The Devil of Checking

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 in Blog | 3 Comments

after bikram today, i went for a walk along the river, near the old mill. there was ice along the edge of the river–huge slabs of it. the scene reminded me of alaska, it was so glacial-looking. some ice chunks had sharp ledges that were super thick, others fanned out into broad, thin edges, drawing the eye in. i stared at barren trees with their scraggly, thin branches, and little buds i couldn’t tell if they were left-over from winter, or getting ready for spring.

i had come to the river to walk, because the inside of me felt wrought and unsettled. i was trying a new experiment, inspired from an interview with LA screen writer, Steve Faber—the man who wrote Wedding Crashers and We’re the Millers. he has a brilliant mind. i became friends with him, when i lived in LA. the night before, while i was relentlessly and stupidly checking anything and nothing on the internet, i decided to google his name, to see if he could offer anything new to me. sure enough, his interview woke me up on the topics of artists and writing and story-telling. the interviewer asked steve how he approached his writing. he said that he leaves his phone off in the morning, when i writes. “don’t check that thing!” he starts his day out with “pondering” for an hour, before writing—drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes on the couch.

inspired, today i decided not to check my phone after 9 am yoga, until i had written for an half hour or so, at the library. that means if laurel or sheri or denise texted, about meeting up, or what am i doing, or there are orders to be signed, they can wait. i want my brain, fresh, to myself. before writing, i went for this walk, to get some of my worries out.

i played. i stood on slabs of ice near the river’s edge, and tested them to see when they would break. one of them broke with an announcing crash, and my boot almost slid into the water. i let out a squeal, followed by a peel of laughter. it really caught me by surprise! nature by the old mill was getting exciting! “i almost died,” i yelled, processing the fun event. it occurred to me that i usually only have these surprise squeals of laughter when i’m with someone, and now, haha—here was nature and myself, making me laugh! i thought of the possibilities. of more time spent prowling and laughing, in nature.

nature doesn’t care what i think of it. there is a deadness, a hollowness i read, from the silent river bank. from the matted down mounds of grass, leftover from a damp cold december. the birds can’t be bothered. they are flitting in the trees. i might think they are cute, and stop and wonder at them, and they don’t care.

i come here to nature, to get right-sized. my calendar life and demands of texts that come, or sadness of one’s that don’t, is such a fabrication of my identify. my true identity is like a tree or a log or a duck. it, my body and my life, happen. but they don’t mean much.

think of the pale blue dot that i’m on (thank you, carl sagan), in this huge universe. even people living 100 years ago, we’ve mostly forgotten about them. and the famous ones, we will forget about them, too, eventually. and soon (-ish?), we won’t be here to forget.

i think we all long for a bit of this deep-down knowledge—that we don’t really matter. and yet, in our world, there’s an implication with the ever-present possibility that someone may be texting us, that we should be available to see that text—that we are really important. we aren’t.

and it’s a weary trick on the brain, to buy into the over-importance of self. for me, the repetition of over-checking my phone brings a lot of distraction and confusion. i may have a goal to write for a spell, or spend some time with myself or focus on my work, but i am checking my phone each fifteen minutes—sometimes every two—to see if something happened. and when nothing is there, i think, “oh, nobody loves me.” or, “i don’t matter.” or, “nothing is happening.” but that is not true. the world is happening. i am happening. and i am missing out, because i am waiting for my phone to tell me what ’s happening. it’s not a phone, anyways. lets admit that. it’s the internet and tinder and email and texts. it’s games and whatever else we use to avoid our aloneness.

i want to get back to the creaturely me that thinks of a plan and enacts it, without waiting for the phone to change my way or make me feel better. 95% of the time, checking makes me feel worse. HE’S not texting. or if he is, he’s the wrong one. mostly, it’s the silence that gets to me. i tell myself i don’t matter–otherwise, they would all be calling, and saying, “anita, you precious thing, lets go to SPORK for lunch, and after that, someone texts, “i miss you and we need to laugh—a stroll at shevlin?” and then the hot, ken-doll guy with spanish eyes and messy hair, texts—“are you free, baby?  lets do dinner,  and sex, afterwards.” yeah, that happened to me on another planet. once.

you see, my life is not as exciting as the phone suggests it could be. all those possible connections that could be happening, but aren’t? they steal something from me. they steal the satisfaction of presence with myself, and okay-ness with what is or isn’t—the sky, the ground under my feet, my full or empty stomach, my brain’s thoughts, activity or no activity.

i am waking up to a world of surrender to the boring moments that may happen, and atunement to the value of what can happen in me (imagination, plans, rest), as i communicate with myself during phone vacations.

yes, phone vacations. putting my phone on silent, and out of sight, for a determined amount of time.

when i take a phone vacation, or an internet vacation, i am demonstrating to myself that my own thoughts are more valuable than the random, flying-around cyber thoughts of other people, at least for this period of time. i’m going to draw on my own resources. and perhaps have a real-life adventure. like, saying hi to someone on the street. a conversation with someone who comes along my path, organically. without reaching into my pocket, as i walk away from that person, to see what else is really happening.

checking begets checking. forced phone vacations can start building peace and intentionality.

amen, bitches.


  1. Julie Southwell
    February 2, 2015

    anita, i am enjoying your writing (again) here. thank you for sharing!

    this not opening the computer/checking the phone thing came to a epiphany point for me recently so i can relate. i have worked my way into this really alternative & odd wake/sleep time order to get up early. since i teach yoga everyday at 7am, i have wanted to get up early enough to do my own practice i go to bed at 8-9pm in order to be up naturally in the 4am hour. what i realized is that even with this amazing feat of changing my body clock against the grain of the social normal time zone i am in, i still found myself “wasting” time by opening computer, looking at fb, reading, following some thread… and then before i knew it i only had an hour to practice, 30 min. sometimes, not an hour and a half or two that i was awake and suppose to be available for… then i felt rushed even though i had been up since 4! this unique carving out time thing in the early morning has made me appreciate time itself, and the simple undistracted quiet time even more. the time i actually get to practice my own yoga (i enjoy teaching too but practice is supreme) is so totally precious, like refuge, like prayer for my body and soul, and a fresh reset rinse for the mind… why would i compromise these precious early morning minutes that i already had gone against the grain of almost everybody else to make natural!? so i am trying the don’t open the computer thing until after all the practice and all classes in a.m. this honoring of the special early morning time without electronics is lonely sometimes as my boyfriend lives out of town so i wake with me only, but This, this space where the listening of what is really there without filling with words images from outside Is yoga practice in and of itself. so you ask what do i hunger for? it is this space of really listening w no distraction, “meditation” they call it and have fancy sitting postures etc. to set it up. however, i want to find it over my hot drink in the morning like your screen writer friend, or in nature like you on the way or on the days off from yoga. looking forward to going deeper into this experiment , thanks for the inspiration. j

    • anita
      February 3, 2015

      oooohhh, Julie, i like all of this! i can so relate to the preciousness of alone time/practice time in the AM, and a renewed commitment to keeping it sacred, without gadgets. good luck, girl. we are in this together. 🙂

  2. Kerri
    February 2, 2015

    amen, bitches.


Leave a Reply