Last week marked the start of Lent. Now, I’m not Catholic but my husband is (I’m Protestant, not that it matters…) and he tries to give up something for Lent each year. One year it was soda, another year it was candy.

This year? Scott asked me to join him for Lent. The ‘ask?’

Be present when we’re together.

No iPhone attached to our palms at all times, no texting or instagramming or facebooking our nights away. If someone wants to reach us – novel idea: give either of us a call. Just don’t text us because neither one will answer. At least not instantly.

That was all he asked of me. It might sound like a simple, almost silly thing to some, but to me? It was monumental. It spoke volumes about how Scott has been feeling but hasn’t been fully sharing with me.

…he wanted my presence.

Presence is something I’ve battled, and have openly admitted that here plenty of times. And yes, I’ve tried, tried, tried, to be more present especially at night and on weekends. I’ve gotten a bit better. But old habits die hard. It’s become scarily natural for me to constantly be checking my phone, scanning through various social networks — totally mindlessly too. It’s not like I’m looking for anything in particular, it’s just become such habit.

…but that habit is stealing the joy out of my time with my loved ones, this much I’m already realizing in the short time since this #Presence2013 project began.

A couple of things I’ve noticed so far…

In the car while driving around doing errands today, I noticed how patient of a driver Scott is. We were pulling out of the parking lot at the Container Store (a ridiculously addictive store, red alert) and normally, I’d be sifting through my phone while Scott’s driving (again, a mindless habit), not paying any attention to him at all. But, today I did pay attention and I noticed something new about my husband. I’ve always known him to be patient but as a driver? I never, ever noticed. He takes his time at the stop signs, letting others pass by versus peeling out in a mad rush to get to our next destination (hmm…who does *that* sound like…), and never seems to get ruffled as a driver. A simple thing, sure. But I never would’ve picked up on it had my nose been in my phone the whole time. We’ve also had some of the best conversations in the car the past few days quite simply because we were both in the moment instead of plugged in, texting, emailing and facebooking away.

While playing rummy the other night (a game I am seriously getting worse at with each hand we play…), I stopped and looked at Scott and really paused and looked at him. Straight into his eyes. I put my cards down and cradled his face in my hands and just looked at him. He let out a big sigh, a small smile and said he hadn’t gotten that much focus out of me in months. It was that moment that brought me to tears.

Have I been that disconnected from him lately? That plugged-in to the rest of the world instead?

I curled up in his lap and apologized, and just sat there comfy in his arms and so content. Nothing else mattered. And then, it happened. The song changed on Pandora to “We Danced” by Brad Paisley. Scott whispered…’listen, it’s our song.’ The song we danced our first dance to almost 9 years ago. Scott whispered ‘what a sense of humor…’ which is true: that song playing? A sign from a certain Someone telling me and Scott that this presence thing? It’s important. A lot more important than perhaps either of us realized when we first announced (on Facebook no less, how ironic…) that we’d be disconnecting from our phones for Lent.

I am sharing all of this here with you for two reasons:

  • To remain accountable. I *will* do my best to fully commit to this #Presence2013 project, not just with Scott but when I’m in the presence of friends and family, too. They also deserve my full attention and presence when we’re together.
  • I also share it here in an effort to get you all to think about how present you are with your loved ones. I’d take a wild guess that more than a few of you could stand to be a little bit more present in your life. If you dig it, I would love nothing more than for you to adopt the #Presence2013 mantra however you can. Life is too short to live it online, face buried in your phone or on your computer.

…at least I think so.


57 thoughts on “#Presence2013

  1. Wow this is me. My husband gets onto me all the time about my lack of presence. We live in a day where social media is omnipresent that its easy to forget our loved ones right in front of our faces. I will try and work on this too

    • Isn’t that scary? That social media is so all-present even when loved ones are RIGHT in front of us?? That was the wake up call I needed too, to make some really good changes like this #presence2013 project.

  2. Thank you for writing about this. It’s something I am REALLY bad at and my husband and I talk about putting our phones away more (and sometimes we do it, but not often enough). I definitely need to work on being much more present with my family. Thank you (again) for the reminder.

  3. Awesome post! I knew it was time for my phone to stay hidden when my husband told me I was addicted and he hated that i ever got a smart phone.

    • YES. Exactly right. Hide that phone more often and focus on eachother and having good real conversation. It’s simple things like that that I’ve been missing out on without really even noticing it. How sad is that?

