Disconnecting, Mental Health, mental well being

The Power of Disconnecting

Offline wooden sign with a beach on backgroundTwo weeks ago, my S/O and I packed our bags, my daughter, and his grandson, and headed out for the airport to embark on a much needed vacation across the country.  We landed in Phoenix and drove about an hour away to his parents’ house, situated in a town in the Sonoran Desert.  We spent a day there, and then everyone loaded up vehicles and his parents’ boat, and drove north to the White Mountain Apache Reservation, destination, Hawley Lake.

The drive was nothing short of breathtaking.  Although I’ve spent quite a great deal of time in the southwestern US, I’d never been so far as were going, and the landscape, as we drove north, became bigger than life.  I couldn’t help but think that it’s vistas like these that helped inspire pre-Christian man in their own spiritual beliefs.  It was impossible to not see where the gods and myths came from.

As we headed up, the elevation growing higher, my phone’s battery began to swell, and at about 8,000 feet (2,438 metres), the back of my phone popped off completely.  Besides the obvious confusion and concern this inspired in both myself and S, I took it as a sign.  We knew that service would be all but non-existent once we arrived at Hawley Lake, our final destination, and we knew that there was no Wi-Fi or television either.  But apparently, my phone decided to go on strike well before that and so I was the first to become disconnected.

I was worried about the kids too.  They both had games loaded to their Nintendo Switch (each has their own), and S brought his laptop and some DVDs, but both kids are, like most kids, really attached to their gaming consoles.  How would they react to not having YouTube or being expected to play outside or socialise with family?

As it turned out, I need not have worried.  My own daughter discovered a love of fishing and willingly spent the days doing so, either in the boat or at the shore, from breakfast to lunch, and then again until sunset.  She also spent time with her newfound family playing card games and camp games, and when she wasn’t doing any of that, she was drawing at the picnic table on the cabin porch.  S’s grandson did spend more time swapping out game cards and watching movies on the laptop, but he spent a good deal of time playing outside as well.

As for me, my only regret in not having any connection to the outside world was that I was unable to take pictures and capture some of the more engaging moments and scenery.  Even then, I was reminded of the idea that we have become a society so consumed with capturing the moment in the most Instagrammable way, that we’ve stopped being fully present in those moments we try to capture, and our memories aren’t forming as well around them anymore.  I spent most of my time memorizing the landscape around me, breathing in the cold mountain air, and doing my best to be right there, right then.

The effect was energizing and palpable.  Neither myself nor my daughter wanted to leave the lakeside cabin, but the day came where that’s exactly what we had to do.  When we returned to the desert, my battery deflated and my phone was usable once again…but I had no interest in it.  Things had happened in the rest of the world while I was gone, and I didn’t know about them.  I felt wonderful in my willful ignorance.  After all, I could have logged in to Facebook or Twitter or even IG and read the news, but I wanted to hold on to that sense of being whole, complete, and happy a little longer.

It took over a week after getting home before I uploaded the trip pictures I managed to get, or were sent to me by those whose phones were working, to Facebook.  It took 9 days before I finally took a tentative scroll through my newsfeeds as well…and I was struck almost immediately at how grateful I was to have been forced into that willing exile from social media.  So, I did the most rational thing I could do.  I put the phone down and let it be.  I think it’s going to remain there for the foreseeable future.  I have no desire or inclination to inflict anxiety or anger on myself, especially after realising just how grateful, and how much happier I’ve been without it.

How about you?  Do you take breaks regularly from social media?  How do you disconnect and how do you feel after?  Let us know in the comments!