by Katie Mulder
Growing up? Always noise in my house. Not from people- there were only four of us, including my parents, and we weren’t a chatty family. But, there was a constant backdrop of music or the news or an old black and white film filling in empty spaces around teenage angst and hard-working parents. Music to wake us up on Saturday mornings, music in the garage, news during dinner. The radio and the tv were always on. Well into my college years, I could not fall asleep without the tv. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched (or heard) When Harry Met Sally. There is still nothing better to me than a Saturday nap with squeaky shoes on a college basketball court in the background.
Now, I write on my computer. I lead an on-line support group for moms of special-needs kiddos. I fill out doctors’ forms online and I email Curt to find out what he wants for dinner. I text my conscience in Texas and ask her when it’s appropriate to run away (never, without her) and I search Google for honey chicken recipes. I charge my Kindle and wait for new books to download while I forward photos of my kids (usually asleep in awkward positions) to my parents. I edit photos digitally and save them for a (someday) family album. I look up tomorrow’s weather and Ry’s class pictures from her last field trip… all on the computer. I reorganize my Netflix queue and make a grocery list… on the computer. I pay my bills and I update the family calendar… on the computer. I watch Cosby Show reruns and crime shows and English brilliance after the kids have gone to bed… “to relax.”
Hear me: I love my computer, my phone, my tv. I love the quiet noise that tethers me- on my own terms- to the world outside of this farm. But the quiet noise has become loud and bossy of late. It grew from comfortable background static to aggressive intermission music where you can’t really hear the person next to you. I was nodding and keeping up with the conversation, but barely. The soundtrack had taken over the story.
And, I was a wreck.
Somewhere in the chaos of the last 2 months, I tuned out. I have no idea how, really. I’ve been trying for years… but something finally clicked and I simply walked away.
What does that look like for me?
I unsubscribed from the super-blogs… the blogs with thousands of readers and hundreds of comments. The ones who have never talked to me, who do not share life- in any personal form- with me. Not because they’re bad- quite the contrary. They’re huge and lovely and… overwhelming. If I have to be picky, and I think I do, I don’t have room for them right now.
I also unsubscribed from a bunch of crafting blogs and sites that are simply out of my reach right now. I have a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. Sewing and knitting, while personal loves of mine, are not on the daily agenda. I do not need to troll Pinterest or my ‘favorites’ file to be reminded that I am (as Margie says) in the weeds right now. There is no sewing in the weeds. There is reading while stirring gravy and there is writing while waiting for the school bus to to arrive… but there is not everything. And that’s ok. The weeds are high but temporary. In another season, there will be room for endless inspiration and group sew-alongs and pattern sales. Now? I don’t need those reminders flooding my inbox right now.
I stopped watching Law & Order reruns at 4pm when I was folding laundry. My brain… my brain moves too fast and rarely shuts off. It forgets that tv is not real. I do so love stories. I love books and essays and movies. But I have to be careful with what I’m filling the spaces with. Too much bad-guy-deviant-desperate-world-too-close-for-comfort, even with a good ending, leads me down a dark and narrow road. It’s dark enough here in the weeds. I don’t need to block out more sun.
I started hesitantly answering ‘yes’ to my husband’s post-kid-bedtime requests of ‘come for a walk with me,’ ride the tractor with me,’ ‘sit with me while I work.’ My instinct and habit is to use that precious time for reading or emails or reruns. Now some of that time is filled with… us.
I stopped answering every email within seconds of receipt. I turned off the speakers on my computer so I wouldn’t be informed of new mail and comments immediately. I started closing my computer every time I walked away from it.
I turned off NPR news and started reading while making dinner.
I have never been less-informed, less-in-contact, or more available than I am right now.
It’s not silent.
It’s intentionally filtered.
It’s completely new and life-changing for me.
Saying ‘no,’ in my care-free world, used to imply that that particular something was bad. Turns out, there are LOTS of good things out there. SO very many good things. I just can’t do all of them at the same time. I can’t even do a LOT of them at the same time. I have to pick and choose. It’s not permanent. I get to change my mind.
This process of fading out the noise, of taking everything off the shelves and doing some inventory, has opened up a whole new dialogue between me and my God. A ‘what’s True and Good and Necessary here?’ kind of conversation. Sometimes, His answer is, “Um, not a whole lot.” It’s been humbling, to say the least.
I’ve learned silence is preferred to noise, that gaps in time are to be left alone, and that I am healthier when I am less instead of more.
Now, to remember that every day.
Amen and may it be so.