Lesley Sebek Miller, a Westmont College graduate, lives in Sacramento, California. Her work has appeared on Christianity Today’s blog for women and in Relevant Magazine. She blogs at barefooton45th.com.
Last spring, somewhere in the middle of Highway 99 at sunset, I let go of two little things that had slowly started taking over my life.
We’d been driving for a few hours when I lost it. The car ride was tense, partially because Anna had been crying a lot, partially because I was starving for In-N-Out Burger, and partially because we were simply wiped out from life.
My husband, Jonathan, and I had squeezed in a trip to celebrate his youngest sister’s graduation from a Master’s program in Los Angeles. Jonathan was a few weeks away from finishing his chemotherapy treatments, which had been going on for five previous months. Looking back, we should have realized our limits, but his sister was important, and we were too cheap to buy airline tickets.
After we stopped for food and the baby finally fell asleep, the car became very quiet. In our relationship, I talk approximately 75% more than my husband. We are very different in our communication styles, and normally this dynamic works just fine. But that night I was yearning for deep conversation. We were bruised and broken, him particularly so, and I wanted to talk about it. He did not.
I peppered him with questions: How are you feeling, and are you tired and wasn’t it great to see your family, and you don’t seem that happy right now and did I say something wrong?
I switched my game plan. I began doing that thing where I purposely don’t talk, and maybe sigh a little bit instead, while waiting for the other person to catch on. In my glorious dreams I imagined he’d see my lonely stares into the farm field horizon, and then ask me a question like, “Lesley, let me invite you into my heart and mind right now, and when we finish talking about me, we’ll discuss exactly how you’re feeling.”
He did not say such a thing.
And so after a few minutes of sighing and waiting, I picked up my cell phone, opened up Facebook and then Twitter, and poured over the lives of friends and strangers. I looked at their weekend photos, what they were making for dinner, and judged their opinioned political views. I inwardly sighed over cute baby photos, and inwardly groaned over the posts that revealed way too much personal information about potty habits. My little escape to the web provided me with endless entertainment and a wide range of emotions, two things I yearned for on a long and tiring road trip.
It had been less than 90 minutes since I’d logged into those same iPhone apps, scrolling and scrutinizing as if I were going to miss an announcement the world was ending.
I put the phone down.
We drove for another four hours in silence. The highway became dark, with only our headlights as company. Even the car stereo was off. I did not attempt to talk, and neither did he. What I did do, however, has changed my life for the better.
I deleted both the Facebook and Twitter apps from my cell phone.
I didn’t give much thought to letting them go. I’d already known they were a crutch for when I felt bored, or lonely, or wanted quick entertainment. But on that particular night their power to avoid the present seemed bigger than it ever had before. Before I could let my mind debate the difficulties of letting them go (“what if someone needs to reach me immediately!?”) they vanished. I am being honest when I say I haven’t missed them—even once.
My husband taught me a lot that night on Highway 99. He taught me it’s okay to not talk through every problem and analyze every emotion. He reminded me brokenness is uncomfortable—there’s no way around it. And he showed me it’s okay to just sit in silence sometimes with the one you love.