Screen House Rules

On the eve of our kiddo’s thirteenth birthday, we collectively decided she was ready for the wild and sometimes emotionally dangerous road of the SMART PHONE (insert the ‘Duh-duh-DUHHH’ sound bite). We had spoken over time about the pitfalls and responsibility that comes with allowing something so potentially pervasive in her life. This took place as needed over the past year and concluded with her reading a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen Jensen that discusses the problematic invasion of pornography on the internet and the larger issue around how much of what we use on our phone is purposefully wired to make us addicted. Collectively, we agreed on ground rules that would, in general, apply to everyone in the house to ensure we did not allow our devices to take away from the most important aspect of us as a family- our ability to connect. I share our credo as a way to consider and explore your relationship with devices as well as how we can work at both recognizing and engaging with technology in a more responsible way.

Screen House Rules

As a family, we agree that our smart phones and other digital screens can distract us from real connection. With that, we mutually agree on guidelines to maintain healthy use of our digital devices.

  1. We agree to stop looking at our screen (phone or Ipad) when another person is talking to us and make eye contact. If we need to complete some task we are doing, we will ask for a pause so we are not attempting to listen and write/read at the same time.
  2. If someone is sharing a story/interacting with you, we will not text or pick up our phone until the interaction is done.
  1. We agree that if you are under 18, no screens will be used in private areas to protect from others who may intend to infiltrate your life inappropriately. This also helps reduce unhealthy behaviors like needing to repeatedly check the phone, even in the middle of the night and immediately upon waking.
  1. We agree that if at anytime another person is harassing, sending inappropriate photos or experiencing any pressure or bullying; we will share it without any consequences. We will support each other in keeping the internet as safe as possible.
  1. We agree that all our social media will be mutually agreed upon and the ability to see what each other post will remain open to each other. If anyone disagrees with a post, it will be discussed and potentially removed. This could include any photos or information that make another person uncomfortable.
  1. We agree mutually to have reasonable limits on our social media screen time and will consider an App limiting our time to ensure we do not overuse distraction. In general, we will actively work to remain below averages.
  2. We will stop all screens when we each move towards ending our day and getting ready for bed. That time may vary, but will be accountable to ourselves and each other.
  1. It is understood that privacy is important and each will respect privacy overall. However, to ensure healthy and appropriate online behavior is sustained, parents will occasionally check the child’s phone.
  1. With #8 in place, no history or text streams can be deleted to ensure proper and appropriate use of smart phones and other digital devices.

When I am Declared Queen Of Christmas

When I am declared Queen of Christmas, we are SO doin’ this shit differently. And before you get all fussy about whatever part you like, it will not be a complete cut up your credit card kinda cancellation, but definitely a moratorium on the crazy. Perhaps some would be deeply disappointed by my changes. Of course people in the business of participating in the great giveaway would be deeply annoyed. I’m sure a few lawsuits would swiftly be on the way to attempt a return to fluid consumerism.

But the truth is- We Have Lost Our Way.

Every year from about mid-November to the New Year, the anxiety and pressure to perform according to our made up expectations (that seem to climb exponentially) creates a kind of emotional vibration culturally unseen at ANY other time. Our therapy practice bears witness to the rising tide of anxiety soup, choking all the joy out, including an ability to recall why we celebrate. Not until the New Year arrives at the stroke of midnight do we sigh the only sigh of relief-oh-joy in a month! We have somehow forgotten to take in the beauty and depth joy can offer us and instead it gets convoluted in just being glad things are over. May I suggest a moratorium on the crazy? All the scrambling to meet the culture of scarcity’s expectations, when we step back, makes utterly NO sense.

We already have enough because We Are Enough. Our incessant need to fight over the pie leads us to forget it is really PIES (plural) of endless compassion and not at all attached to stuff. Compassion does not tie itself to the prettiest lights or biggest tree. Not the bestest nativity scene. Not all the most elegant wrappings under the tree. Compassion is a verb of choice that is driven by the love we offer one another. I desperately want us to be able to give up what does not serve us. If slogging out thousands of ornaments and garland makes you cringe, LET IT GO. If cooking for an entire army (and frankly most of it gets wasted) makes you unhappy, then can we just stop?

The vibration of the season may be best served through our ability to get quiet. Setting our intentions on recalling and being a part of what we love will free us from this season of stuff. I fear that without focusing on remembering where love resides, we will be forced into allowing others to reign over your holiday and we shall not ever remember our way home again. If I were able to provide a detailed picture of the kind of loneliness I witness in my treatment room during these dark months, leaving the holidays behind as we know it would be the most logical and compassionate answer we may have to the crisis of depression and anxiety that plagues Americans.

I want instead to give gifts that are lasting and matter. I want to slow down the moments of decorating and cooking. I want to relish the experience of who I am sharing my time with and not the requirement of a quantifiable mass that I pass out to others. And since I personally have so much to offer, I want to spend time with the lonely and offer my most precious gift of time and smiles. What would it be like if we left behind the strange expectation of the ‘hottest toy’ and pulling out the most expensive china and instead recalled that family and serving in a way that feeds us is the greatest gift we have to offer? I keep waiting and hoping that our sight will return and we will relieve ourselves of the madness that has become this holiday.

In the deep dark of winter, while the light is short, we are called to quiet and yet somehow we have used this holiday to distract ourselves from our own needs. We do not need more lights. We do not need to add to the glow (as we are glaring instead of glowing) and certainly we do not need MORE busy. We crave the quiet in the dark and when the loneliness is great, we have the ability to offer an honest gift; one of the light in our eyes and in our smile. This needs no wrapping paper or blinky lights.

Perhaps we return from this terrible distraction and come back to ourselves and each other. I will offer my hand and my warmth of presence during this dark time. And when I am Queen of Christmas (which will likely be never….) perhaps there will be lights, mangers and food, but offered in the spirit of Self Love first, something bigger than money can buy.

So I ask, during this holiday, remember the lonely and in our ability to be present, perhaps we can let go of this maddening distraction of stuff and offer something of substance– our wholehearted presence.