  4. So timely… as a part of the message Hans wrote in my Valentine’s Day card the same idea to spend time being present – without phones, computers, etc. It’s funny how easily we can be distracted – even by things that we feel are supporting so many other portions of our lives (i.e. blogging, teaching yoga/barre, etc.) I really like this project and might even have to dabble a bit in the use of that hashtag 🙂

  5. This is such a great point! I love this “challenge,” if you will. I am totally guilty of checking my phone or sitting on my computer reading blogs when I’m with my fiance. He’s on his phone or tablet a lot, too, but I think concentrating on getting in some real, quality time together is an awesome idea. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  6. Yep, I needed this. It made me think back on our nights at home or even in the car too- always one of us is attached to social media in some way or another. We have attempted to break that habit while out at dinner. Even going so far as to bring a deck of cards with us so that we are interacting with one another and laughing. This has resulted in many a unique conversation with waitstaff, and even one asking to be dealt in!
    But it needs to come home with us. There is no reason after being on the computer all day that I need to be checking in on FB or Tweeting all night. Thanks for the reality check.

    • HA!! I love that you bring cards with you — I TOTALLY want to play rummy with Scott while out to dinner sometime now that you mention it. Love that a waiter even asked to be dealt in, that’s the cutest!!

      And yes, it does need to come home with you, it’s hard to break those habits but I’m learning with each day how to break them or re-make/revise those habits to be a little bit more balanced and a lot more present. You can do it!

  7. I have a hard and fast rule when I’m out at a restaurant: once I check in on 4sq, phone goes in my bag until I walk out the door. I need to apply it more than just when I’m at a restaurant, but ironically enough, when I’m with W, I don’t even notice if my phone is on me or not (maybe it’s the limited time together.) Whatever the excuse you needed, I think it’s awesome you and Scott are doing this, and hopefully you have a lot more great conversations, snuggly moments and new discoveries because of this little challenge.

    • I NEED to adhere to that rule too – not just at restaurants but at other social events too. Life is just too important to waste ‘electronically’ if that makes sense. And like I’ve said to others in the comments, this isn’t just about better connecting with Scott and being more present with him but it’s also about doing the very same thing with my sisters, my family, my friends. They are ALL more than worthy of my full and present attention when we’re together.

  8. As you know, I am supportive of this approach in so many ways – there has to be a balance in being focused on the here and now and on each other, our familes and friends, whoever we are with at the time. There is a time to be connected and a time to put the phone away. Sometimes it is a mix of both, but on those nights or few rare hours together on a weeknight, for example, it’s important to use that time well and not pitter it away mindlessly looking at Facebook.

    • You hit the nail on the head sis — it’s the mindless time spent online that I don’t need in my life so much. And the mindless texting and emailing can totally be toned down without losing out on the communication aspect of things with family and friends. I’d SO much rather spend that time being present – even if that’s by talking on the phone more vs. texting. I’ve actually been really loving TALKING to you more vs. texting, as weird as that might sound. I think this is a good thing for both of us to experience in our own way sis, I’m thankful for your support even though I know it’s been quite the transition here and there. xoxo

  9. I really love this post. We have really been working on this here too! Social media and our phones have become a huge addiction and definitely not in a good way. Almost in an avoidance way. We don’t do phones when we’re focusing on family time. Tony and I don’t get on our phones when the other is driving either. That’s been a deal for a long time. It keeps you from communicating. I’m so glad you’re taking the time to really focus on being with each other! Such an important thing to do with the ones you love!

    • Isn’t it crazy to think that your phones can keep you from communicating when really phones are supposed to be (or used to be?) FOR communication?? It’s become such a blocker from really enjoying ‘real life’ vs. ‘online life’ and I’m SO SO SO glad my husband asked me to do this with him. I’m really loving it more and more as the days go by. I’m SO glad you are doing the same with Tony and your kids!!

  10. For resolutions, I asked Jay to stay off his phone while we’re in bed and he asked me not to be on my phone when we’re in the car. We both must crave each other’s attention at different times. But I’m loving it – it’s nice to just BE in each other’s company. 🙂

    • I LOVE that you each chose such different times to toss the phone to the sidelines. And that you’re sticking to it, isn’t it neat to see what you’ve been missing while being buried in your phone? Crazy huh?

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  12. What a great idea and such a great post Jess. I battle this all the time – getting better but as you said, old habits die hard. Totally supportive of this and definitely something for me to think about as well.

