Friday, April 15, 2016

A little cup of crow

I finally joined the 21st century this week and purchased my first Smartphone.  I know...I know...I swore I wouldn't do it until I needed to travel more for work, but what can I say?  My friend, Richard, gave me an offer too good to refuse.  However, my tiny, trusty flip phone will remain tucked in a desk drawer just in case I decide I like it better than the new one.  
Yeah, right.  
After spending less than seventy-two hours with an iPhone, I have the feeling it's the start of a beautiful connection.  Now all of you who've tried to twist my arm for the past seven years to join the new millennium can finally say, "I told you so!"
But there's still a little of the old-fashioned me along for the ride.  When I called Verizon on Monday to order my new phone, the tech support guy and I ended up talking for over half an hour.  I asked if I could still block texting and Elliot replied, "Sure.  I wish my girlfriend would turn hers off.  All she does is text all day long, but sometimes I don't know what she means by what she writes."
"Yep, I'd rather talk to someone," I replied.  "So much gets lost in translation when you're trying to write something abbreviated."  Then, being the wise ass that I am, I also said, "As a writer and former teacher, I'm sure that if I did text, I'd use proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization."
Elliot laughed.  "Really?"
"Yes!  Texting has really changed the way people write...and not for the better."
"That's true," he said.  "But sometimes it comes in handy."
"Oh, sure," I smiled.  "I can imagine if I need to get in touch with someone and calling isn't a good option, it'd be a great way to connect.  I just don't want to make a habit of it.  There's nothing better than being able to reach out and touch someone.  Remember that ad from the 80's?"
"I do!"  Elliot laughed.  "Say, I'll send you my business email, so if you need any other technical support, you can contact me directly."
"Thanks!  That would be great," I replied.  "When I write, I'll remind you of who I am by saying, This is Kate Don't Text Me."
"I'll remember you," he laughed.  "And I hope you enjoy your upgrade."
"Thanks," I said.  "It'll be a big learning curve for me."
What a big surprise to learn that it's not all that different than having a mini Apple computer in my hand, even though I'm not quite sure what iCloud is all about.  For the next few weeks I'll be visiting the friendly fellows at the Apple Store for a host of tutorial classes and tips on syncing the phone with my new laptop, creating brand new presentations, and honing my latent technological skills.  
        After all, the guy who sold me the MacBook said, "For someone who thinks she's behind the times, you sure know your way around a keyboard."
"What can I say?" I shrugged.  "I'm a writer."
Sure all this new stuff is going to make self-publishing and my business life a lot easier, so I'm happy to eat a little crow...just not a whole plateful.

When I'm working on a novel, I spend the better part of the day in front of a twenty-inch monitor, so to shift from that kind of visual freedom to a six-inch narrow focus has been hard on my eyes.  After only a few hours of setting up the iPhone basics, my head was pounding and I needed to escape to the gym for a little socialization, a run, and a steam bath.  When I got home, I left my cell phone connected to the charger and went to bed, too tired to even read a book.  Sure, technology truly is a wonder and I value the accessibility of so much information in my hands.  
Still, I can tell already I'll need to pace myself. 
We've come a long, long way since the days of answering machines and cordless phones, so I'm absolutely overjoyed to be able to access my emails anywhere at any time (and play Pandora on the car radio).  It'll make life so much easier when I'm out and about or taking Satish and Danta to soccer practice and the like.  There are a host of ways I can communicate with friends and clients, so I no longer have to wait until I get home to log onto the Internet.  Now more than ever, I'm aware of how easy it is to connect with the world, simply by holding a little piece of electronic machinery in my hands.  I can go anywhere online, visit any website, and Facetime with friends near and far.
While that's a truly incredible thing to behold, this week I'm reminded by experience that technological advancement can never take the place of human touch.  It can't replace the ability to be fully present with another person in order to experience every nuance in their voice, their body language, the way their energy feels when you're close.  This world is literally starving for meaningful connection.  We see it all the time in how people disengage from each other via a text or email because it's the easy way out and they don't have to look each other in the eyes.  What a paradox that we have a plethora of ways to stay in touch, yet not much seems to be conveyed with integrity, rather it's like skipping a pebble on the surface of a pond.  
As for me, there's nothing quite like watching ripples widen after dropping a solid stone into the water of an in-person, deep, heartwarming conversation.
"I need my Kate Time," close friends often tell me. 
When I ask what that means, they say something like, "With most everyone else it's just blah, blah, blah.  With you I have a real conversation."
Smiling, I reply, "I don't have any other kind."
When I called a friend this week to catch up, I told her I was writing this blog and she said, "Oh, yes...I need my Kate Time, too!  We can communicate all we want electronically, but when I'm with you, I can feel the true passion and understanding you embody just by who you are.  You sense what's not being said, the unspoken words, the emotions, the vibes, etc.  Electronic messaging is void of all that.  When it replaces true communication, that's where the problem starts.
"As a writer you understand what that means, Kate," Rhonda continued.  "How to communicate with real feeling...with an understanding of touching people with authenticity.  You know there needs to be a purpose."
"Even if that purpose is just to let someone know I'm thinking about them," I replied.  "Sometimes just a quick call can mean a lot."
"Exactly!  Last week I was Facetiming with my family out east for my birthday and my little granddaughter was dancing and blowing kisses to grandma."  Rhonda paused for a moment.  "It was great to be able to see her, but my arms weren't long enough to reach Boston.  Sometimes I just need to feel her heartbeat."
I know exactly what Rhonda means, for my arms aren't long enough to reach California so I can hug my friend, Richard, who has given me so much support this year, gratitude doesn't begin to reveal how I'm feeling right now.  Because of his love and generosity I've been able to carve out more time to write.  Because of his unparalleled encouragement as a fellow author, I know I'm not alone in my vocation.  Because he's given me freedom in the form of new ways to communicate technologically, I've been able to connect with people in ways I never imagined.  Sure we email almost daily, but I can't wait to fly out west and give him a big hug so I can feel his tangible, tender heartbeat just as much as I've felt his metaphorical one through all these years.
Lately I've been able to deeply reconnect with my own heart...a place I'd abandoned long ago, a place I've only recently rediscovered through a host of relationships.   In recognizing the center of myself, I find that when I'm with others, I yearn to relate with them in that way, too.  Now through a variety of choices, I'm able to communicate with a phone call, an email, a blog...or even in person...and know that to be able to reach out and authentically touch someone is a gift not only for them, but for myself as well.