Living Outside the Box – It’s your Choice.
By Jen Jeffrey
This world is moving in a rapid pace and in order to persevere we go with the flow as technology has made us its slave. Everyone is in their ‘box’ whether it is with a small hand-held device or the boxes that have to be plugged in. While I admit I like to get online to socialize I will also admit it can become too much of a habit that takes me away from ‘real life’. I liked keeping up with my family who live in another state and for friends I would never get to see other than online, but my online social time was always positive either sharing photos, a laugh or a prayer.
Lately, I had noticed that my eyes were constantly fixed on my box. First thing in the morning, throughout the day and every time the Facebook app on my phone alerted that I had new notifications I had to see what they were. I didn’t like how often I grabbed my phone – it had become an appendage. It is nice to be able to be accessible to my husband when we text what our lunch plans are or to text my ranch hand about work or my clients who board their horses with me and, even to check in the mornings what my friends are up to on Facebook is fine, but to not have one hour go by that I am not on my computer or my phone spoke a lot about my life.
When I lived in Chattanooga I worked on my computer all day, so when I was through – it was the last thing I wanted to be tied to. Nature called me and I needed to be a part of it. I was part of a hiking group and when there wasn’t a planned hike, I either took off hiking alone or went driving through Lookout Mountain and pulled over to find a special place to just ‘be’. A place to observe a butterfly that fluttered by, a bird’s melodious song or to feel the mist of a waterfall.
In my area of Kentucky there is no Lookout Mountain, but there are other special places. Special places that have something to tell me … if I will listen.
The problem is when we are so caught up in what’s in our boxes (no matter if our reasons are justified) we miss so much that is just as important – if not more important.
Most of my growth as a person has come from reflection and in quiet time. The moments when I take the time to just be. To hear God giving me small clues for the direction I am to go or to allow me to observe something about where I have been.
I have always been curious of the ‘why and how’ in life. I love a good story and I want to know how something came to be or where it is going – especially if it has crossed my path. Why … why did it cross my path, what is its purpose in my life or what is my purpose in that certain something or someone?
When I married the love of my life last year, I noticed he needed his ‘down time’ with getting lost in television. After a long day’s work dealing with the public and on his computer all day – he needs something that doesn’t take a lot of brain power that he enjoys. Oh, we wives would love it if our husbands could unwind with us, but to be fair – we are ‘more people to deal with’ and they need to have some time to not have to answer questions or come up with a topic of conversation after they have done that all day at work. Every man needs their ‘guy time’ to just relax.
This would be the time I would grab my phone or laptop and get online with friends. I was still making myself ‘accessible’ to my husband for when he was ready to be with me by being in the same room with him as he watched television.
It is funny how ruts can happen and you tend to do the same things every day so that you have a comfort zone and once you have that comfort zone it becomes expected. I expected my husband to watch television and he expected me to be online.
Lately, my husband has been online a lot too. In between television watching he will go to his study to be on his computer.
But … there are still more hours to fill our day than with television or staying online. Those are the precious hours because it is our time we have with our families.
What do we do with those few hours we have to be together each evening? Watch television and stay online? If it were on occasion that wouldn’t be so bad, but every night for the rest of our lives? I started feeling suffocated in the rut.
I realized that our lives were just ticking away as we had our heads in our personal boxes. We both had gained weight this first year of marriage because we were happy enjoying each other and not worried about calories or the gym.
But being happy also takes our energy. It’s like riding a roller coaster as a kid and you love the feeling of riding high and the loop-d-loops … but imagine staying on that ride…. we need to come down from that high euphoria. It cannot be ongoing. So in a relationship as we experience that high feeling, we look for that comfort zone where we can relax. But it takes effort to have our comfort zone yet not allow ourselves to get in a rut.
We want to make each other happy and be happy, but a good marriage still takes effort – it doesn’t just happen.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I realized the penances of getting in a rut and watching our weight escalate. We both decided it was time to focus on our health and make it a first priority in our lives.
