For the past few days, I’ve been fretting about my iPhone. You’d think the thing was a family member or something. I was at a museum with my kids, and when I went to the bathroom, my phone slipped out of my pocket and crashed on the floor. When I picked it up, I was awe-struck by the myriad cracks in the surface. Woah, I thought. That really is glass. And also, Shit. What do I do now?
This glass crack came on the heels of a lot of talk in my household about simplicity. See, my teaching jobs are not always entirely dependable. My son is going into kindergarten next year and we have to figure out where to send him. (Our dream is a private school.) We have this credit card debt thingie that we have to pay down before we start accruing interest. In other words, we need to be careful about money. We need to simplify.
There’s a lot to be said for making things simple. For one, it makes me feel a lot less anxiety than having too many options. Options, while I seem to like them, just end up equalling complications in my chest. And then there’s the Quaker thing, the focus on simplicity. I am a practicing neo-Quaker.
So the big question on my mind was, Do I replace this sucker? (Money!) Or do I fix this sucker? (Money!) Or do I just get a free phone and not have internet on my phone at all? That’s not the end of the world, is it? I mean, what do I actually need? People lived for a long time without internet access in their pockets. And if my husband hadn’t gotten me an iPhone for my birthday two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have ever bought one myself. So clearly, I should just get a simpler phone.
I struggled with this for days. I talked about it for days. (Said Husband was getting really weary about the whole thing.) I felt like the cracking glass may have been some sort of divine signal that I needed to practice mindfulness, be fully in every moment.
Still, for some reason, I wasn’t fully convinced. My iPhone is fun. I’ve grown really accustomed to it. I like having a camera and video and texting and music all at my fingertips, even if those fingertips sometimes get tired and should just remain still. And now the phones have this robot person who does stuff for you. I have often thought about how much I need one of those.
The amount of emotional energy I was devoting to this situation was unhealthy.
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. Her humor makes me downright giddy, but she also has plenty of serious moments I’ve enjoyed reading before I turn off my book light and fall asleep. In one story, she talks about how much her young son wanted to go hang-gliding. He was too young, but he really, really wanted to go, and she really, really wanted to make him happy while also making the right decision. So she asked God if She could just take a moment of Her very important day to give her a sign.
It came in the form of relief. Lamott was watching a woman dance and decided, What the Hell, and joined her. As she danced, she imagined how she’d feel if she told her son he couldn’t go hang-gliding the next day. She felt a wave of relief wash over her. When she imagined letting him go, she felt terror. So that was her answer.
I’m not describing it so well, but buy the book and you’ll get a better idea.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I’ve often felt that wave of relief that alerts me that something true and right has just happened; I just never recognized it as spiritual or divine. Once, when I found out I was going to be laid off from my job and I was four months pregnant, I was strangely flooded by relief. It turned out to be a good thing, in the end. It put me in the place I’m in now, which is a much better place than where I was before.
So I’ve been looking for this feeling of relief, this sign that would tell me the right answer about my iPhone. I asked God, new iPhone?
Me: Old-type phone with no internet access?
God: Eh. Maybe. I don’t know.
Today, as the cracked iPhone got bulkier and uglier and harder to use, I decided I needed to make a final decision. In the morning, I found out I had made a huge career gaffe in applying to a job I’d dearly like to have. It was hugely upsetting. When I got off the phone, I went on the Apple website. You know, just to kill some time.
I appealed to God once again. Old phone?
God: Oh yes. You deserve it, Jana. You’ve been on an emotional whirlwind and you just get right on up and get it.
And so I did. You can’t argue with God.
And that is my story on iPhones and spirituality.
Image: First Day by frogsthatmoo via Flickr.