Brian Hamilton: Paradise by the laptop light | TheUnion.com

Brian Hamilton: Paradise by the laptop light

From across the dining room table, her face glows in the warm light.

He imagines his own mug, at the opposite end, also is bright in the otherwise dimly lit room.

Bill Withers serenades the pair of sudden empty nesters — at least for this night — without a car pool to chauffeur, a next day's lunch to make or an even a empty dishwasher to fill.

Just the two of us.

The very thing that shows someone you care

— giving them your full attention

— seems too easily set aside as we justify the need to multi-task to meet all of our responsibilities.

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They peck away at their keyboards, lifting their eyes from their work long enough to acknowledge each other with a laugh, a frown or full eye roll.

Her keystrokes are fast and purposeful. Replying to an email? Or drafting a description for a home she's listing?

Things are more quiet on his end, despite the furrowed brow. Proofing a page perhaps? Or editing a news release?

Oh, the possibilities of the evening about to unfold — as long as the Wi-Fi doesn't slow to a crawl.

Happy Valentine's Day, honey!

OK, so maybe we'll take a break from the routine tonight — we'll see — but such a scene seems to play out much more often than we'd like to admit, even when we have free time for just the two of us.

I figure it's the nature of our jobs, for which there is always more work that could be done. And now that we're tethered by the ball-and-chain of modern-day technology, we are able to be on the job 24/7.

But we're hardly alone.

A 2015 study that polled more than 1,000 working professionals found that 65 percent are expected to be available outside of work both by email and by phone.

"As a result, 45 percent of workers feel they don't have enough free time; their job is colonizing their entire day, not just 9 through 5," the study reported.

Of course, our own busy-ness sure beats the alternative. We both love our work. And I remember being thrilled by the prospect of easily accessing my emails on my phone, offering me the ability to connect no matter where or when I wanted to check on things.

How cute. So 2007 of me.

And now, it never stops. A text message here, a quick call there and soon your "free time" has slipped away. Taking a day off means wading through a flood of emails and voicemails, and a full on tidal wave of work welcoming you back in the wake of an actual vacation.

But back to the romance … if only.

No doubt there is no shortage of wisdom on how to go about rekindling the romance in a relationship. "Sixty ways to bring romance back into your marriage," "10 simple ways to put the romance back" and untold other avenues of advice all await your Google search.

There is also no mistaking me as any sort of expert in this area, but I have learned — often the hard way — that a good relationship basically boils down feeling loved and making sure your loved one feels the same. And that doesn't mean spending hundreds of dollars on a Valentine's Day gift, or rushing over to the greeting card aisle at the grocery store with the rest of us who forgot (we've all been there).

More important than spending money, is to spend time with your Valentine.

Of course, there's the rub. In a world where the "ping" of an email or text provokes a Pavlovian response to reach for the phone, disruption far too often rules our day. The very thing that shows someone you care — giving them your full attention — seems too easily set aside as we justify the need to multi-task to meet all of our responsibilities.

And, just to be clear, I'm as guilty as anyone else.

But even though I'm certain to soon be embarrassed again when caught only "half-listening," or frustrated when work interrupts our evenings, the least we can do is acknowledge that it's going to happen and enjoy each other in those seemingly too rare moments when indeed it is just the two of us.

Maybe that will make a difference for you and yours on this Valentine's Day.

We'll see how it works out for us, of course, as soon as my wife gets off the phone and I close out this column.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.