Let’s bring a prevalent-but-often-unspoken portion of our collective pandemic pain into the light and examine it because, as Mister Rogers taught me, anything mentionable is manageable.
The goal here is simply to name the pain you might be feeling and to let you know you’re not alone. Not to judge or scold you. Not to induce guilt or shame. Simply to mention what’s happening so that you/I/we can manage it going forward.
Psst! This is an episode of my podcast, That’s What She Said! View all 250+ episodes here. Keep reading or listen in for the extended version. 👇🏼
We arrive around 2:30 in the afternoon and put our bags down and go running out the back doors: mud.
Where the Airbnb photos promised us a shimmering and scenic body of water, there is only mud.
Smelly, foul-looking, deep deep mud.
“WELP, that’s climate change,” I mutter, and then the three of us sit quietly on the dock.
“I mean, it’s not like we can complain because they can’t control the water.”
“At least we have shade when we sit out here…?”
We sit with the disappointment, breathing into this girls’ weekend’s VERY ABSENT piece de resistance: shimmering, soothing, nature-y water.
A few minutes later, Dawn perks up: “Is there more water than there used to be?”
Where there was a teeny tiny steam of water moving through the mud, there’s now more water…a flowing stream.
The wading birds arrive and catch the tiniest fish glinting in the incoming bay water.
“IT’S LIKE A NATURE SHOW!” I exclaim. We watch the tide coming in like toddlers, amazed by every last detail.
More birds arrive: herons and gulls and little swooping birds I can’t name. We watch more bird fishing go down, sometimes by wading and sometimes by dive bombing from above.
Within two hours, the dock is once again perched over water. Amazing, soothing, nature-y water.
If you’re laughing because we didn’t realize tides could mean there’s NO water and then LOTS of water — YUP. I’ve only ever seen the ocean, which never just disappears from the beaches I’ve visited, so this was a shocker.
It’s also a metaphor for the whole thing: The Absence and The Presence.
There was an absence, which we felt (and smelled), and then there was a presence, which we appreciated all the more because minutes before we had resigned ourselves to ‘enjoying’ the view of the smelly mud.
At some level this is how all of life works, starting with breathing itself. There’s the absence of breath — the exhale — followed by the presence of breath — the inhale. One follows the other for as long as we live. The tides roll in and out; we work, we rest; the sun rises, the sun sets. Presence, absence, presence, absence.
The aforementioned girls’ weekend was strictly unplugged. We used GPS to get to the property and to navigate to the next major town, but that was it. No games, music, apps, news, email, texts, phone calls, or notifications. We were gloriously free of our devices and could fully sink into presence.
We watched nature and went exploring and cooked dinner and talked and laughed and cried and slept and read books and connected deeply. The Absence of phones allowed for The Presence of our full selves.
On Tuesday, when I sat down to work, my interiors were experiencing FLAMING HOT RAGING CONVULSIONS OF FREAK-OUT. Inner tantrum levels were similar to those of a Kindergartener who refuses to get dressed and go to school while the bus is pulling up to her stop. There was crying and flailing. There was an outright refusal to get to work even though the clock said it was time to begin.
‘What’s going on,’ I asked myself…and the answer was SCREENS.
What’s this about? Why am I FREAKING THE FUCK OUT when I’ve just had so much rest and connection?
Unless the connection IS the problem.
The Presence of other humans in deep time contrasted so sharply with firing up my laptop and getting to my online work that my whole being threw a righteous fit.
I am starved for deep human Presence and connection.
And I’ll bet you are, too.
The modern world is dominated by Absence.
You’re talking to someone and they pick up their phone to pay attention to a notification: ABSENCE.
You’re in the middle of a story when a call or text arrives and the other person leaps to their device: ABSENCE.
You don’t know what to do with the afternoon so you fire up a streaming service and grab some chips: ABSENCE.
You’re bored af so you spend the next few minutes/hours/days scrolling on social media: ABSENCE.
Devices all but guarantee that Absence rules the room.
Further! We’re *promised* Presence by social media — LOOK HOW MANY INFLUENCERS ARE INFLUENCING RIGHT NOW — but rarely experience it.
We’re given infinite numbing tools — ABSENCE — and wonder why we don’t feel more connected to ourselves. Or each other. (Some days navigating the internet feels like eating three pounds of fake bacon and hoping that if I eat enough of it, I’ll forget how actual, real, not-fake bacon tastes.)
We’re respectful of public safety as the Delta variant continues to circulate — ABSENCE — and don’t see/touch/hug/interact with as many humans in any two weeks of 2021 as we had access to on any given *day* in The Before.
I am starved for human connection, and giving me a taste of Presence for a few days only made The Absence in the other days more obvious.
I WANT MORE PRESENCE.
The Absence of screens allows for The Presence of deep and rich human connection.
The Presence of screens causes unhappiness, full stop.
“The results could not be clearer: teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.
There’s not a single exception.
All screen activities are linked to less happiness and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.” — From The Atlantic’s article, ‘Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation‘ by Jean M. Twenge, Sept 2017
These ‘screens mean unhappiness’ findings were evident BEFORE pandemic. BEFORE we had less human connection than ever before due to Covid.
The longer pandemic goes on, the more acutely I feel The Absence. There’s a hollowed out version of my heart that remembers walking up to babies in Target and making them giggle for no good reason. It also remembers life before smartphones and before Zoom and even before the internet itself. When we had nowhere to be but right here…and even if ‘right here’ was objectively terrible…at least we were here TOGETHER.
