Making Time to Daydream or How to Avoid Checking Your Email when your dinner companion uses the restroom

I love catching up with old friends. Laura is in town for a few days and somehow we both managed to carve out a couple of hours to meet for dinner tonight. Second dinner out in a week for me. That’s pretty amazing these days.

I’ve known Laura for about 12 years. I first met her when she was managing a Chicago gallery I was exhibiting in. The gallery is long gone, but we’ve managed to keep in touch even after her move to Washington D.C.. Our first meeting included one of those great long conversations and tonight was no different. Our lives are slightly less carefree these days, but she’s always manages to rekindle the excitement of simpler times.

On the table between us was her BlackBerry and my iPhone. We are so much more tied to the business of our careers now and we both had a laugh that if one of us got up to use the restroom, the other was sure to take that moment to check their email.

So when she did start to get up, we both paused for a moment before she quickly reached for my iPhone and handed me her BlackBerry. She walked away from our table laughing knowing she had, in one swift move, managed to prolong our electronic disconnection from the world.

It was brilliant. So I sat there in silence, staring out into the beautiful night, doing… nothing.

For a few minutes I was reminded what it was like to just daydream.

I read a thought provoking article the other day in the New York Times about how we have conditioned ourselves to always fill those little moments of nothing… with something. How our digital devices that we can’t work or live without are actually depriving our brains of needed downtime.

I saw a program on PBS a few weeks ago on just the same thing. When we stop for a minute to do nothing, our brains are actually incredibly active, doing important problem solving, organizing data and planning out future events. But instead of just sitting there at our tables while our dinner companions take a trip to the powder room, we reach for our iPhones, filling the silence with digital noise like lab rats pressing the button for a food pellet.

We just can’t help it anymore.

When Laura returned and asked how I did, sitting there by myself, I laughed and admitted I did pretty well except that I knew she had another event to attend that evening and at one point I did reach for my missing phone to see what time it was. (I don’t wear a watch anymore, trying to not live my life by a clock all the time.)

She handed me back my iPhone and I resisted the urge to ask her how she managed to deal with where to put my phone when the dress she was wearing clearly had no pockets. She gestured toward the neckline of her dress, and that was that.

So I’m going to really make an effort to do a little more daydreaming. My brain does feel a bit scrambled these days and it will be interesting to see if giving it a little time to file away my thoughts a few times a day adds a little more clarity to my thinking.

Today’s blog picture is one I took of my model friend Asphyxia while she was staying with me for a few weeks last Fall. Daydream on that for a while.

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2 thoughts

  1. I would like to revisit times without smart phones pulling our eyes inwards to a vast but unreal world, and away from what is truly life around us. I had to take a book reading intermission to check emails and somehow ended up here….

  2. Keira! I’m glad you ended up here. Yes. Any excuse to look up from the phone machine is a wonderful idea. Life is happening all around us, and so many of us don’t see it because we’re never really present any more. Hopefully your book intermission was brief and you returned to something that feeds your brain oh so much better than FB status updates!

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