Conversations in the Dark with a Six-Year-Old

Uncategorized Sep 17, 2021

I love our new world of always-on technology because it can provide empirical, digital evidence that validates the squishy, fuzzy experience of being human. It can prove you’re not crazy. That there is a reason for feeling the way you’re feeling.

I don’t have a good segue into this next paragraph, but one of the things I hate most about myself is I don’t think fast enough on my feet. It’s why I prepare so meticulously when I know in advance that I need to make an important point or defend my position. When an argument becomes heated, when I’m unexpectedly challenged without supporting evidence ready and within reach, I go full Costanza.

Given an hour to craft my argument, I can eviscerate the other side in a scathing email that makes my case. But on the fly, I fumble and back down in the face of a more aggressive opponent.

That doesn’t happen often, but it did today. And I could feel my body reacting, fumbling, and shutting down in real-time as it always does. Fight or flight? I noped right out of there. I packed up my bag and went home for the day.

The difference this time, since the last occurrence, is I was wearing my watch.

Were the stress and my body’s reaction real? Or imagined? (Does it matter?)

A 161 bpm heart rate during a contentious conference call sure seems to validate how I felt.

To me, that’s fascinating. The direct connection between a piece of aluminum strapped to your wrist and the emotions overwhelming your brain. A tenuous but verifiable link between digital and analog. An opportunity to recognize something tangible and make a change.

So when I arrived home today, I silenced and shut down every device and scheduled some vacation time for next week. In my out-of-office auto-reply, I even lied and said that I would be away without access to the internet or a cell phone.

Later, after sunset, I held my daughter’s hand and walked around our backyard in the pitch black for an hour. Me in my house shoes. Her with bare feet. We talked about the usual things that are top-of-mind to a six-year-old.

Why is it cold at nighttime but not really when it’s Summer?

Can wolves hear me with their long ears if I howl quiet?

What was that noise?

Where do bees go when it’s dark?

Where do ants live?

If I get a flashlight, will that scare away the lightning bugs or make them come closer?