We live in a noisy age. The phone beeps, the TV bellows, Alexa voices her opinion from the corner, the oven timer buzzes, and even the washing machine chimes let me know when it needs my attention. Beyond the actual noise in the house, our schedules often demand more than is reasonable. We can get pulled along in the rush of activities until our soul is battered and bruised by the sheer pace of our lives.
I am an expert multi-task-er and a planner extraordinaire. I can cram more than is reasonable into a single day. And yet, I recognize that my soul needs another pace. I need to create spaces where solitude and silence can soothe and restore. Recently, I’ve focused on a few small steps to create rhythms of rest in my day.
Unscheduled time: Over the past month, I blocked off time for activities, as I always do. Time set aside for a meal with a friend, dinner with the kids, or a date night with my guy. When things hit my calendar, I am scrupulous about keeping my commitments. It is the unscheduled time, the blank space on the calendar, that does not get protected.
I am paying attention to the blank space much more closely these days. This is the time when a leisurely nap on Sunday afternoon, or quiet evening tucked inside a book are found. Evenings wrapped in flannel, or soaking in my bathtub with a candle are found in these spaces. This blank space is good for my soul, my body, and it doubly good for my marriage. The white space of our lives is where tender moments, uninterrupted conversations, and companionable silence can be found. Even long-time bonds can be refreshed in the quiet, un-rushed moments when “nothing” is going on. Protecting such time is precious.
Social media detox: I love social media. It allows me to stay connected to people I love, to see what is happening in the world around me. I can see my niece’s latest volleyball game, my cousin taking a day hike in the mountains near her home, eavesdrop on the political opinions of friends and family, and keep tabs on my kids and grandson without ever leaving the house. Unfortunately, I find myself scrolling mindlessly through my newsfeed wasting time that might be better spent… doing something.
I think doing anything is usually better than spending time as a passive viewer. I could be writing, playing with paints, cooking, kitting, or even daydreaming. Each of these activities will leave me feeling more grounded and more whole than time on social media. So, I took a week off. I just walked away. It was lovely.
I found that social media is a lot like the old soap operas my grandmother watched each afternoon. You got completely sucked into them, but if you stepped away for a week, a month, or even several years it wouldn’t take you long to get caught back up. My life needs me. I’m not certain social media does. So, I am thinking again about how I use it and how it uses me.
Single tasking: A few weeks ago, I arrived for a meeting a few minutes early. The room was lovely, with a large conference table with bookshelves lining one wall, and a wall of windows overlooking a courtyard. I had a few minutes and immediately jumped on my phone to check in on my email, social media, etc.
When the woman I was to meet with arrived, she chuckled, “You couldn’t even enjoy this minute without turning to your phone.” I smiled and laughed with her and we carried on our meeting. Her words, however, stayed with me. Why can I not just be where I am? Why must I always be tuned into something? Why can’t I just rest?
So, I’ve been practicing. Each morning, when I get up, I make a cup of tea. While I am drinking that cup of tea, I practice just enjoying the tea. I take a moment, aware of the beauty of my life, and my surroundings. I sip tea and give thanks for this moment. This space. This life.
I wish I could tell you this was easy. I continually reach for my laptop to “check on something,” my mind wanders, my attention is like a drunken squirrel. And yet, I am doing it. Again and again, I am coming back to the simple pleasure of being myself drinking a cup of tea, in this moment, being grateful.
I’ve added a cup of tea to my afternoon routine at work as well. While I’m drinking it, I simply take a moment and rest and enjoy a break in my day. Emails still ding, messages still come in, but everything will still be there in a few minutes. For now, for this moment, I will simply sip my tea and be grateful.
I think cultivating quiet will be a long-time process for me. This doesn’t come easy. And yet, I find that it seems to support me somehow. Prioritizing calm practices and quiet spaces seems to bring steadiness to my days. As I look forward, I hope these simple practices will help me build a life that is more sustainable over the long haul.