Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Setting Boundaries

A few weeks ago I remarked to several people in several different conversations that I had spent the entire weekend ignoring my telephone. I did this with both my cell phone and my home phone. In fact, on that Sunday I turned the ringer off of both phones so I didn't even hear them ring - I didn't even get up to check the caller I.D.

This confession was met with two responses...

1. Blank stares and total incomprehension. If I had said "Green monkeys live only in areas where the moon looks purple from a 90 degree angle," they would have had a less confused look on their face.

- or -

2. Questions, such as "What if it was important?" "What if someone wanted to talk to you?" and "Weren't you worried you might miss something you need to know?"

My answers to those questions were:

What if it was important? - If it were that important, the person calling me would know how to get hold of me. All the people who would have news that important could get to me pretty quickly. This past weekend, my sister-in-law needed me and the phone was busy. She managed to get a message to me very quickly and the emergency was solved within the hour. It can be done and in today's age of technology, turning off the phone for a day doesn't really limit you as much as you FEEL that it limits you.

What if someone wanted to talk to you? - If I wanted to talk to them, I would have left the phone on! That may sound harsh, but it's important to remember that no one can be expected to be at anyone's beck and call 24/7. We are allowed to have down time and in fact, should actively seek it. We ignore healthy boundaries in these areas at our own peril and while it's nice to feel needed, necessary or in-demand, those feelings aren't going to keep you from becoming burned out or overwhelmed.

Weren't you worried you might miss something you need to know? - No. I can't imagine not hearing the information at some point. In fact, that very weekend someone tried to call me and when I didn't answer they emailed me the information that afternoon. I checked my email later that night and found the info the very same day she sent it. And guess what?? It wasn't important! I could have found out on Monday morning and still known what I needed to know two weeks before it was critical.

After I had these conversations about my taking control of the telephones I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me? Why do so many people become antsy and panic if they aren't near a phone at all times? Why does the idea of missing a call send people into shock and cause them to doubt my sanity because it doesn't bother me? Am I the only one who thinks having some boundaries in this area is rational and necessary?

I guess I'm ready to concede I might just be in a very small minority, but today I found someone else who agrees. In today's reading from "A Minute of Margin," Dr. Swenson talks about having boundaries around certain areas. He speaks of how they never answer the phone at certain times and how he might even ignore the doorbell if he's just returned from a trip time away from home. He adds...

"No matter how important the phone call was, it could wait. As radical as this might sound, it is actually an elementary form of common sense that has eluded us far too long."


I'm surely not going to convince anyone that phone dependance (or addiction, depending on the person) is a bad thing. Many people have strong opinions on the subject and I know most of mine irritate some of the people who have to deal with me. But now I can at least state that I'm not alone in my thinking. At least Dr. Swenson agrees with me!

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