Hubby has been eating the healthier food I prepare for him and I feel my will power is very strong too – it doesn’t feel like a diet, but rather how we are supposed to be eating all the time.
I learned years ago that my ‘being’ is at its best when I combine good health for my mind, body and spirit. I can’t have any part of me on ‘the back burner’. It is vital to focus on my whole being in order to be well-adjusted and balanced in all areas.
Today’s world seems to sell out to quick fixes … just take a pill for this ailment, but go ahead and live unhealthy. If we would eat properly, get proper rest and activity and feed our spirit as well, we also are keeping our minds healthy.
And, what I put into my mind reflects what happens with my spirit. If I am putting negative things in my mind that are not good for me, it reflects negativity in my heart.
Unfortunately, we have those few Facebook friends who are going to post certain things we don’t want to focus on. We love our friends and don’t want to delete them just because we disagree with them on a few things they post – but I also don’t have to be online every 30 minutes absorbing it into my mind.
I also realized that I don’t have to sit next to my husband while he watches television that is loud and not something I am interested in or for me to stay on my phone hoping he will shut off the television and actually want to have a conversation with me.
So in the mornings after I feed the animals and then feed my husband, I don’t sit around hoping to share time with him while he goes to his computer in his study and then comes in the kitchen and picks up his phone. I choose to do what is good for me. I take off on an early morning walk and God meets me at the creek and we spend time together (He doesn’t have a phone).
When my husband would normally come home for lunch ‘to be with me’ (yet television is going and he has his phone in his hand) I am down at the ranch working or being with my ponies or on an adventurous drive taking in beauty around me.
When he comes home from work in the evenings and needs to relax, that’s okay. While he continues going back and forth from the television to the internet — I don’t have to be ‘waiting in the wings’ on my phone or laptop …because, after a year of marriage it is clear that the television and computers are not going to be turned off.
In our new quest for health it just makes sense for me to take my health a little further and not just focus on what I am putting into my body, but to focus on what I am putting into my mind and doing with my body as well.
I’m not dieting and just doing away with high-calorie foods – I am putting foods in my body that will work for me. Just as we put gas and oil in our cars – we change filters, get tune ups and take care of our vehicle and we need to know what we are doing for our own bodies to keep them running properly. It isn’t about having muscles over fat – it is about having a healthy heart, healthy digestive system, healthy mind and healthy spirit. A healthy being.
So now I focus on the things that are offline. I still find a moment in my day to check on my family and friends on Facebook but I keep it very brief. I see who needs prayer, an encouraging word or I may post something I feel may be encouraging to others, but then I am off to live my life “outside the box”.
I actually missed working up a sweat. I missed listening to a nice rain (you can’t hear that if the tv is blaring). I missed feeling the breeze on my face and whirling through my hair. It has felt great to ‘disconnect’ and re-connect. Connect with God, with nature and being around others instead of being in my box. Having my son’s family here has been great to get to be with them when I am not off walking or working out or listening to good music. NOW, I feel like I am living my life and not ‘just existing’. And, my husband is welcomed to join me if he chooses. Everyone has a choice.
What is really important in life? Is it the latest politics? The latest world issues? The latest town gossip? The re-run you have seen at least three times?
Or could it just be that being outside of the box is more important?
Meditation. Reflection. Sweating. Working in your garden. Playing with your pet. Playing with your child or grandchild. Playing with your spouse (you are never too old to play). Listening to good music. Reading a book. Making something with your hands. Walking. Being aware of your senses – feeling a breeze, watching the corn grow, smelling the green grass you longed for all winter. Praying. Talking with God, crying with God and laughing with God. The box serves its purpose – don’t think you must do away with the box – we don’t want to hide ourselves from the world and we need to stay informed, but everything in moderation leads to a well-balanced life. Having balance is more than just standing there – it takes effort. Effort makes you stronger. And being stronger takes you to your best. I choose to be my best.