felt more capable to answer my phone than I had in a long time. But I don’t think that I am predisposed to anxiety or absolutely need the medication… I think we are grappling with a new reality.
The human species began, loosely speaking, around 2 million years ago. Agriculture, and civilization as we know it, began around 12,000 years ago. And like, I got that from the Smithsonian website so BLAME THEM if you think I’m wrong. Scientists in Athropology and Sociology have differing schools of thought on how to definitively categorize the difference stages of evolution, but let’s keep in simple. The beginning of human use of “mechanics” began in 1450. That’s when we started finding ways for man-made things to do the work for us. My point is that OUT OF THE 2 MILLION YEARS WE HAVE BEEN AROUND, only 569 of those years have been super focused on technological advancement as we would describe it today. We didn’t evolve as a species with screens as a factor. So yeah. Sometimes my phone stresses me out.
I want to make my mom proud. I don’t like the fact that she would be disappointed in me. I want to be present for the people around me. I don’t want to be glued to my phone with my attention split. I don’t want to have to take a pill in order for answering texts to not feel like a monumental task. When people are really good at it, I marvel at them. I envy them. I’m just not them. Could I get better? Probably, yeah. Am I gonna figure out how to do that overnight? Definitely not. Is it helpful to beat myself up over my shortcomings in the meantime? UM, NO.
And I feel like most of the time my posts wind down to this- we can only do the best we can with what we are given. I was handed an introverted, sensitive personality and a tendency towards social overwhelm. I have encountered some difficult life events that made me currently more susceptible to anxiety and depression. That’s all okay. I am going to keep growing and striving and learning… and I hope you can all forgive me while I do that. I promise to do the same for you. We are up against some crazy odds. In so many ways. I love you.