Things have power. Much like the grinding gears and whirling mechanisms behind the grumbling, floating head of the Wizard of Oz, many things have an illusive power that transfixes us. These things possess the magical power to trick us into believing that we cannot live without them; or if we relinquish them, we will be social outcasts lost in the world or even worse, we could find ourselves “in danger.”
I ran through this entire gamut of emotions recently when my cell phone plan was up for renewal. Like most companies, my provider was offering an upgrade with a new 2-year contract.
I wanted to see if I could “Go Further” with my cell phone. I really did. I wanted to march into the store and ask for a downgrade from my hot pink encased i-phone. But every time I even thought about it, I would immediately have a mental freak out session.
“What if I get lost again in the mountains and need the GPS on the phone?”
“What if I need to find a phone number on the internet?”
“What if I need to check my e-mail?”
“How will I check Facebook?”
Ok, the absurdity of that last question broke the spell.
How the hell was I going to check Facebook? Really?
In the dawning days of cellphones, I wanted to own one simply for the security factor. I wanted the ability to call someone if my car had problems or I needed to reach out for assistance. Back in the old days, I felt safe having the phone locked in my glove box.
But technology is a funny thing and marketing is its evil assistant. If you are not careful, you will end up believing that you NEED all kinds of things: a smart phone, a lap top, a desk top computer, a tablet and a digital book reader.
The crazy thing is, they all pretty much do the same damn thing.
But the marketing is slick, baby. As a marketer, I know this. I also acknowledge it when I view a really catchy or smart ad on the internet or I see a glossy print ad. I think, “damn, that’s good.”
Here is my litmus test whenever something bright and shiny hits the screen or jumps out from a magazine:
You don’t NEED a dozen doughnuts. You WANT a dozen doughnuts.
You don’t Need <blank>. You Want <blank>.
I decided that I did not like the hold that my i-phone had over me. I am working diligently to reduce my possessions, eliminate clutter and bring my life into something sane and manageable, right? I was minimizing to what was needed, beautiful and of value.
Did my i-phone fit into this criteria.
Sadly, no it did not.
I paced outside of the provider’s store for five minutes before I finally walked in and approached the counter.
“Hi,” I said, “I qualify for an upgrade and I would like to downgrade my phone.”
“Sure!” the perky young lady said, “Let me show you our smart phones. We have the new i-phone.”
“No wait,” I said slowly, “I think you misunderstood. I actually have an i-phone. I want to downgrade to, well, just a phone.”
She blinked at me confused. “I will have to talk to my manager.”
Crazy, but true.
There is a happy ending.
More or less.
I did finally downgrade to a regular phone that has a Qwerty board that flips out for texting. I liked the phone, not the texting part. Texting to me is just as much a distraction as mobile Facebook and e-mail. If I want to have a conversation with someone, I will call them, knock on their front door or walk into their office.
So with that in mind, the Universe accommodated me.
Three days after obtaining my new downgraded phone, it fell into the dog’s water dish.
It happened at night, right before bed and all night I was panicked – literally PANICKED – that my phone was never going to work again.
I kept getting up, checking on it and pushing buttons to see if the screen would return to normal and the buttons would work again.
I asked myself, “Why is this happening? I did a good thing by downgrading. Why am I being punished?”
Or was I?
Maybe it was the Universe simply saying, “Go Further.”
That simple, yet dramatic splash into the dog’s water dish made me realize how much power this new thing had over me. In my mind, there was a potential for a broken phone, a monthly bill, cut off communication on the road, etc.
My husband lost his cell phone over a year ago and has not had a desire to obtain a new one. He gets along just fine. Let me rephrase that, he gets along beautifully. There was a powerful lesson in this for me that I really needed to see.
I was still attached to a “thing.”
I stopped, took a deep breath and just released it all.
If it worked, it worked, if not, I would figure out Plan B.
The cell phone story stops here. The phone works – to make phone calls only – the text keyboard does not. The phone is serving the purpose that I originally desired and I am not distracted by having to respond to texts. As a matter of fact, I am going to cancel my text service and save another $10 a month.
I am no longer distracted by Facebook messages when I am driving and I am no longer distracted by the “ba-bling” of e-mail arriving into my mobile mailbox.
What I have received in return for releasing this menagerie of distraction is something you cannot buy.
I have decided that allowing things to have power over my life, whether they are smartphones, technology, clothes, cars, jewelery or a garage of crap is a waste of my time.
“Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise.” Surangama Sutra
I can buy things. I can’t buy time.
And in the world of a million commodities, time is the most precious.
So I ask you:
What thing has power over you? Can you release it?