Last week I did something that I have not done in well over fifteen years - I completely shut off all digital connections, no email, text, no social media, no online reading, no laptop, no phone for five days overlapping Easter.
I chose the Easter weekend for two reasons; I figured not much would be going on business-wise (being a short week) and secondly, we had a quick escape to the beach already planned with our daughters, so the whole family would be together.
A couple of months earlier I had announced my intentions to be disconnected on our trip to the family, and suggested that perhaps we should make this a group effort? Oh boy, you'd have thought that I had proposed that we should jump in the car and run over baby animals.
Daughter One: "Dad, that sounds like a cool thing to do but I can't participate. I am heading in to final exams and I need to stay connected with my research group."
Well at least she thought it was a cool idea. Daughter One has always been a pretty cool cat and through years of practice knows exactly what to say to not only get her way, but to take the wind out of my sails. I put up a fight, asking who would be studying on an Easter weekend but alas, she had all the answers, reminding me how expensive her University education costs and why would I want to risk it so close to term end? Can't argue with that.
Daughter Two: "That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Why would you want to do that? What's wrong with you? Maybe we should sail a boat to Mexico with a compass instead of taking a plane and while we are at it, should I pack some candles and we can also have a light bulb detox too?"
Yes, there is always one in every family and Daughter Two is my pit bull. Missing all the calculated reflection of her older sister, I was reminded how out of touch I was and that being connected is just part of life - like breathing and I should try not to be so old.
I'd been rejected by 50% of the family so I sought an alliance with my wife Cathy, hoping she'd talk some sense into the girls and add a good dose of manipulation like "we should support dad." Nope, wrong again. Cathy started by telling me that her father is in his late ‘70s and she needs to be accessible, not to mention that he is looking after our dog who's around 200, so being disconnected was out of the question. I reminded Cathy that the resort offers free calling to anywhere in North America and we could also give him the number of the hotel. Cathy didn't like that answer and reminded me that the power and longevity of our marriage is due to our ability to maintain our unique identities, in other words, just because I want to ruin the holiday doesn't mean we all have to get on board.
So there you have it - three against one! I am sure I probably had a hissy fit threatening to cancel the trip, but then I just decided I would do this on my own.
From the moment I boarded the plane to the time to check-in for the flight home, I stayed digitally clean. I woke up and took a coffee to the beach, and where I normally would have grabbed a photo to pop on Instagram, I just sat and watched the waves. My days were spent reading a book (Richard Branson - Finding My Virginity) cover to cover, no photos of meals or drinks were shared on Facebook. I had a note pad for drawing and jotting down ideas. We needed to schedule meeting points for meals, since nobody could text me to say where they were. All in all it was absolute bliss.
And an interesting thing happened; both daughters and Cathy witnessing a transformation in my attention, my mood and reflective nature, started using their phones less and less. By the actual Easter weekend, Daughter One announced she had not touched her phone all day. "So how do you feel?" I asked. "I feel great" was her reply.
Sometimes a change in a daily routine is all it takes to rekindle and rethink how we use our time. I'm glad to be digitally back, but I have established a new habit for all holidays moving forward.
As always many thanks for reading,