by Susan J. Elliott

Copyright 2008-2017

We only get so many sunsets in life. We miss most of them. We don’t get a whole lot of really great ones.

I’ve done posts about being just about the only person on the train platform in the a.m. who is actually looking at the Hudson. I feel so fortunate to be able to start and end my day walking on the banks of this magnificent river. I get to see funny ducks, fish, crazy birds and unbelievable ships and boats. Mostly everyone else is looking at their phone. I don’t get it. You can have your phone for the rest of the day. You only get so many glimpses of the Hudson and the unique things that happen there.

Last year I wrote about the fish jumping out of the water. Every time it would hit the water with a splat people would look up from their phones for a second and look around as if to say, “What was that?” It was, you ninnies, a FISH jumping out of the water. Truly. They missed the wacky bird that was floating along on gusts of wind on a very blustery day. They miss the arguments the ducks have about whether to turn left under the platform to their little lagoon or stay on the river. I adore ducks. I never eat ducks and I am vehemently opposed to foie gras – enough to never eat in any restaurant that has it on the menu.

Anyway…my darling husband used to say, “You have this strange thing called conviction.” He loved it. It made his life miserable sometimes (such as walking out of said restaurants when he was starving…or as he would say in his Boston accent…stahven).

Anyway, one of my convictions has been to keep my phone down and away most of the time and especially to be in the moment.

Tonight I came home late and as the sun started to set over the Palisades, it turned a bright red. It was glowing and fiery. I resisted the urge to pick up my phone. No, I chastised myself, enjoy the sunset. (the photo on this post isn’t the sunset I saw…the one I saw was a lot better.) I absolutely refused to photograph it. I just wanted to experience it…drink it in.

You only get so many. Michael didn’t get to see this one. He would have loved it. I would have been able to snuggle next to him and we both would have watched it. It would have been lovely. But I am grateful I lived to see it.

I sat up higher in my seat and looked around the car. Almost everyone was plastered to their phones. The sun was so bright, it was making red streaks inside the car. No one bothered to look up. It could have been hurtling toward us at a million miles an hour and I would have been the only one to know enough to bend down and have it miss me.

I got up to go to the door and look at it from a better angle. As I got near the door a young couple was sitting there. He had his phone up taking a photo of the sunset. Well, better than not even seeing it, which is what she was doing. She was looking at her phone. She wanted to show him something on her phone but he had put the phone down, his eyes riveted on the sun. I thought to myself, “There’s hope for you, yet.” He put his hand up and she ignored him and went back to tapping on her phone.

As we passed a platform there was one lone woman standing, hands on hips, not on her phone, staring at the sun. Three other people were looking down at…yeah, you know.

The sun grew lower over the Palisades…it was bursting by now. The young man, without a word and without taking his eyes off the sun, tapped her and pointed. She, of course, picked up the phone and snapped a photo. Then, instead of joining him in the enjoyment of the sunset, went back to her phone.

They had to be all of 20. They were sitting close but couldn’t have been further apart. This was a romantic sunset. This was LIFE, this was something you can’t throw on Facebook and get 400 likes and still be satisfied without having savored the moment, which she didn’t. He did. He was still looking at it as it crept ever further down the Palisades, only wisps of red still appearing in the sky.

We only get so many sunsets. We only get so many great ones and we get very few to share with someone we care about. Life happening around you, nature happening around you, is more important than anything you can read or Google. There is so much you’re missing when your life is ruled by a little rectangle box.

When I was growing up my grandparents called the television the “idiot box.” We only had 3 major stations, 2 New York stations and PBS. But they were convinced it was making idiots of us all. Despite the vast array of information the internet holds, it’s also making idiots of us all. We cannot be anything but stupid when we willingly allow an electronic device to hold our attention more than a magnificent sunset.

There’s oodles of Googles. There are limited sunsets. Very limited sunsets. And even fewer great ones.

Learn to enjoy the moment. Be where your feet are. I’m really glad I resisted the urge to take the photo of the sun. I’m really glad I was able to just enjoy it. I was glad to see a 20 year old guy enjoy it. I have no idea what the future will be of their relationship, but I felt really sad that she missed so much more than just that sunset and I hope that one day she learns to put down the phone and pick up her own powers of observation.

I write in the books and the workbook how important it is to hone your powers of observation. Pick up on people’s body language. Really clue in to what others are saying. The importance of active listening and keen observation. If you have your face planted in your phone all day long, you are never going to be good at that and you’re going to be easily had or suckered. Don’t be fooled.

