No Service

How many times have you stopped, looked around at the sky, smelled the (semi) fresh air and truly observed your surroundings? In 2013, probably never.

Today as I was speedily biking to my babysitting job, late as per usual, I couldn’t help but play a game of real-life frogger with the students around me. Anyone who has attempted to navigate the drill field at class change can sympathize. I looked around at the students and was struck by a disturbing image: every single one was hunched over looking at their phones. The day was glorious, high 70’s without a cloud in the sky. Yet, even with this amazing atmosphere that God has offered us, not a one was appreciating it.

The saddest realization I made was I’m not different from them. I’m constantly attached to technology, by my phone or one of my two computers (yes, two). Does this foster a positive listening environment? No. Does it foster deep meaningful relationships? No. Is it possible to establish relationships and a positive listening environment despite these obstacles? Yes.

Listening takes intention. Relationships require listening.

Don’t misunderstand me: technology is an incredible tool. We’re extremely blessed to have the modern day conveniences that we do. I definitely appreciate my iPhone. Probably too much. I digress.

This is one of many blogs where I will take a real life, easy-to-relate-to situation for any Hokie and turn it into an equine-crazed post. I apologize in advance for the horse chatter but I can say with confidence that my mare, Dakota, has taught me more than any human being ever could. The past year with her has been the most rewarding, challenging and frustrating that I never could have fully prepared myself for. As a slight aside and to give some background, she was merely saddlebroken when I purchased her in 2012. She’s green: young and inexperienced.

The first day I arrived at my barn I was panicked. It wasn’t the massive horses, the new workers, or the terrifying barn lady (terrifying only skims the surface). The most frightening thing was my lack of cell service. From an inconvenience standpoint the inability to connect was simply annoying, I couldn’t post cute pictures of my horse on instagram, incessantly check my email to see if my advisor summoned me, log on to facebook (another one engaged?! …she got married?) or text my friends to ask for them to ride with me. On a more practical standpoint, I learned that the lack of cell service could potentially be life-threatening (this is another story for another day).

Over time, I have begun to relish my technological cut-off. When I pass a certain hill on Catawba hitting speeds that would (and does) make my mother yell at me, I know the service is lost… and I’m free. I can devote my full attention to my horse. The barn isn’t without distractions: talking to a friend about the latest boy news in her life or hearing the “you wouldn’t believe what he/she said” makes me lose focus. My horse becomes temporarily neglected. I rush through my grooming routine or half-heartedly work her, walking merrily around in circles caught up in the world of girly gossip.

She’s not a half-hearted horse. She needs my full, undivided attention and makes this very clear to me. She has taught me what it is like to truly communicate. It’s hard. I have to cut off the world around me and put myself into her mind. I have to see things the way she does. She doesn’t understand that the red jumping block that has been there for months will not spontaneously grow arms and eat her alive. I have to look at objects to judge their level of “spookiness”, approaching with caution. I have to be attentive with my body to feel for when her muscles tense. When she does, I know what’s coming and have to occupy her mind. If I’m not occupying her thoughts, she reverts to her instincts as a horse and employs her sense of “flight” (mind you hers is quite strong). I have to ask her to do other tasks to prevent disastrous spooks that have been the cause of too many Schiffert visits and every last one of our falls. She doesn’t politely ask for my attention, she demands it and has a right to. Our relationship is a unique bond, between two creatures that truly cannot speak unless we listen to one another. I have to communicate by observing her and understanding her first. I must force myself to “speak” her unique language before I ask anything.

Favorite ViewMy partner in crime, Dakota.

The lack of cell service is circumstantial, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I know when I am out at the barn, the entire world can go on without me. I am required to let go of daily worries (bills… when did I grow up?), emails from my advisor (ugh she’s asking for what?!), texts from friends (no I don’t want to go out… I want to sit in my PJ’s and watch Breaking Bad until my brain turns to mush), useless facebook updates (stop getting married.. please), and hassling phone calls (Georgianna who? I’m sorry, she doesn’t live here. Wrong number).

I become a person again. I’m whole. My attention is 100% focused.

What if we challenged ourselves, for a day or maybe just an hour, to relinquish our grip on technology? I know, especially with school, this isn’t possible for most. Toy with the idea. What would that be like? What would you spend your time doing? Would you notice more things? Take your time? Appreciate the environment around you? Invest in people?

Another topic, aside from pony tales, I will revert too frequently is my faith. It is the most important thing to me without doubt and can never be stripped from me. This idea of investment just goes back to the idea of living intentionally. God invites us to generously invest in things that are eternal: the Kingdom of God and people, all of which who are of His work.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, I think it’s important to take a step back, disconnect from technology and talk to people. I think we (I) often get too caught up with anxious attitudes towards school/life/petty things to take a mental break. As we learned in class, it’s not easy to listen. However, communicating with another (regardless of species) and truly listening to one another can be exponentially rewarding.