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(Note: This column was written three weeks before the death of Steve Jobs at the announcement of his retirement.)

If someone were to ask me what I value most in life, my first answer would be my children. Although sometimes the truer answer is “alone time away from my children.” I’d quickly want to include my husband, many friends I can’t live without and a varied career to that list.

Yet I have so much proof that it’s all a lie.  Because I will ignore each and every one of those people and things I say I value, at least once a day (but usually more often) when faced with a little, red, blinking light on my mobile phone.

From across a room, I can spot this sliver of color that means I have a new email, text or phone message.  And once I see it beckoning me, I will pick up that phone and dive into the new information I’m receiving even while my supposedly most-important children are talking to me.

I will also interrupt myself while pouring my own heart out to my husband or vice versa to see who or what new message has just come in. I even look while I am simultaneously talking on the phone with those friends I say I can’t live without, because I can check what emails have come in while I am still chatting away.

And that’s just how badly I’m ignoring my values while I’m at home. Dare I admit that I sent more than one text message while rafting down a river in Bali? And emailed all through the desert in Namibia, and continued to work over my phone while spending oodles of money to relax on the tiniest island off the coast of Mexico. That in fact, I took my phone into a field with an Indian shaman and Robert Redford in Utah, just incase of…?

Just incase of nothing! Because even if my kids needed me desperately I was willing to blow them off for the one-hour The Sundance Kid and his Native American pal were going to fine tune my inner artist.

This just may be more proof that my phone, and any giant movie star I can get quality time with, outranks my kids – but it reminds me that I don’t really need the damn phone.

I’m also reminded that in a simpler time I used to just be in the moment with my family or entirely focused on any fun event that I travelled for hours to be apart of.  I think I enjoyed both daily life and vacation time a hell of a lot more when I was present in each, rather than constantly teetering between my left brain in a moment and my right reaching down a wifi tunnel into every other aspect of my life simultaneously.

So in fact my phone, which I hardly ever use as a phone anymore, does not make my life less complicated.  It has just made me a slave to it. This little red light is like an enormous alarm in my head now – signifying that something could be horribly wrong, or terrifically right, but either way, I must find out immediately – even if checking it might decimate my mood at the most inopportune times.

It seems easy to say, “just don’t look.”  Or just shut off the blinking light.  Or put the damn phone in the trunk of the car.  (Which I don’t even think Oprah does and that was her bright idea.) Or even just leave the house without it once in a while.

But I can’t.

And with this admission of surrender, can I send a sincere wish of good health to Mr. Steve Jobs this week, as he moves on to retirement? I admit I’m hoping without this genius pioneer in the workforce to ever make another small and sexy product, followed up with a bigger than life marketing campaign that will enevitably make me buy whatever he creates – I might get the opportunity to go back to living in the moment and off my little white products.

I’m looking forward to begin the search for the answers to life’s questions in my actual life, again, and not in my ever-present phone.

 



  1. Nicole on Monday 26, 2011

    I value my relationship with my mom, dad and my sister. Each in different ways. And I just love talking to my boyfriend whenever we have a chance. Whenever I do have stress, I just watch some movies in my bedroom and I would feel much better.

  2. Dan Mackey on Monday 26, 2011

    What is it about every technological advance that was supposed to give us more free time enslaves us into cramming more “productivity” into the supposed empty space it was supposed to create. For various reasons (most of them economic) I have never had more than a basic cell phone which up to the last year was more of a watch / emergency communication device. I haven’t gotten nor desire a smartphone and my ipod is used as a work device and not so much for personal entertainment. I understand and appreciate your situation and admire your admission. I think in your business it becomes a particular struggle to escape because so many of the demands it brings. I hope it works out and you succeed in conquering the blinking red light. I’m pulling for you.
    Dan

  3. Shirah Hopper on Monday 26, 2011

    Unfortunately this is all too true for the majority of America now — and probably most of the rest of the world. I find myself annoyed quite frequently when my friends/family or whoever are having such a wonderful “moment” together and the very second one of the cell phones goes off whether it be a text, email or phone call we all reach for it. I too am very guilty of this.

    I have created some rules for myself (although I break them sometimes) like keeping my phone across the room from my bed so I don’t find myself looking at emails, FB and Twitter updates all night long instead of getting the sleep I so desperately need. Or even putting my phone on silent and tucking it far into my purse so I won’t notice anything coming in. Although the entire time I’m spending with those most important people I secretly am going nuts wondering what the phone is doing the entire time it is in the purse. Wow did I just admit that?

    I think the fact that you are in fact recognizing this “problem” you are far better than a lot of other Americans. I can’t even have a decent conversation with my own 19-year-old little sister as she is too busy texting, FB’ing, tweeting the “friends” that outrank me on her list! If I even thought of telling her this is an issue she would think I had gone mad.

    Good article Diane!

    And NO I don’t think even Oprah puts her cell in the trunk, especially since she has a driver to drive her around.

    SH

  4. Steve P on Monday 26, 2011

    You should try living without the phone as an experiment. My girlfriend and I spend 3 days in Yosemite last month where there was no 3G coverage, so she couldnt get email access etc. It drove her crazy.

    I’ve got used to the no emails etc thing. I’ve found out how to turn them off my blackberry, so come 5.30 Friday, off they go. I did it for 3 weeks last year on holiday in South Africa (although I couldnt do without the “phone” part… just in case you know… I actually had to force myself not to turn them back on over the first 3 days, but after that I didnt notice.), and the thing I found was I came back to 600 emails, 400 of which were completely pointeless and I didnt need,

    In short, the ability to communicate is a wonderous thing, but 2/3 of all communication is pointless !! :)

    Steve

    PS… you know you can turn that red light off, even without turning the emails off

  5. Nicole on Monday 26, 2011

    I’m so addicted to my cell phone. It’s crazy. I try to ignore my phone when I’m doing something, but it’s so hard to resist.