That’s gone now. Absence.
What’s Present is infinite scrolling. More (and more AND MORE AND MORE!) posts, reels, likes, clicks, streams, and feeds. The Absence of meaning.
Ongoing stress so enormous that 100% of my clients report remembering fewer details and needing to write more stuff down so they’ll be able to do their work. The Absence of memory.
Memes stacked up in my text messages like endless mind-Doritos. (Sure, Doritos are fun. But if you only eat Doritos for a few days, we both know you’re gonna feel like garbage.) The Absence of nourishment.
Distract-ability so high that I’ve gotten off of FaceTime calls and cried because I didn’t get what I needed. Sure, I just saw my best friends, but there was so much else going on — cats! doorbells! interruptions! — that we couldn’t possibly connect deeply. The Absence of depth.
At one level, I’m being a big cry baby and whining about having to use screens to do my work, which I’m privileged enough to do from home. I acknowledge this fully and am grateful for my ability to shelter in place for the duration of pandemic.
And at another level, I’m crying about the biggest crises of our shared humanity at the soul level: The Absence of meaning, The Absence of depth, The Absence of nourishment.
“We have the same problem in our culture as we do in our bodies: we take in too much that’s nonnutritive, whether it’s junk food or junk information, and we attempt to be fed by it. We pour in so much information, so much food, and our bodies and minds and emotions get constipated, clogged, overloaded…Of the information we take in, how much of it can we actually live on and how much is crap? There’s nothing wrong with crap, but it’s an end product.” — Ana T. Forrest, Fierce Medicine
We’re collectively starving at the soul level and chiding ourselves for being unable to ‘deal with it’ or ‘walk it off’ or ‘suck it up.’
We cannot expect to live fully engaged, gorgeous lives without meaning, depth, and nourishment.
We’re so overcome by practicalities and ever-shifting logistics that we can’t see how hungry, tired, lost, and/or numb we are at this phase of pandemic.
Nature’s rhythms have absence and presence built right into their foundations: high tide, low tide. Inhale, exhale.
Screens offer Absence without a naturally occurring rhythm of Presence.
We have to consciously MAKE presence happen. We have to choose to put the phone down, place the Apple watch in the drawer, banish the iPad to the other room, turn off the TV, and move the laptop into the office.
Otherwise, The Absence eats us right up. The Absence is made of the monetization of attention, endless comparison, fear of missing out, hyper-stimulation, and scrolling. It eats away at our ability to be present with other humans until (eventually) we PREFER the presence of screens to any living, breathing being.
We can choose Presence.
We can put our goddamn phones down.
We can cultivate The Absence of screens so that we can live more engaged, three-dimensional lives.
We can ask for what we need and try again if what we asked for didn’t quite hit the mark.
We can forego memes and scrolling for Do Not Disturb mode, even for 20 minutes at a time.
We can forego social media’s greatest hits of the day for one true conversation with a human being.
We can cultivate awareness of our interiors. (Here’s a place to begin.)
We can actually feel our feelings instead of shoving them down and pretending they don’t exist. (Here’s another place to begin.)
We can share our most vulnerable thoughts and tales. (My Hall of Vulnerabilities covers cannabis, sex, depression, and that time I lost $43k on a business event.)
We can tell on ourselves in order to outsmart asshole brain.
We can admit that this shit is hard and let others know when we’re drowning.
And we can do all of this…together, if you’d like.
I’m committed to giving you deep, gorgeous, stunningly beautiful human connection this November, and it’s at an event called The Imaginarium. If you’re free from November 14-16 and can make it to Philadelphia, this is for you!
Every portion of this container is geared toward providing soul-level sustenance for the months ahead. Because YES we’re doing another winter with Covid and NO we don’t have to hate every minute of it. While you’re at the event, we’ll suss out one habit you’d like to develop for the months afterward — and then you’ll be held accountable for DOING THE THING YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO.
Also, there will be huge amounts of truth speaking:
“Truth speaking — speaking from a place of deep honesty and compassion — propels us into a very rich field of feeling. Every time we speak the truth, it shudders through the cobwebs and dimness in our lives, tapping back in to the Beauty in our world, in ourselves, and in each other. How incredibly sweet it is to be able to talk about what’s really important, stepping out from behind our facades and the stupid little conversations that we’re taught are a necessary social lubricant.” — Ana T. Forrest, Fierce Medicine
5 of the 9 spots are sold, so you can be one of the lucky 4 who get to come!
The only way to get details about The Imaginarium is to TALK TO ME about it, so please BOOK A CALL: bit.ly/coachcasso
Even if you can’t be there — can you begin to notice the Presence and The Absence, starting with your own? It names so much of what hurts about life today.
If we’re all here, present, together — there’s nothing we can’t face. But if we’re all here, distracted, absent, and unable to connect, but we’re technically in the same room? That’s a buffet of Doritos. SO EXCITING AND SHINY, but in no way nourishing.
Where can you commit to Presence? How can you double down on human connection? Who or what will help you deal with the temptation to fall into Absence and stay there? Where and when do you need to cultivate the Absence of devices in your life — in order to be more present?
These are the questions that will heal your soul.
As always, I’m committed to providing deep nourishment for every phase of your journey. From here, book a call to talk with me about 1-on-1 and/or in-person work.
If you need help cutting screen time by 2 hours or more *per day* — thus increasing your happiness, says science — Space will help. You’re 21 days away from More Presence, starting right here.
P.S. Don’t let the Adultopus win.