I Give Zero F*cks

Warning: In case the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, there is a great deal of foul language in this blog post. NSFW and all that…
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I read a great book by a guy named Mark Manson. It’s called “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck”. It’s sort of a foul-mouthed modern take on some time-honored Buddhist philosophies like detachment, the concept of “self” and the 4 Noble Truths. I enjoyed it, but the message didn’t really hit me until today. One of the concepts Manson talks about in the book is that everybody has to give a fuck about something. It’s just the way we are wired, I guess. Also, we have a finite number of fucks to give, and if we spend them giving a fuck about the wrong things- well, then we’re fucked. I agree with this idea. Speaking for myself, I have only so much mental energy, and if I am using that up on stupid shit, I won’t have any mental energy left for the things that are truly important.

For example, I’ve been giving a lot of fucks lately about how much time my child is spending on his cell phone. I’ve been throwing fucks at that kid and his smartphone like you wouldn’t believe. Creating a Family Electronic Device Agreement with a laundry list of regulations on cell phone use in our home; making sure the phone is turned in every night and secured where he can’t access it; charging it up for him every night. I have been spending so much mental energy on regulating this cell phone situation it’s crazy.

Now, I do think this is an important issue and definitely deserves at least a few of my finite number of fucks. But I’ve been going way overboard. It hit me today. I decided on the spot that I was going to stop giving a fuck about this situation and let HIM start giving a fuck about the situation. The Family Electronic Device contract we wrote has a few basic requirements. His cell phone is to be turned off by 730 each school night. And on weekends he gets a max of 4 hours of cell phone time per day. Under the old plan, aka the “I Am Giving Way Too Many Fucks” plan that I have been using up until now, that meant that Dad would watch the clock every night and at 730 ask for the phone, turn it off and store it for the night. On weekends Dad would do his best to track how much time the boy was spending using the phone, and after 4 hours ask for the phone. At that point, the boy would argue that it hadn’t been 4 hours yet. Next, we would haggle over how much time was spent on the device, Dad would cave in, the child stares at YouTube videos for a while more, and only then begrudgingly hands over the phone. Dad puts the phone away for the night, dutifully plugging it in so it’ll be fully charged the next morning.

That plan sucks for Dad. It’s a pretty great plan for the teenager. The new plan is simpler and saves Dad many, many fucks. Now, each school night the son monitors the clock himself and is responsible for putting his phone away in his school backpack by 730. If he forgets or otherwise fails to put the phone away by 730 he loses the phone for 24 hours. On weekends, the teenager tracks his time spent using the phone, writes down how much time is spent on the phone and shows this information to dad upon request. If he forgets or otherwise fails to put the phone away and /or track the time in a manner that at least approached reality he loses the phone for 24 hours. Charging the thing is 100% the child’s responsibility. The phone is to remain in the backpack pocket overnight. If it is discovered missing from said pocket or being used after being put away for the night, the child loses the phone for 24 hours. Dad is an old man who gets up at all hours of the night so the backpack gets random checks in the wee hours of the night.

This plan puts most of the responsibilities on the person who’s getting something out of the situation. In this case, the teenager gets to look at YouTube videos, so he’s the one tracking time and working to meet the requirements for cell phone use under the terms of our agreement. Dad doesn’t give a fuck how much time the child spends on their cell phone, or even if the child has a cell phone at all. As it should be. My cell phone is fine, and I get to look at it all I want because I’M THE GROWNUP PAYING FOR ALL OF THE CELL PHONES.

I’m working on applying this sort of plan to other areas of my life where I am expending too many fucks. So far it’s been pretty awesome. It incorporates the concept of detachment as a path leading away from suffering in a way that I can really relate to. I don’t have to supply all the fucks for the whole world. Somebody else can give a few once in a while. That’s the kind of Buddhism I can get behind.

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