By Ben Greenman
I would like to say that I unplugged because of an interest in higher orders of spirituality and connectedness, but the truth is that my wife gave me an ultimatum.
“I’m sick of this,” she said. “You have the phone on your night table when you go to sleep.”
“To listen to the news,” I said. “Like a radio.”
“And then I wake up and it’s in your hand.”
“To check the time,” I said. “Like an alarm clock.”
“But a clock radio’s not always occupying your head and your hands. And you don’t take an extra thirty seconds with a clock radio to text a friend or watch a video or look up obscure song lyrics.”
“Though that would be a good clock radio,” I said.
“Stop it,” she said. “I’m serious.” When someone says they’re serious in a joking tone, you can joke back. When someone says they’re serious in a serious tone, it’s a good idea to try to do what they’re telling you to do, particularly if the person doing the telling is a usually patient wife.
I didn’t completely unplug in the sense that I did away with all devices. I used my Sonos speakers, along with one smart lightbulb I got as a novelty gift but that ended up being immensely helpful for brightening or dimming my office. But I did what she said. I put my phone out of arm’s reach while I slept or ate or sat and read. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t holding it. It was that I didn’t, for a moment, know exactly where it was. During those times. I couldn’t check for emails or texts. I couldn’t look at Twitter feeds.
I’d like to report that it changed everything. The truth, though, is that it changed only small things. I felt more relaxed. I recovered some measure of internal monologue. I got to do different things with my hands—I started doodling again, which hasn’t happened since the early part of the century. But those are seeds, and seeds grow.
What can you do when you unplug?
Ben Greenman is a New York Times-bestselling author who has published both fiction and nonfiction. His most recent novel is The Slippage.