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Time to evaluate relationships. I am breaking up with one

By July 23, 2018 3 Comments

Our relationships mold who we end up settling into. To a certain extent. They affect the quality, longevity, and value of our life. These relationships come in many forms. When we think of relationships, the company we keep first comes to mind, and it usually takes human form. I have said this to my kids for as long as I remember: you are your friends. No one knows for certain who said this originally. Just like this other quote that never leaves my mind.

If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

It comes up for me at least three times a week, every Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday evening to be exact. I swim in a lane with badass women, ages ranging from 13 to 46. (Yours truly is at the oldest end of the spectrum.) These ladies have no idea how much they push me and keep me on track. I am the slowest one in the lane. (Too bad they are in the wrong room/lane.) Swimming with these ladies has made me a better swimming student.

That time I get by myself in the water with my thoughts and the five women that push all my challenge buttons gives me the space to think about the other relationships I have that push my buttons. Without consciously working on it, I am proud to say that my 46 years have been an ongoing purification process. To a certain extent.

I read somewhere that a good guideline for assessing relationships is the metric of joy:

Is this relationship giving me joy?

I have thought about this long and hard, especially when I feel the swimmer behind me closing in on me. (Joy is not a word that comes to mind. Its the four-letter ones that pop up.) I never imagined physical endurance as joy. But joy is an all-encompassing wide term that is not limited to a smile on the face or in the heart. The joy experienced as a result of physical endurance is unmatched because it is hard to come by. You have to put in the work to get those endorphins pumping. So while I may not be overjoyed during the act of enduring 500m of butterfly stroke, the aftermath is unparalleled in its joy. (The antonym to easy come, easy go you can say.) It lasts a couple of days. It has been known to last longer and even be powerful enough to motivate following attempts. (Its those same endorphins that are released after a satisfying, defiant run. Or that joy that sometimes manifests in tears of gratitude falling down the corners of my eyes, behind my ears, down my neck, and onto the mat after a connected, powerful yoga practice.) I am a big fan of physical feats. It is the fastest route to that slow-releasing joy.

I am grateful that my relationships with my physical endeavours have been truly satisfying and tick all the right boxes. The organic purging that seamlessly cleans up my human relationships has also been gratifying. The older we get, the less friends we have. But the depth and quality of friendships deepen and grow. I am not sure it is endorphins that get released, but I do feel pretty amazing after time spent chatting with a friend. The conversations have evolved over the years. (So has the joy.) They are fun, educational, deep, and profoundly moving. I am always around people smarter than me who challenge me, teach me, and provoke me. (Including 13 year-olds who beat my @&# at swimming.)

My latest smart teacher has come in the form of a glorious dog. In fact, she is the one that has pushed me to examine one of a few remaining love/hate relationships in dire need of purification. That relationship is the one I have with my phone.

I am officially breaking up with my phone. To a certain extent.

Turns out the average human spends 4 hours a day on the phone. We are too busy to workout, have coffee with our friend, read a book, or find any time for ourselves. But we have four hours every day of our lives to scroll mindlessly on our phone. How is that for joy depleting?

A great place to start would be to break down this relationship to its many components and functions.

Step 1:

  • How do I generally feel about my phone?

I love having it. I am of the generation that remembers life without mobile phones and computers. A glorious, unique vantage point. To a certain extent.

  • Does it give me peace to know it is by my side?

Yes. But also, no. The no is making up the majority of the time these days.

  • Do I feel naked if I leave the room without it?

Not lately. I feel liberated. (Hence this blog.)

  • Is it the first thing I reach for when I wake up in the morning and the last I greet before I drift off to sleep?

Yes. (But I do kiss and hug my family. Occasionally.)

  • Do I reach out for my phone when I am occupied with something else?

Yes. Totally. In fact, this moment.

  • If I am watching Homeland, do I reach for the phone during the commercial break?

Yes.

  • During the show?

Yes. (I sneak a look praying my husband does not notice. He does.)

Step 2:

  • Back to joy. Is it comparable to the post swim/run/yoga high?

NO (yelling.) Its peak is short-lived. The crash is steep and deep. Most of the time. It includes feelings of guilt, inadequacy, loneliness, doubt, and sadness.

Dopamine is one of the happiness quartet neurotransmitters released by the brain. The other three are endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin. I learned recently from the 10% Happier podcast with Catherine Price that every time we reach for the phone in anticipation of an email that will change our lives or a 2 million influx of social media followers, our brain releases dopamine. Turns out many addictive illegal drugs target dopamine receptors in the brains frontal cortex responsible for behaviour, emotion, and cognition. In other words, its activation is addictive. Its effect creates chaos. I dont know about you, but the thought of being addicted to my iPhone worries me. I would rather be addicted to butterfly stroke.

Prescription: more of what gives me long-lasting, slow-releasing, empowering joy. Zero of that other chaotic, illegal stuff.

Step 3:

Take active steps to cut the cord and end the addiction. There are so many resources and hacks out there to support the process. If you enjoy reading, take advantage of the new four hours in your day and read How to Break Up With Your Phone.

There is a perfectly rational reason why the full features of Instagram are not available on our desktop and the scrolling option is endless. (How many poses and inspirational quotes does it take to make me feel uninspired and suicidal?) The intention is clearly to keep me hooked, lost in a virtual world that gradually sucks every ounce of joy and brain cells out of me, leaving me mentally, physically, and heart-fully depleted.

The plan is the prescription. It is simple. More of joy (the ultra marathon kind of joy), less of everything else.

It means more deep personal connections, even if made over the phone. Stay true to who I am. When inspired to share, share with the world. Be authentic. But stick to those designated times. (Currently two windows a day.) The rest of the time I spend living life. Two books finished in one week. Two books in process.

And always always be the least smart person in the room.

#phonebreakup #itsofficial

3 Comments

  • Noor Abu Jarad says:

    “I would rather be addicted to butterfly stroke”.. .cracked me up!
    Love this blog and love your passion to always be better! So inspiring and motivating- I badly need to break up with my phone too.

  • Tala Mauge says:

    Oh my God !! I was waiting for this blog with major anticipation. What a read. I confess I am addicted to my phone and I do have a love hate relationship with it . I convince myself that it keeps me connected . However the quality of that connection is definitely something I can live without. The days I ditch my phone I do feel liberated, less cluttered in my head and definitely more relaxed. Thus happier. Phone breakup underway . Thank you Gigi

  • Shireen says:

    Spot on … thank you Khadija

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