  6. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    I got an 1-phone Steve and I can’t figure anything out on it yet. which is kinda good, cause no light that i have seen yet. but i can’t shut off the sound yet! working on it. Thanks for your findings though, i am already sure I would agree!

  7. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    Thanks for your vote Dan. I’m on a strict diet of three times a day now. morning, mid day, sometime in the evening but not bedtime. has cut the drive way down so far.

  8. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    I’m with you on ms. Winfrey, Shirah! DF

  9. Karen on Monday 26, 2011

    It’s the “not knowing” that drives us to check the phone every time we turn around. WHO called? WHO txtd?? WHO emailed???

    I limit checking emails to my desktop with a screen big enough to actually SEE what I’m doing, lol. Same with the addition I’m not going to admit to having to Facebook. Can’t say I’m really into texting anymore…My vice is Twitter. Ugh.

    Good luck lengthening the chain binding you to your phone!

    (*Duct tape over that dang blinky red light!)

  10. Jill on Monday 26, 2011

    Funny – my family refers to my blackberry as my answering machine – most times it seems I never have it on me when they call, when I do answer, they are shocked – although sometimes I do watch for the red blinking light when I’m expecting to hear from someone, whether via e-mail or text. I also have a rule – no more than 3 text exchanges with someone – after 3rd I’ll call direct to just talk to them. Great article.

  11. Radka on Monday 26, 2011

    Hi Diane,
    today I made a calendar with your pictures. Look at: http://dianefarr.blog.cz/1110/diane-calendar-2012. You can write a comment. Thank you very much and have a nice day, your great fan. :)

  12. Radka on Monday 26, 2011
  13. Radka on Monday 26, 2011

    Hi Diane,
    I have a question. Who is on the front cover on the your last book? That you?
    Thanks.

  14. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    That is not me on the cover of my book. I have no idea who it is actually.

  15. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    thank you for the calendar all the best to you

  16. Radka on Monday 26, 2011

    Hi Diane,
    yesterday I watched Californication and you were brilliant! You are the best actress but I prefer Numb3rs. :)
    I have one question for you because I want a new mobile phone and you had in Numb3rs very nice phone. It was clamshell mobile phone. But I don´t know whether you have clamshell mobile phone or touch mobile phone. What is better? I don´t have anyone who I going to ask. Can I ask, what is your model phone?
    I know that is private question but thank you very much and have a nice day!
    Your loyal fan!

  17. Walter Carvalho de Almeida on Monday 26, 2011

    Genial Diana Farr…

    bom dia,boa tarde,boa noite…

    Olá ,fiquei muito sensibilizado ao ler somente agora estes comentários de pessoas que são verdadeiros experts na criação de anedotas sobre o que é hilário.Pois bem : Izabelle Nahvratinovsk i, não é nome,e sim pré-nome.Nós seres humanos possuímos pré-nomes,nomes e sobrenomes.Aqui no Brasil,especificamente onde resido,Tomé-Açú-Quatro-Bôcas-Pará, você pode observar,nos próprios termos que fui obrigado citar por força de eles existirem, mesmo eles não significando absolutamente nada para a maioria do povo brasileiro que se vale de uma forma de comunicação que mais parece um código secreto chamado português(O idioma que se fala aqui no Brasil,é uma salada de várias línguas,dialetos sussurros e grasnados) que nada tem a ver com o tal Português que se diz ser.A justiça no meu pais tem como última instância,uma corte chamada de supremo,onde os ministros empataram ao julgar a aplicação da lei de ficha limpa.Lei esta que pretende tirar os elementos malfazejos e bandidos da lista de candidatos a cargos públicos.Ora se a instancia superior não tem uma opinião objetiva sobre o que é certo ou errado,porque se disse nos noticiários que a lei está preocupada com a integridade moral de minha filha?Na localidade onde moro a autoridade judicial não mora como prescreve a constituição federal(Carta Magna) temos um defensor público para um universo de aproximadamente 60.0000 habitantes,nossas florestas foram devastadas,pistoleiros são figuras públicas e notórias,a grande maioria de nossos professores são comprometidos com a política partidária e inimigos daqueles que não comungam com suas ideologias.Pessoas já ficaram presas neste País por terem o seu pré-nome nome e sobrenome homônimo de foragido.Então peço aos humoristas de plantão que riam de minha criação quanto ao pré-nome :Izabelle Nahvratnovski , que com certeza é muito engraçado ante essa desgraça toda que muitos de nós brasileiros vivenciamos.Minha filha sei que estará preservada destes males que sofrem as Marias e Joãos de minha pátria amada Brasil.Pelo menos até completar a idade em que poderá solicitar mudança de pré-nome.Walter Carvalho de Almeida (O Pai palhaço,segundo os humoristas intelectuais do mundo contemporâneo) Abraços…

  18. Nicole on Monday 26, 2011

    Diane, you did an article Kardashian sham of a marriage and recession: http://www.trivalleycentral.com/articles/2011/11/22/trivalley_dispatch/news/doc4ec2b0d5b831f144955171.txt

    You have to post it on here. :)

  19. Diane Farr on Monday 26, 2011

    yes! ihave about 4 articles backed up. i just haven’t had a chance to post them. but thanks for finding it Nicole.

  20. Nicole on Monday 26, 2011

    OK! It’s no problem. :)