How the regrettable act of hiding behind my electronic devices, hid me from my true feelings and nearly cost me a friendship
Disclaimer: I love prose and pretty pictures. I produce a digital magazine and interact regularly on social media. And my day is pretty much spent staring at a computer screen. But I am fully aware that sometimes we simply need to step out from behind our electronic devices and deal — with life, our relationships, our emotions and our wounds.
I made a regrettable, not-so Best Self move with a friendship this past year that I want to share with you. The details of the encounter are not important, the outcome, however, is.
Here’s the deal: We can never reclaim lost time…so try not to lose it.
Because, no matter where or how or when you resolve it, you will likely regret it — and some things can’t be fixed or put back together the way they once were. It’s like scrambling to glue the pieces of a broken vase; the cracks remain visible, reminders of the damage done.
This was the setup. Two lifelong friends got caught up in a tit for tat dialog interpreting a situation very differently. It all played out via our technology, leaving much to translation — and the rest was unfortunate, finger-pointing history.
When I look back upon this encounter, honestly — it’s ridiculous, bordering on embarrassing. It was a perfect storm of busy people trying to multitask and get it all done. It was about missing details, insinuating tones, getting angry and marching off to respective camps.
When we draw a line in the sand and retreat, we are doomed.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to step back to gather ourselves, to calm our anger and to see through the combustion. It is within that calm that we hear the heart, and push aside the wounded parts of ourselves led by our anger. It’s the space where we can regroup, gather ammunition and wait for the next move. Check. Checkmate.
It’s also where we can garner support of others, as if asking them to choose sides. And let’s be clear, having someone agree with you can feel like a quick hit…but it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t actually make anything better. It actually keeps us in our respective camps.
Time is a funny thing. Some say it can heal all…not in this case. It takes wisdom to give yourself a time out. In fact, it’s a radical act of self-care and nurturing. But most of us rarely take advantage of it. Instead, we get caught up in the heat of the moment — we respond, we react, we say regrettable things and then we don’t know what to do with it all.
The ego tells us we are ‘right’…the heart says there is no such thing. Be quiet, we respond, shoving its wisdom aside.
Then we seethe. We entrench ourselves in our self-righteousness and wait. Weeks pass, holidays come and go, life moves on. We pretend it doesn’t matter, but it does.
How did we arrive here?
We forgot to communicate from the heart. We forgot to listen to the soul’s stirring. We forgot that we don’t have to be accessible to anyone 24/7. We don’t have to respond to every text, email or outreach in an instant. And when we do, each ping or vibration of our electronic devices begins to send a subtle shockwave to our nervous systems. We even grow accustomed to it.
For most of us, we are lost if we inadvertently leave our phone at home when we head out (I know, because I’m one of them). I say it’s because I need to be available ‘in case’…the kid needs me, the school calls, etc. It’s really because I have a little iPhone addiction. I mean come on, I need something to scroll through during my downtime.
Text doesn’t speak heart, it can’t convey what needs to be said.
How easily we forget that we didn’t grow up this way. There was a time when we actually had to make a phone call to make a plan…and then we had to show up for it at a designated place at a set time. We didn’t send 25 texts in between. If someone was running late, you waited. You sat in a restaurant or café and you looked around, you observed life, struck up a conversation with a stranger or read a book. Years ago, as a young model, when I first went off to Europe — there were no smartphones, no texts, no emails, no instant gratification and constant connectivity. I spent hours sitting in sidewalk cafes writing in journals, daydreaming and doodling. Aaaah, the good ‘ol days.
But this isn’t a technology bashing.
I actually love technology…I’m just saddened by what we’ve lost in the process. But here’s the thing: we can take it back.
We can take stock of how we interact with our devices and our relationships. I can tell you that I won’t be having anymore important discussions via text or email in the name of convenience. We hide behind the efficiency of it all, but in reality, everyone’s a tough guy behind a screen, like the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. And I’ve now been caught in enough of those encounters to declare that when something is heading south, I’m out. No more answers via electronic devices. We can either hop on a call or better yet, sit together.
Have you ever been angry with someone and yet, when you come face-to-face that whole tough guy act melts away? Well, your heart isn’t a tough guy. Your heart wants you to love yourself and others, to feel compassion, to evolve and expand.
This doesn’t mean that all encounters end with rainbows and unicorns. This isn’t a kumbaya version of happy-ever-after. Some relationships need to end. Some people need to go and boundaries need to be asserted. I spent months silently anguishing over the loss of my decades-long friendship. I honestly was in shock that it had landed here. Never in a million years did I think this relationship would go away — that it didn’t have the elasticity to bear the burden of anger, bad behavior or stress. But it got stretched and months turned into a year. We can never take anything for granted.
I can’t blame this on technology, but I can see the role it played and how I hid behind it. We need to get conscious of the fact we are losing consciousness when we forget how to have difficult conversations. This isn’t a call to rid yourself of technology. No, instead it’s a call to use your technology, not be used by it (or hide behind it). Know when it’s working for you or against you and when to put it aside.
Find your way back to your self — to the inner voice who isn’t prideful, ego-driven, who doesn’t dig her heels in with the need to be ‘right’. Find your way back to the heart that is whispering, I’m sorry. Find your way back to the truth. No one needs to tell you what that is, you simply need to sit in stillness and listen.
This isn’t about rights and wrongs…it’s about finding your way home. We are never all right or all wrong. We make choices to go one way or another. We make regrettable actions. We hurt people. We hide our true feelings. But we can also undo all of that and clean up our mess.
I found my way back to my friend. I wasn’t such a tough guy when I did, actually to the contrary. The wounded girl inside me danced in relief, accountability, apologies and sadness. What took you so long? Even as I drove away that afternoon with a full heart, it was heavy. I had to feel the enormity of time lost and my role in it. This isn’t about beating oneself up. Sometimes we get there as soon as we can. Life is short. Just get there.
Has this ever happened for you — has a communication that could’ve gone right…gone wrong? Where did it lead you and how did you handle it? Please share in the comments below.