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Unplugging Is Easier Said Than Done

When I put the phone down, I felt weird, incomplete, like I wasn't wearing a bra or something. At times during the beginning of the vacation, I actually held the phone even though it was off. It was like weaning: The turned-off phone was my binky.
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Have you ever tried to unplug? Try attempting it, as I did, while on a family vacation, with your entire extended family there, when you are the main organizer of that vacation. Try unplugging when your two teenaged girls are addicted to their phones. Try unplugging when, for the last decade, you have eaten, slept, showered and exercised with your iPhone in hand. (You know, they make a great waterproof case these days....)

"Obsessed" is not the word. "Addicted" doesn't sum it up either. "Tethered"? "On permanent phone-IV"? "Permanently attached"? Closer.

I knew it was bad. I have known it for a while. I just didn't want to believe I was one of "those women." But I am. I am worse.

I'll confess to one of my worst moments and leave it there:

At some point in the past few years, Joe and I just might have left MSNBC, and our agent, Ari Emanuel, was handling the complicated back-and-forth. The negotiations were tough and dramatic. (I am so happy that we still are at MSNBC, but that's a different blog.)

I was on vacation in Paris with my family. It was a long-awaited, much-needed vacation, much-needed family time. Yet the negotiations were so intense, and it was all playing out right there on my phone!

I was with my husband Jim and my daughters, Carlie and Emilie, at Good Friday services at the oldest cathedral in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The cathedral was just stunning, all stone, with huge pillars and the most incredible music echoing through the chambers. My older daughter Emilie and I pulled each other close. It was a magical moment -- until something started buzzing between us. Literally buzzing.

Emilie and I looked down toward the thing sticking out of my pocket that was buzzing so viciously. Yes, it was my iPhone. And the way it was propped in my pocket and vibrating, you could actually see the name of the aggressor calling persistently (it rang like 20 times): "Ari."

Emilie and I saw the name, and then we looked at each other. Her eyes said it all: "Really, you're going to answer that?!"

No. No, I would not. Absolutely not. Never. Not in the oldest cathedral in Paris. Sacrebleu! Totally sacrilegious. Who would do that? Good God, that's sick.

I said all that to myself and stuffed the phone back into my pockets. It buzzed more. I started to fidget, shifting. Emilie and I were no longer hugging. More like shifting around, looking away.

Then I caught myself in the act.

Instead of looking at the incredible moment with my daughter in Paris, I found myself looking at the columns inside the church, and not for their architecture or their fantastic size but to choose which one I could hide behind to answer my phone!

Yes. I actually did that. I went there.

When we walked out of the church, I pulled the buzzing, beady-eyed Apple device out of my pocket. I was sweating. I looked stressed.

"Answer it," my husband said in disgust. "Just answer it."

I did. We walked through the busy street, two kids and a husband, me with my phone to my ear and my other finger closing my other ear so that I could hear the latest.

And what was so important?

Ari had nothing new. He was just calling to tell me he was on it, and that Joe was handling it all so masterfully. What?

So that whole moment had been ruined -- to hear that? I knew I needed an intervention.

It wasn't until the past few months that it finally happened. I finally was ready to try it, to try to PUT. IT. DOWN. Arianna put me to the challenge, and this time I was really ready --- or so I thought.

We went on a family vacation to Saint Lucia. I planned to put the phone down entirely and embrace the Third Metric. It would be a great experience in light of our conferences, planned for this spring (New York on April 25, D.C. on May 2, and L.A. on May 9), where we are redefining what it means to be successful, beyond money and power, instead placing value on our well-being, our wisdom and our ability to make a difference in the world.

But it was much harder than I ever expected. As the vacation organizer, there were times I had to use the phone. When I did, I had trouble putting it down. My instinct was to scroll through Twitter, check my email and look for new texts.

I had to stop myself. But when I put the phone down, I felt weird, incomplete, like I wasn't wearing a bra or something. At times during the beginning of the vacation, I actually held the phone even though it was off. It was like weaning: The turned-off phone was my binky.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I did improve, and I got so much out of unplugging. Complete conversations with my dad and mom. A fun swim with my niece. Running with Carlie. Running with Jim and Carlie. Walking with Emilie. Connecting. I even watched the sun go down without stopping to check my binky.

By the end of the vacation, my binky had lost its charge, and I remember not knowing where my charging plug was. Instead of mass hysteria followed by ransacking the room, I shrugged and thought, "Oh, well. I'll get one back in NYC."

I highly recommend unplugging! For your health. For your relationships. For your life!

Thank you, Arianna. Here's to the Third Metric!

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