A Small Box of Spells

I want to talk this week about something that I began to truly notice last year, and have since been trying to conquer. In March last year, I released my first book, The Darling Bones. This book, as it was my first ever huge personal milestone, came with a party. My friends and family showed up + we all talked and laughed and drank and had a wonderful time. After the initial party, I went over to my apartment + proceeded to get belligerent with my friends. It was a good night, and we truly had as much fun as we could have had.

The next morning came quickly, the hangover alongside it. I had been asked a while before to stop by the restaurant that morning as we were installing a new POS system + we were supposed to learn how to use it. A meeting that in our hungover state would have lasted months. Still, there were some people who showed up despite the pain in our skulls. Once we arrived, a friend of mine + I took a seat away from the windows and the painful sunlight so that we could rest our eyes and wait for the technician. After a few minutes of waiting, we became bored and so did her son. The baby boy decided that he was going to wander around and play with stuff, so my friend and I sat back and watched him for a while.

The technician took longer and longer and the group that was stationed at the restaurant, waiting for him was slowly becoming more and more uneasy. Some of us had other things to do, some of us needed to vomit, some of us needed to eat food, whatever the case was, each of us had gotten restless.

That’s when it happened, one by one, we all started to pull out our cell phones and browse the internet or play games on them. I was among the group, but in a drunken haze the night before I had knocked my phone charger out of the wall and it died shortly after I had begun browsing Twitter. Still, the rest of the party there were on their phones and enjoying themselves while the little boy was playing with his car and running around and enjoying himself.

In that moment, something struck me in a way that it never had before.

This blog post isn’t about how cell phones are poisonous for you, or how you shouldn’t be concerned with them when there are other people nearby. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but looking at my friend’s son that day put so much into perspective.

This life is full of tiny miracles. Each little thing that we come across has no logical reason to exist, but it still does. Making it that much more beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, cell phones are little magical boxes that enable you to have essentially anything you want delivered right to your home. It’s a portal to distant places that you can see and hear and feel emotions through. It is by all intents and purposes, a small box of spells.

That being said, I noticed that all of us were enamored with our phones and only giving my friends child attention so often. We would look up to make sure he wasn’t getting into trouble and then we would return to our make-believe world.

I would never have reached this conclusion if it hadn’t been for my phone being dead, but I’m glad that it was. I saw things in a new light. There was this tiny bundle of cells running and yelping in front of all of us, who would grow to become something amazing. He will get bigger and stronger and smarter and kinder, and he would live his own life full of beautiful moments that will make his mother so proud. He was this tiny human that was dancing around and enjoying his day to the best of his abilities. He didn’t need to speak to portray his emotions. He didn’t need to sign it, he didn’t need to tell anyone how he felt about things. It was written on his face, and if we looked we could have known. Moreover, he simply didn’t care what we thought. He was going to do his own thing anyway, and he was okay with that.

I sometimes wonder if people get hungover like that without getting drunk. I wondered that for a long time, but after that day I began putting my phone down intentionally. So much has come from that simple gesture. I don’t get nervous in crowds anymore. I don’t forget about people. I don’t ignore people. My conversations have become more meaningful and I can speak from the heart. I can look around and see all of the small beauties that this world offers to us.

There are so many things in this world that are worth rejoicing, and the abilities that smart phones give us are some of those things, but there are others. More basic miracles that are existing right beside you. The trees growing outside, the family + friends you surround yourself with. The air we breathe. The fact that we wake up every day, refreshed. There are so many things to notice and be in awe because of.

Yet. Those smart phones are the things that we take the most interest in.

I think it’s because they are the thing we are least familiar with. We’ve spent our whole lives breathing and sleeping. Trees have been around forever. Children will come and they will grow and then they won’t be children anymore. But as they grow, I notice something else that happens.

As we get older and more in tune with our lives and our phones, we begin to use it as a defense. When a situation is awkward, we pull it out and play a game of candy crush to calm our nerves. We use it at dinner with friends because we feel as if we don’t have anything important to say or to offer. We put it up to our face to hide the brilliant color of our eyes, only to let them be whitewashed by the backlight.

We won’t notice any of these things if we stay glued to our phone screens. As wonderful as they are, as magical as they are… They are not everything important.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in this past year is to put my phone down. To turn my music off. To get out of that fiber optic prison cell for a while and be with people. Real people. People I can see and who can see me. Ones that I can hug and feel the warmth of their bodies. People who can put their hand to my shoulder and remind me that tomorrow morning, things will be better. People I can share a real meal with, and laugh with in person. People I can build a life around.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people on the other side of those phones. I’m not saying that using a phone is some kind of travesty. I’d never want to insult the amazing people I know through social media in that way. It’s our only means of communication, and that’s okay. I do want to meet all of those people. I love so many of them, so much.

I’m just saying that our smart phones are not the only magic box that can cast a spell on you. When you look at it, this entire world is full of brilliant magic that we can look at and be amazed by. All we have to do is see it and understand.

These things are all beautiful, and they all have their place, but when you become over encumbered by the weight of one, you are so busy with your face to the ground and your back hunched, trying to lift that weight, that you forget there is an outside world.

At least, that’s how I feel about myself sometimes.

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