Looking Up

12 May

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There is a reason I’ve never tried Candy Crush. Or Farmville. Or Meth. I know myself well enough to know that those things, like their predecessors (except for the Meth) could become obsessions.

One summer during college, I became a basement-playing Mario Brothers freak. (On ColecoVision no less.) Every day, I made my way downstairs and played endlessly in the darkness. I was late to my waitressing job. I messed up orders because I was singing the Mario Bros. music in my head. I grew thumb callouses. I had a problem. I don’t recall if it ended because I developed a Vitamin D deficiency or because I could have been mistaken for goth or because my mother finally ripped it out of the wall. Regardless, I was one step away from an intervention.

In law school, I became hooked on Solitaire. Once again, I was up until 3 am feeding my new bad habit. I even missed a few classes due to oversleeping after a late-night solitaire binge. Different hands were laid out in my mind as I would try to study. The warning signs were all there. One night, I took all the cards in my apartment, like a loving relative collecting all the drugs they could find, and threw them down the incinerator. It was time to get out of that crack house.

A few years later, as a working attorney, I found myself playing solitaire, but this time on the computer (no shuffling! twice the fun!). Although I had important things to do, like write memoranda of law and conduct depositions, Solitaire was pretty important too. Until I realized, once again, I was becoming a terrible Lifetime movie. I called the MIS Department and advised them to remove the game from my computer. “And make sure you really get rid of it because I’ll find it somewhere if it’s just hidden in another file or the recycling bin.” It was finally gone. Ridiculous.

In 2004, my mind started to soften after having children. My husband suggested I try Sudoku. He should really have known better. I became super good at Sudoku what with all those hours of daily practice I was getting in. And of course, it wasn’t long before my husband had to ban all search engines from retrieving any result with the word “Sudoku” in it. That was a close one.

In 2009, I became a Brick Breaker champ. With sweaty hands, at 2 am, and a house full of sleeping normal people, I finally beat all the levels. I wanted to wake my husband and tell him. But I also wanted to live. I waited until 6 am. He didn’t see it as the accomplishment I did but he was a player himself. It made him more competitive Brick Breaker-wise but I was over it. I went to the Verizon store (which shows just how desperate I must have been because that is a trip to hell and back), and had them remove Brick Breaker from my phone. They had never done this before and had to call headquarters for instructions. Then again, they probably never met a loser like me so it was a day of Firsts for the Verizon lady.

Most recently, and probably not as surprising, I have developed a small addiction to the internet and more particularly, social media. I am not proud. This addiction comes at the expense of my family. It is certainly fodder for jokes but I cringe to think of moments I may have missed, memories I could have made, smiles I could have seen, talks I could have had. There have been too many times I have gotten lost in the lives of strangers instead of those of my own children. I have been looking down when I should have been looking up.

Last week, I was working on the blog post “Thank You For Being a Friend” and my 11 year old son called for me. After the 3rd or 4th time he screamed “Mom” I tiptoed into his room (where his twin brother was soundly sleeping) and crawled into his bed. He turned his back to me, and in his small voice said these words that I will not forget:

“Mom, I kept calling you. You keep saying one second, one second. Eventually, I’m not going to trust you anymore.”

And there it was: a ColecoVision console; a deck of cards; a Sudoku grid; a roving Brick Breaker ball bouncing off meaningless blocks and taking time away from the people I love the most.

He was right and it broke my heart. Trust is a funny thing. Some people come with it, some people have to earn it. To me, it is a commodity in all respects. It should be a given, however, that a boy can trust his mother. If he lost that trust, could he regain it? I can’t even contemplate the genuinely sad different scenarios that could play out. And I won’t. Instead, I will change. I don’t want to lose any more minutes with this boy who writes me love notes, enjoys my fondness for pranks, and waits up every night for me to sneak into his bed for one last cuddle.

My son is pretty damn smart. In one sentence, he summed up a horrible failing of mine and I hadn’t even put out a suggestion box. And thank goodness because I have years ahead of me to enjoy him and his brothers and my husband and a beautiful sunny day and a great song and the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. From now on, the only obsession I will allow myself to nurture is my family. I’m not deleting the internet just yet. I’m just going to look up.

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