real life

"Am I really going to die looking at my frigging iPhone?"

My mind works in funny ways. It jumps and leaps and suddenly, with the tiniest of provocations I’m way over………………………………….. here.

Today, what murky thought nook am I swimming in? I’m worried I’m going to die feeling nothing, while looking at my iPhone.

Like the 1994 book by John Birmingham, but just swap the felafel for a phone and that’s me.

She died with an iPhone in her hand.

"She died with an iPhone in her hand." Image via iStock.

I never normally think about how I'm going to die. I think a lot about how I want to live, but despite all that thinking I never seem to hit the sweet AHA! spot. The Yes! Got it. Made it. I've nailed this whole living thing. Follow me on Instagram because I'm a life guru in a tutu drinking a mutu.

I was made to think about how I wanted to die and my phone use when I read about Australian comedian John Clarke's death. The satirist, writer, mentor and from all reports kind and good man died at 68 (yes, too early) while out doing what he loves.

In a statement to the media his family said:

"John died doing one of the things he loved the most in the world, taking photos of birds in beautiful bushland with his wife and friends. He is forever in our hearts."

No doubt his death would have been a terrible shock and is incredibly sad for those who loved him, but a jolt went through me when I read about his last moments.

He was someone who did things. Hiking and birds were obviously his things.

He was out in the world doing what he loved, with the people he loved.


It made me think:

What is it I love doing?

What am I actually doing?

I don't like where these questions are heading.

I'm going to die looking at my phone.

If life is a percentage game, I'm going out retrieving my emails. RETRIEVING MY EMAILS. Or checking the weather app. CHECKING A WEATHER APP. Or sending a jazz hands emoji on Facebook messenger. A JAZZ HANDS EMOJI. Or reading a "news" story about fish with a pinky ring in Iceland. A FISH WITH A PINKY RING IN ICELAND. I'll stop with the caps but I'm sure you get the inanity.

Alain de Botton talks about life and how our anxiety about dying. Post continues below.

None of that is me (okay except for the jazz hands emoji).

But somehow I have landed in this place where I seem to co-exist with a constant itch to press on my phone and check something. It doesn't matter what that something is. I need it now. I let myself travel away from those around me - and from myself.

First with my gaze. I've developed that distracted gaze when in company. You know the one. The one you swear you are not doing around the people you love because you hate it when other people do it to you. My eyes keep flicking away from beating hearts in search of the security of a circuit board. Ahh, there it is. Nothing blinking on the screen ... or is that something?

Then after my gaze, it's my attention. My neck angles forward and I'm gone.

It's disturbing and feels like a scene out of a dystopian novel; no one able to make eye contact, clawed right hands that hold coloured light, fidgety people waiting to get away from other fidgety people. Everyone pretending nothing is going on here.

Except it's real life.

Some people love their phones. They love the 24/7 connectivity. They love knowing every little thing at all times. They love watching 17-year-olds from Milwaukee give them tutorials on how to put on eyeliner and how old Ethan Hawke was in his first movie role and who of their 629 friends thinks their post about dolphins and plastic is clever.

I've always thought being in my 40s I've missed this boat. Surely, I know better - I'm not a digital native. I didn't grow up like this. I know that multi-tasking just means you don't do anything properly.

Maybe swimming in winter could be it? image iStock

I'm also someone who likes human connection. I still like talking on the phone, which just confirms how out of touch I should be.

Yet here I am, a paid-up member of a club I never wanted to join. The SlyPhone checkers. The down-the-rabbit-hole time wasters. The I-have-no-idea-what-I-am-still-doing-on-this-shitty-little-thing-ers.

I've got one life and I want to be a doer rather than a watcher; a thinker rather than an unseeing scroller.

I want to live a life where I sometimes get to do the things I love. Where I have passions and adventures and my heart heats up rather than my hand.

I know it's up to me to put the phone down. To not carry it from room to room and pretend I'm not carrying it because no one can see it if it's hidden in a pocket.

So I've made some deals with myself. I'm putting in rules around the phone. I won't bore you with them because they are pretty obvious and basically come down to not touching it as much. Just call me Einstein.

I've also started to put my feelers out for joy and passion in life that don't involve, family, work or being able to tell dinner guests how old Ethan Hawke was in his first movie.

I've joined a winter ocean swimming club and I'm really not into swimming. Or winter. Or oceans in winter. But I'm giving it a go.

I've joined another book club - with women I don't know and they read crime. I don't read crime. But you know, putting the phone down, blowing up habits and comfort zones and all that.

My friend has emailed me an enrolment form for a half marathon and I'm pretending to consider it.

Baby steps to living, not dying with an iPhone in my hand.