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  • Writer's pictureValena Spradley

I was offline for 4 days-kinda...

My husband has worked out of town for the last year coming home on the weekends. We decided to opt for a quiet New Year’s Eve and asked our good friends if we could sneak away to their lake house about an hour from here. They said yes and I decided it was a good time to step off the grid. The cell service is spotty there – no internet at the house so I told our kids, and those who I text often for friendship or work that V was offline.

I removed Facebook from my phone- I do this quite often when I want to unplug because my instinct has become to pick up my phone, open up Facebook to see what’s happening and make sure I haven’t missed anything any time there isn’t something else taking my attention. The only way to stop that is to completely remove it.

It’s always so strange at first to break that habit of always having your phone beside you. When you have adult children that live in different towns that momma instinct is to always have the phone beside you – “In case they need me!” It’s hard to remember that when I was 20 and even 40 years old we just lived our lives.  If someone needed something they called – not expecting to always have you available 24 hours a day – and they left a message. I loved the old answering machines where you would see the light blink, push the button and hear the voice of those you loved. Now my phone blinks and I listen to the message but it doesn’t seem the same. Is it because we lived in a time before you were able to leave a message – if they didn’t answer you just had to wait and try again later?  I would love to take my 20-year-old daughter,  drop her into 1985 and watch her adjust to how different my life was at 20.

The weather was perfect – beautiful sunshine during the day and crisp cool nights. I cooked a bit – made those wonderful slider sandwiches that my husband loves and a friend dubbed “Crack sandwiches” the first time she tried them. I’ve learned to make ham for him and turkey for me. We played Gin and the score didn't really matter to me - I just enjoy getting better at the game.

I read 2 complete books, slept until 9:00 one morning and it was perfect! I sat and thought about my life just 5 years ago when I was in the middle of my Care Giving time. The Sandwich Generation is what so many people are currently experiencing. Our daughter was 15, my mom’s Alzheimer’s symptoms were progressing, my dad’s COPD was getting worse and I was juggling to keep it all together. I really couldn’t even think about the next phase it was all I could do to survive each day. In 2017 the week before Christmas my husband had a 5 hour surgery in Houston to remove a kidney stone. He already had 4 different procedures locally that didn’t fix the issue. I told the family I was not going to cook Christmas dinner. Our family was small at Christmas – the 3 in our family, my parents, and my mother and sister in law. It was very difficult for my daughter to understand why I “canceled Christmas” I was just so tired. At one point during my husband’s kidney issues I seriously didn’t know if he was going to make it. These days were long and brutal, I prayed, I journaled a bit and I fought to survive. Faith has always been important to me but I struggled with the people that told me “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”.  When I heard that and felt I couldn’t take another trip to the ER that I felt I was failing at everything– those words did not provide comfort. I know they were meant to be encouraging but I did not hear that – I heard the opposite. I heard failure in my faith, failure in not being able to get everything done, so much disapointment and failure. I’ve learned that just a text saying “I’m thinking of you” is the best gift you can give a Caregiver, and ask “Can I bring you anything?”  (I sat down to write and share this post about how I stepped back for a few days but it’s interesting when you let your mind get still and clear the things you will remember.)

So let’s get back to current time -I left my phone in the bedroom – once I had texted the kids to say we had arrived safely, Happy New Year and that we loved them.

I finished one book The Five Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand – it’s a light summer reading type of book – just what I needed and then picked up my phone to log my completion in the Good Reads App to make sure I had it listed for my 2023 Book Challenge. When I picked up the phone I decided to check the weather, then see if my Time Hop app was working – Time hop is a great app that will show you photos you’ve taken on that date for the last several years. It’s one of my favorite apps but we didn’t have enough cell signal to load it so I put my phone down.

It was hard to not check for messages and of course I did several times but then I remembered I had told everyone I was off the grid so they left me did not text me.

It got easier as long as the phone was not in my sight and here’s the biggest challenge for me – I want to take photos of so many things – especially when I want to remember a good trip.  I took the phone down to the dock to snap a photo of the beautiful sky. I did and then picked it up and remembered I still had Instagram so I clicked on the profiles of my kids – just to check in.  It was a good hit of normal and then I felt bad because I hadn’t stayed off the grid. Yes, that phone is an addiction and it’s hard to be cut off from it.  I took it back upstairs but right before I put it away I looked down and saw my husband fishing off the dock so of course I had to take a photo of that. I’m thinking I may need to purchase a small travel camera just to be able to capture the moments when I want to step away from everything else.

I didn’t wear a real bra or anything that had zippers for 4 days and it was awesome! On Sunday I said I needed to get out of the house and ride around, so I left in my Buffalo Plaid flannel pajama pants, favorite sweatshirt and hat and we wandered around country roads and then I decided a trip to Dairy Queen for a Heath blizzard was necessary and my husband said “Of course you need a Heath Blizzard!” On a side note – I don’t know how people can survive getting snowed in and not leaving your house for days or weeks - no wonder ever one was crazy in The Shining.

We arrived back home on New Year’s afternoon, I took down the tree and most of the Christmas stuff. I sat down and pulled out my Ipad and looked a bit at Facebook but decided it didn’t matter – whatever I missed was ok. I have not put the app back on my phone – let’s see how long I can last…


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