“Hello, Muse, are you out there?” he asked, taking a deep breath and positioning his fingers to write. “How can I serve you today?”
The fingers trembled a bit, but no words came. He looked up and saw the phone, sitting on a box on a book stand, the little electronic connection to the world that he carried in his pocket.
“Pick me up,” the electronic toy beckoned. “Lose yourself in me.”
“N-no,” he told the toy. “I promised myself I —“
“You would what? Deny yourself a news update? Keep yourself in suspense as to whether the package really will be out for delivery today? Not know whether anyone Liked your comment? Miss all your friends’ comments? You know you want to. Pick me up. Come on. You wanna.”
He stared at the persistent electric nag and saw his addiction. It had become his go-to time filler, a place to glaze his eyes while he was between tasks — even during a pause in his task. It always pulled him in and away from his real life.
But he had made a promise to himself.
“I will not let you control me,” he said, even as the impulse took control and it began to require serious energy to fight it. In the quiet of the morning, a raging soundless battle ensued.
He began to inch forward in his analog task by making a new promise, to reward himself with a digital peek when he completed his morning goal. In the corner of his mind, he held onto a conviction that it was OK to break a promise and yield to temptation if you agree not to yield until after resisting for a certain period of time.
He employed the old “one moment at a time” tactic: He could resist the temptation for just this moment, right? And now this moment … and on and on.
The words kept flowing onto the page, and the temptation waned a little, but the fear he could yield at the next pause remained. “Better not to pause, then, mate,” he told himself, and he kept going.
Having set a goal to fill three pages before allowing himself to peek at the phone, he declared victory at the bottom of the fourth page, even if his victory included, in part, several paragraphs written in the third person about being addicted to looking at his cellphone.
“Take that, you miserable electronic demon,” he said, reaching for the device. Just before he picked it up, however, he stopped, looked into the sky, shook his head, and left it alone.
“You’ll regret this!” the phone screamed at him as he walked away. But he never did.