    • Thank you my friend. It’s been extremely eye opening for me already…particularly eye opening is just how deeply this habit of mine runs. I’m learning slowly but surely to stop allowing myself to get so sucked into all things social when I don’t NEED to be. There’s a time and a place for it…but while spending time with loved ones? There’s no need for social media there. #presencerules 🙂

    • I have been terrible at it too, clearly based on my husband’s reaction in that story I shared in this post. It touched me so deeply to hear his words. I needed to hear it, I needed to feel sad over it because THAT is what has caused me to really commit to being more present, not just with Scott but with ALL of my loved ones. Give it a try, seriously.

  13. Amen! It’s not just listening, it’s hearing. You boo is like my husband, patient and calm. I feel that sometimes I hurry too much.

    This is a beautiful gesture to you both. My phone crapped out Monday and I was amazed at how little I didn’t care about having it when I’m typically glued to it.


    • They do sound like they’re cut from the same cloth – patient and kind to my impatient and hurried ways. Something I’m already learning how to tone down by being more present, less connected. My husband even said (cautiously, of course!) that my mood is much improved since going into this project together. I think I’m starting to feel less ‘stressy’ or pulled so thin because I’m not trying to DO and BE so much to everyone. I’m focusing.

  14. I know this is something you’ve talked about before; I think almost all bloggers have at some point. But we still can’t seem to let go of being so connected and just enjoy that moment. The REAL moment. Not what some said they did on FB or Twitter, but what YOU are doing. It’s just so hard when it’s so easy to be connected. To see what your friends are up to, see funny pictures even.

    • Exactly. I think we’ve ALL proclaimed we’d be more present and less connected but to TRULY disconnect and focus on the here and now? It is DAMN hard to stick to. It’s incredible how many times, while in ‘presence’ mode this past week, I’ve felt myself pulling towards my phone or the computer. SIMPLY because it’s habit, and I’m a curious person by nature. BUT you know what? When I finally did allow myself to reconnect and see what I’d ‘missed’ online — I was pleasantly surprised and kind of amused. I hadn’t really missed much of ANYTHING In the time I’d been disconnected. Instead, I had gained so much more in those moments and hours that I’d allowed myself to stay present. An incredible project, and we’re barely even into this thing — can’t imagine how I’ll feel when all is said and done.

  15. I gave up social media three years ago for lent and I remember thinking WOW, I was really devoting way too much time to what?! It is not easy to find a healthy/happy balance and often it shifts for me. It is about effort, but when we do put the phone and computer way our other senses awaken and moments and connections are there.
    A few weeks ago my iPhone broke and I took a week to get it fixed. I was actually surprised at how much I did not even use it to talk on the phone, but rather to text and for social media. Where was the human connection in that? What a wake up call!

    • It’s actually pretty scary when you sit back and realize just how much time we all DO devote to all things social media. I mean, some of it is VERY fun and rewarding and it’s given me the outlet I’ve needed to blab on and on about all things fitness and sweat, which I love so much. BUT it’s also caused me to be so much less present in real life and that part, I am disliking greatly. SO this project has turned into an even more eye opening one for me by the day. SO glad my husband asked me to do this, I clearly needed it more than I even realized!

  16. so beautiful, Jess! this post brought tears to my eyes. I definitely relate – and it hurts my heart to think about not giving Billy my undivided attention when we’re together. lately, I’ve been more present with him (and life in general), but it’s so easy to slip into the habit of always being connected…always CHECKING THINGS. I’m glad you shared this with us – helps all of us remember what’s important! xoxo

    • Aw friend, reading your comment brought tears to MY eyes. ❤

      I had a feeling you could relate to this. I love how you describe the concept of 'always CHECKING THINGS' — that's exactly what it is. Checking things. Needless things. Mindless things. Just checking to check. And you know what? When I haven stopped being present to 'check things' — I'm noticing that — shocker — nothing earth shattering has been happening online while I've been too busy living. Amazing.

      love you!!

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    • See? I need to be more like this on a regular basis. You’re right, it’s downright rude to do that. It’s basically telling the person you’re with that they aren’t as important to you as whatever is happening online. Crazy to think of it that way, huh?

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  19. Found your post through Christine at lovelifesurf. Such a convicting post. I need to be more present with my family:) So after I write this comment I am closing my computer. THank you!

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  21. Good Morning!

    I just finished reading lovelifesurf and could not stop myself from coming over to check you out!

    My one little word for 2013 is present, so how fitting it is that I would stumble upon this great post. I am focusing on being present in my life, and have noticed things that I haven’t paid attention to in a long time.

    Off to read more!

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