My living room is clean. This is such a rare occasion, I decided to take a picture:
If I’d snapped this photo a week ago, you would have seen LEGOs and crayons on the floor, a child’s greasy fingerprints on the glass coffee table, dog hair on the couch, and dirty socks peeking out from under a cushion.
You also would have seen something different here:
This is a table I picked up at the used furniture store two days ago. It replaced something. Can you guess what?
If you said “Time Waster,” you’re right. Our ginormous, hi-def television is now in the basement, along with all the other junk we don’t have time to use. The choice to move it was harder than I expected, and definitely harder than it should have been. It’s not like we watch television for hours every day. We’ve never even had cable, and until we upgraded to high-speed internet three years ago, we couldn’t even utilize streaming video.
Our internet provider, along with Netflix and Amazon Prime, changed all that, and of late we’ve found ourselves turning on the boob toob several nights a week. Not the best way to spend our time, but TV consumption was only a small part of a much bigger problem.
Excuse Me While I Gather My Sanity
For months I’ve been feeling overextended. Life is full, too full, despite my attempts to simplify. How do people survive the modern pace of life? None of our three children are in after-school activities. We don’t participate in mid-week clubs or church events. We have no social life. But I still feel like my psyche is coming apart at the seams. There’s too much to do, and not enough time in the each day to do it.
Except, that’s not true. God said “Let there be 24 hours in a day,” and it was so. And it was good. So, why does it feel like He shorted us?
I’ve been asking Him what I should do about this. What else can I cut? I hear people speak of “redeeming the time,” but the practicality of the concept eludes me.
Last weekend, we packed up our family and went into the woods for some much-needed bonding. The fall foliage was breathtaking, and the daytime temps ideal, but the nights turned bitterly cold. Between our five bodies and two dogs, we packed into the tent like sardines, and shared body heat allowed most of us to sleep, at least in stretches. Still, between the fitful nights, long hikes, and sore muscles, I can’t say the trip was overly restful. At least, not physically.
Mentally, however, I felt like a new woman. When we arrived at the site and realized there was no cell reception, I’ll be honest, I was bummed. No Instagramming our awesome experience? No sharing cute anecdotes and one-liners from our kids? (Like when we were arriving at the campground and Liam said, “I just can’t put my smile away!” Ahh. I’ve been waiting to post that for days!)
As the first day passed, I found myself reaching for my phone without thinking. Each time I realized it was worthless, I felt a little foolish. Didn’t I just pull it out five minutes ago? How do I keep forgetting? Do I use it this often at home?
By Day 2 I’d resigned myself to my internetlessness.
By Day 3, I’d embraced it.
By Day 4, I didn’t want to let it go.
Down, Down, Down
Without access to the many voices online, I’d found time to listen to my husband, kids, God, and myself. I’d rediscovered the joy of taking pictures with a real camera. I’d sat by the fire with my Bible and consumed the life of David. I’d searched for salamanders, hunted for firewood, and cooked meat over coals. I’d prayed, listened, and heard God’s whisper.
Here’s what He said:
Down. Lower. Beneath. What does it mean to move toward less?
Once I would have equated less with lack, or with failure. But what if less is where we find life? What if moving lower brings us closer to Jesus, and makes more room for him in our lives?
How Low Can You Go?
Until recently I’ve been trying to slow down by plucking items off my schedule like fleas off a dog. If I can just get rid of the pesky things, I tell myself, life will stop feeling like an itch I can’t scratch.
But maybe slowing down means more than clearing my schedule. Maybe it’s a state of being, a posture of the heart.
One thing I’m sure of: It requires quiet, and I’m not just talking about lack of audible stimuli. Social media is a great tool for connection, but it makes for a noisy world. I’ve allowed the mental volume to creep into my physical silence. For me, slowing down means dialing down my time on social media.
It also means narrowing down my writing focus. Words are my passion. If I could spend all day every day composing, rearranging, altering, and consuming them, I would. But I can’t. I have a young family. I have a husband who needs my help with our contracting business. I have a soul that’s thirsty for time with the Savior. My passion must move down, lower, beneath these things.
Because I work best with defined goals, I’ve set my sights on November as a month of experimenting with change. Now that the TV is gone, I’m planning to resume my lifetime habit of devouring books (If you have suggestions, visit me on Goodreads and send them my way!). On the two days each week my children are at school, and during quiet moments when they’re otherwise occupied, I’ll be immersing myself in my novel. Blogging, social media, and other pursuits, if they happen, will flow out of my narrowed focus.
In other words, if my interaction with you is primarily online, it might take me a little longer than normal to respond to emails, messages, and comments. Don’t take it personally. I’m just trying to slow down.
How about you? Do you want to join my #NovemberSlowdown? What could you change or extract to free yourself to live a slower, quieter life?