As a kid, I used to dip my fingers in the nearly-burning wax of just extinguished candles and let it dry. Then, I’d peel my fingertips away and study the whorls and spins of my identity mirrored there.
I could do this for hours, lighting and then blowing out the candles again and again.
When I was 11, my parents went to China for 3 weeks, and I was fraught over their absence. I had never stayed a night away from them, and now, 3 weeks without them breathing in the next room.
To comfort myself, I took my little brother to our neighbor’s house, and the three of us spent every afternoon from school bus to dark pulling rocks from a huge pile of dirt behind her parents’ house. I was engrossed with it, focused on finding the rock, absorbed in something that did not require me to think, to feel how far my mom’s breath was from me.
Hours, digging. Hours on hours.
I don’t really know what I thought about during those hours when I was peeling wax or digging rocks. I’m not sure, either, what I was thinking for those hours that Mary and I laid in Mrs. Fowler’s farmyard and watched the clouds when we were 13. But we lay there long enough that I got a sunburn on the 3 inches of my stomach that I made bare that day.
I remember each of those times though, and when I call them up, I settle a bit, rest easy, take a deep breath even in the memory.
Now, I don’t spend much time idle. 10 minutes between and I have my smartphone in my hands. Or I’m thinking of more to do – another pin to share, another tweet to spin out again.
I am letting social media steal my time to daydream.
It wasn’t eons ago that I didn’t have this thing with a screen always in my hand. It wasn’t 5 years ago in fact. Yet, sometimes I really don’t know what I did with my time before I scrolled away the betweens. Or 15 years ago when all the email I sent was via Pine, and my semester in England was filled with books and long walks and conversations where I draped my legs over the chairs in pubs.
I don’t like this change. I really don’t, and I must find a way to stop it without becoming bitter or losing my business.
I want to daydream away the hours again.
I’m not sure what my answer will be here – taking social media off my phone? Scheduling lots of hours where the internet is locked off of my computer? Those may be tools that help me.
But really, I think the solution is somewhere just under my right shoulder blade, near that orange glow around my heart – an answer waits there like a sliver of mica ready to be slid away by layers, the way my brother and I tucked ourselves into the mica quarry at Dad’s work and reveled in the way that satisfaction came when a large flake peeled away whole.
I can turn off my phone, put away my computer, but how will I find my way back to that shiny part of my heart that took joy in hours of staring into the clouds and finding myself in spirals of wax? Where is the rock-strewn path to myself?