When in a relationship don’t be connected 24 x 7. Take time for you. JUST YOU. Do not allow others to decide that you need to answer every text in minutes. I don’t answer texts for DAYS sometimes and no one thinks it’s weird. I have trained them; they have not trained me. My bff says about her bf, “Oh he’s like you, he can shut his phone off for the weekend….” See? I’m not the only one. I refuse to be beholden to a phone or anyone’s beck and call or text and call or whatever.

If you are constantly connected to your partner, first of all, it’s unhealthy but when you break up there is a void and you don’t know how to fill it. It is haunting and horrible. Don’t get into this over reliance on constant communication. YOU NEED TIME FOR YOU IN OR OUT OF A RELATIONSHIP. Turn it off, shut it down…I am so tired of people on the streets of NYC slowing the rest of us down because they are trying to walk and text (you moe moes need to move OVER and let us by…) or just the number of people having shouty conversations that none of us want to hear. That’s enough to drive me crazy…but the number of people who think they can’t MISS a text or that the world will stop spinning on its axis if they shut off their phone for a minute—egad…ENOUGH. Live a life once in a while. It will do you some good.

The time I’m looking at a little screen I’m missing life and I don’t want to. I can google, text, email, Facebook, tweet or whatever anytime. I can’t catch a sunset, watch a duck or see a magnificent ship go by any time of the day or night. I choose my surroundings and choose to appreciate them and to bask in them. I live a disciplined life and it is glorious. I’m not led around by the nose by anything but morning coffee. And I need that coffee to wake up and smell the roses. Not tweet the roses, not facebook the roses, not google the roses…but SMELL the roses.

Enjoy the day. There are only so many of them.

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3 Responses to Sunsets

  1. Coppergirl says:

    I’d be keying out the birds, the fish, the shoreline vegetation, correlating where the sun set on the horizon to the time of year, and assessing water quality. I go out in snowshoes on moonlit nights to enjoy the quality of the light, this in mountain lion country. Also went out in Grizzly country. Why am I not afraid? I’m paying attention. Tracks, smells, terrain, sign. Actually the only environments I am afraid of are crowds of humans. Too much to overwhelm ones senses. I live between two mountain ranges, way above town; one with the highest peak in the state. Every day, I am up well in time to see the sun rise and the sun set. Right now, there is a haze I the valley because there are three forest fires burning, hummingbirds are already out. So many live in an electronic cocoon, they fail to be aware of anything else. This can be hazardous to ones health; fake friends on Faceplant rather than real ones, mate finding on line rather than IRL, no ability to read non verbals, get a gut feeling for a person. Our pre-conceived reality blinds us to what really is. We don’t sit quietly and assess how we feel, rather, we overload our senses with nonsense. So much of what I read of failed rships here and on other blogs involve not seeing warning signs; I too have been caught in my version of what I’d like reality to be rather than paying attention to what really is.We are, as a species, are daylight-living, constantly low level active, visually oriented, highly social primates. Cell phone, television, life is anathema to everything we’re evolved to be. Ironically, all of the mentally ill folk I know in this town have sleep/wake cycles that run counter to what humans are supposed to do. Waking up well after sunrise, staying up till the wee hours. These folk have different diagnoses (hoarder/paranoid, bipolar, clinical depression) yet share this characteristic. Makes you wonder.

    • Susan J. Elliott says:

      So true. I have written on here about seeing couples each lost in their own electronics and how it saddens me. Your comment reminded me of this post I read and wrote called Savoring. I’ll post the link in the next comment.

  2. Susan J. Elliott says:

    I wrote this post called SAVORING and I’m so glad I’ve learned to do it.

    Tonight I saw a mother get off the train and go to hug her little girl (about 3) whose father was there to meet her. The mother picked the little girl up and without missing a beat looked at HER PHONE behind the little girl’s head. The little girl was giddy and wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck and saying, “mommy, mommy, mommy…” like she could not get enough of her mother. The mother was totally oblivious to it.

    I thought, “You have no idea how short the time is that she will ever be that happy to see you.” It was so sad to me. I see it in the supermarket all the time when mothers and fathers put their children in the car in front of the cart or talk on the phone instead of to their child. I used to take my kids, one at a time, to the store so I could SPEND TIME WITH THEM. Not so I could put them in a toy car (which they didn’t have then, thank goodness) or talk on the phone (which they didn’t have then). WHen I saw that mother do that today I thought, like the sunsets, there are only so many days your child is beside herself to see you. There comes a day when a teenage girl becomes a teenage girl and doesn’t even want to look at her mother. LADY PUT DOWN THE PHONE and ENJOY YOUR CHILD.

    It’s an effing phone…she’s your CHILD.

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