Together-Alone Time

On a recent Catholic Women Now radio show, mental health counselor Randy Kiel sat in our guest seat and talked about integrating college-age children back into the family for the summer (and sometimes beyond!). We talked about the technological fallout of what Randy coined “together-alone time” — how easy it is to become isolettes gathered around a table while buried in technology without any relationship building happening. Isolettes, as in the incubators premature babies are placed in to protect them, shield them, from unwelcome environmental influences. It’s a jarring image. While it may be a positive short-term environment for a preemie, it’s not the preferred condition. Being insulated from human interaction is not beneficial for any of us in the long run.

Sure, there’s a time and place for alone time. But we step away to find it: we go to another room of the home, we pray in adoration at the chapel, we take a “Mother’s sabbath” day, or go on a retreat. Jesus himself often slipped away to the wilderness to pray. And we do so as well to physically and spiritually recharge and come back renewed in order to be present to one another.

Think about it this way; we are an incarnational people. Meaning, as sensory beings, God knew that it was best to send his Son in the flesh to live among us, to be a real historical figure. God’s love is not just some theory or idea. It is a flesh and blood reality that can be seen, heard, and wow, even touched. For if Jesus came in the flesh, if the Word become flesh, then so also must our faith, family, and friendships be in the flesh. In one way or another, we have to be “present” to one another. After a while, “I’m there with you in spirit” rings hollow.

Back to the radio show conversation, Randy continued to make a point that really hit me hard.

How can we possibly understand, appreciate, and crave the True Presence if we can’t even be present to one another in our homes? 

Ponder that one for a bit, eh? And please don’t think this is me on a soapbox chastising you for your social media use. I’m sharing this here, first, as a reminder to me, myself, and I.

This beautiful commercial from Thailand reminds us how uncool it is to “disappear” in front of your closest friends and family, to be in a near perpetual state of together-alone time.

Here’s to “together-together” time.

Question: In this digital age we live, how do you combat “together-alone” time?

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  1. oneview says

    Combatting together-alone time in our family requires intentionality, (i.e., planning together-together time). This is a challenge with a range of ages — in our family the span is from 14 to 56.

    A recent Sunday evening at “Live at the Creek” near Jordan Creek mall was successful for us. The evening included low-cost food (a picnic supper with a simple pre-made homemade salad and Hy-Vee chicken so Mom didn’t have to cook), music (a live band playing a variety of genres to keep everyone happy), space for the younger teens to spread out but still be nearby (a nice path around the lake), gorgeous weather (75 degrees) with no bugs, and a fireworks show to cap the night. Plus, no admittance fee!

    The teens and early 20s were somewhat skeptical at the beginning of the evening, but on the ride home asked, “How often does this happen?” Next time the weather is predicted to be that nice, we’ll try another Sunday evening together-together.

  2. says

    What a great commercial!! Something we do is kind of have certain times carved out for technology and when it’s outside of those times, try to resist the urge to check e-mail, etc. Really hard, and we’re still working at it! But I think the key is finding a balance instead of trying to go cold turkey. For example, I really like starting my day in bed, saying my morning prayer, checking e-mails and blogs, etc. My daughter actually enjoys waking up slowly beside me and watching a cartoon on netflix. Both of those things help us gradually wake ourselves up and get us some quiet time. BUT there is a definite cut-off time every morning, and it applies to both of us! I realized she was only willing to stop watching TV if I was willing to put my laptop down. So we do it together, and it teaches us both some self-control! After that I try to stay offline until she’s down for a nap, and then again until my alone time in the evening. I don’t feel deprived, but I do feel challenged the rest of the day to resist the urge to turn on a screen!!

    • says

      Michele, we start our mornings in similar ways! My daughter is an early riser and my son sleeps in longer. I like to lounge and read the daily readings, pray, etc, as you. I find my daughter just wants to be near me – sometimes I try to engage her in my prayers, especially if the saint of the day is a story that may strike a chord with her; other times I allow her to watch PBS. And like you, I find that when I shut down the screens, both kids follow my lead. It does take discipline. And boy, when I stay focused on “together-together” time, I find my days are more peaceful and ordered.

  3. says

    That commercial is SO GOOD!!! I´ve been without a cell phone for almost two months since mine broke. It has made me feel more present at home and with the kids for sure. But I´ve started to feel disconnected from friends & family, especially when I get emails about my vmail being full or asking about a text they sent, which of course I didn´t receive. Hopefully when I get a new phone, I will have a bit more balance with it!

  4. says

    Hi Joel and Lisa!

    Peace and Greetings from Rome! Thanks for your website!
    It’s wonderful to see a committed and convinced couple sharing their faith with others.
    I’m a Ghanaian consecrated religious woman and my desire as a missionary is to see
    more Catholic couples enjoy and share their faith. Thanks for your witness!
    I feel very uplifted after visiting your page.
    I pray many Catholics stumble upon it as I did and find more meaning to their faith and family life.
    God bless you!
    Sr. Benedicta Mante, OLA,

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