Year To Live Project: Gratitude & Phone Addiction

May 2 – San Diego, CA

I think I am addicted to my phone. The thought weighs on me. I’ve been addicted to things before and know the pull. I know the obsessive thinking and the anxiety. It’s there. Fuck.

If I take my fundamental Year to Live Project question seriously, “What would I really do if this were my last year alive?” then staring at my phone wouldn’t be on the Top 10 list of activities to fill my time.

Yet somehow it is often activity number one.

Gratitude Exercises

When I wake up in the morning, I have a routine to set my day. Some days this routine is enlivening, invigorating, and stimulating. Other days this same routine simply gets me to zero and brings me out of the hole in which I’ve woken up, thinking about my old life, the people in it, and if my dog misses me.

It’s a routine I took from a Lewis Howes podcast that looks like this:

  1. Immediately upon waking, I list ten things I’m grateful for…
  2. Then, I list seven things I’m proud of….
  3. Followed by seven things I forgive myself for…
  4. And finally, seven commitments that I’m making to myself.

I can list the same things each morning or the items can be brand new depending on my mood or recent stimuli. It’s supposed to be done in the mirror, but I do it in bed while rubbing my eyes and taking deep breaths.

This routine has been a godsend. It’s been the difference between lying in bed all morning staring at the ceiling while recycling thoughts and getting my ass up and into the shower. Give it a try and see what it can do for you. I’m on day sixty of using it.

But despite how powerful this routine has been, I have to actively tell myself I’m not allowed to turn my phone back on before completing the exercise and then meditating for twenty minutes. Multiple times during my meditation I will catch myself unconsciously reaching for my phone, finding myself pulled out of my breathing by a thought about an email or to see if there is a text message waiting for me. Years of meditating collide with the machines lying on the bed next to me.

My Ear Is Your Ear – Minus The Cauliflower

Maybe there’s something about people knowing I’m traveling for the year and won’t be in the same place for very long that engenders trust. Or the fact they can find out anything about my life by simply clicking on this blog. Maybe there’s something comforting about sitting down with someone who’s actively vomiting his life out into the public domain.

Never before in my life have I had more intimate conversations with people. I know of affairs. I know of prison stretches. I know of suicide attempts. I know of love lost and love gained. Of deep secrets, hopes, and dreams. It’s all right under the surface and is insisting it be presented to me.

These conversations make time stand still. My pain goes away. My life makes sense in the middle of them. I can breathe. I have hope. They make me come alive in ways I never have before. They are the feeling all addictions are trying to create but cannot. This is the juice of life. This is what we’re after, what I’m after, what’s missing in our lives, in our communities, in our nation, in our world. It’s what technology promised and then failed to deliver. Connection. Honest connection without walls or barriers.

Is this why we drink, shoot up, and cheat on our spouses? Is this why religion exists despite the lives it claims? Is this what we’re all looking for? Are we looking for connection on Facebook, on Instagram, from our intimate partners, and in our friendships?

I think it’s about my phone, but it’s not.

My phone is the masturbatory fantasy in lieu of human touch. It’s the heartbeat quickening while staring at a picture of a wave in lieu of sensing god while gliding through the real ocean. My phone is a nothing but broken promises and a false sense of reality.

That’s Too Much For Ten Seconds

The other day I kept my phone off for fourteen hours during a silent meditation retreat. Holy fucking shit. Insanity, huh? Not really. It was with me and the pull was there, but it lessened the quieter I got. On our breaks, I would lie in the bed of my truck and just listen to the birds, knowing my connection to the outside world was one slide of the airplane-mode button away. But the stillness became my salvation that day.

That salvation was broken on my drive home when I finally swipe the button, plugging me back into the real world. My phone buzzed with life. Twenty-five messages. Twenty-five connections that had been infiltrating my universal inbox while I sat in silence. It was a gut punch to my stillness.

In less than ten seconds, I was greeted by two old friends who missed me, a classmate telling me our friend’s husband had just walked out on her and their three-year-old, someone wanting to sleep with me immediately, someone else wanting me to never contact them again, confirmations on wedding plans for the upcoming weekend, two different pregnancy updates, a request to speak on someone’s podcast, an alert that the nursing homes have a flu epidemic, and a number of both positive and negative reactions to my blog post from the week before.

That’s a lot to take in in under ten seconds. It’s too much. It’s a world of information surgically delivered to my consciousness.

Yet, it made me feel alive – and  overwhelmed and exhausted at the same time. It was a connection to the outside world. To something beyond my own thoughts and introspections. To people. Real people. With real lives. People with blood flowing through their veins. People with emotion. With stories unfolding. With life happening to them.

Everything Happened For A Reason – Even Though It Didn’t

I believe everything happens for a reason—even though it doesn’t. I believe everything happened for a reason—even though it didn’t. The goal of this year is not to live as if death were rapidly coming, it’s to learn to live as if life were the most precious experience I could have. To appreciate time and experience it in the moment no matter how that moment unfolds. If that moment brings loneliness, I experience loneliness. If that moment brings joy, I experience joy.

Let’s live in the moment, not while trying to rewrite our past or get ourselves so ready for the future that it never comes. In doing this, we make space for magic, for connection, for the beauty that unfolds when two people sit across from each other over a cup of coffee with absolutely nothing in between them.

So many lessons yet to learn. So much learning yet to do. So much to experience, thank god there’s so much time to do it in.

I’m not addicted to my phone. I’m addicted to human connection. And thankfully so.

Cheers from Guatemala,


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