I think often about whether I am actually present to the people in the room with me, or if I am present in this moment. This wondering is part of what led us to get rid of the television so many years ago. I try to remember whom I am neglecting when I am on the phone. I go through spells of no computer time if the children are awake.
There are times when I actively choose to escape this moment or this situation. I found nursing tedious at times, and I spent many hours reading John Adams and Truman and Middlemarch. At times of stress, I definitely enjoy light fiction and Jason and I might catch "The Daily Show" on the computer. I sing through some temper tantrums and I take knitting when I think I might get bored or antsy. I talk on the phone while washing the dishes. But with all these things, I am very cognizant of the choice.
By the same token, when Jason gets home in the evenings or before he leaves in the morning, I do not make phone calls and I turn off the radio or music. I want to be very aware of his energy, and I want to feel the way our family weaves together. I cannot do this as well if there is the buzz of music or if I am staring at a book or computer screen or if I am actually talking to a person who is not even here.
For the record, I do not think anyone can give their attention to a person in the room with them while doing these other activities.
I can always tell when the person on the other end of the phone line has begun to stare at their computer screen. My children's misbehavior is heightened when I am yacking away on the phone or checking my email. Jason can be SOOO aggravating when I just want to finish my chapter. Truthfully, these things must be done sometimes, but it is good to be aware of what it means to the person sitting beside you.
So, when I read crazy things like "Spending time with my family watching some tv program" posted from someone's cell phone, I always shake my head. That person is looking at at least two screens and interacting with one while being numbed by the other. Can we really be "with the family" in that situation? Am I actually present in my life, separate from this space that doesn't really exist?