When Keegan and I were freshly married, we were asked to teach primary-aged kids in our ward. (We belong to this church, if you want to read more about wards.) There was one boy who was a little unpredictable and he took off, running out of the room. I stayed with the rest of the class while Keegan went to search for the boy. Let’s call him Donald, shall we?
After Keegan’s search within the church hallways was fruitless, he thought to check in the washroom. Sure enough, Donald was there. He was perched on top of the toilet, taking a break from everything. When Keegan attempted to talk to Donald, Donald would flush the toilet, drowning out Keegan’s voice. Keegan’s attempt in communicating resulted in continual flushing. Eventually, Donald came down from his perch and joined the class once more. (This was a stressful situation, but it ended up becoming a favourite memory. I thought I was so clever to download a toilet flushing app on my phone. When Keegan would say things I didn’t want to hear, I’d open the app and flush the toilet. Hahaha! Looking back, I realize how bizarre it was that I could find a toilet flushing app. But really. Why was that app even developed?)
When I recently recalled this experience, it had me laughing, but also got me thinking. This experience has helped me make some real life connections, and I feel I need to share those connections with you.
Why did Donald keep flushing the toilet? The noise of the flushing water drowned out Keegan’s voice. The noise muted the message Keegan was trying to convey. I have realized that I flush the toilet, so to speak, when I don’t want to hear the message. Or maybe I’d be open to the message, but the noise of the toilet is too successful at keeping me too distracted to hear it. Be it an intentional choice of mine or not, that noise drowns out things I should be hearing.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of noise is, “a sound or sounds, especially when it is unwanted, unpleasant, or loud.” And the definition of distraction is, “something that prevents someone from giving their attention to something else.” I feel that these two things work together to hinder me.
When I invite in too many distractions, I unintentionally mute the Holy Ghost. I can’t hear Him through the noise. Simplifying my life through decluttering and de-owning has helped decrease the physical noise in my life. I’ve tried to become unbusy and prioritize my schedule. (I know, I know. I’m using buzz words. And I’m okay with that for now. However, looking back a year from now, I may annoy myself.) The COVID-19 Quarantine has definitely quieted my schedule. That has been a perk of this new normal.
Something else I’ve been working on is being a better editor of what I let in to my home/mind. I wouldn’t let a squatter trespass and move in with me. So, why would I let limiting beliefs or negativity or toxicity take up space in my mind? I am a recovering negative self-talker and this has been hard for me. I’d literally have zero friends left if I talked to them the way I have talked to myself. Talk about noise. That kind of negativity definitely flushed the toilet, stopping me from hearing the truth. I’m of infinite worth, regardless of my short-comings. I want to shout from the rooftops that YOU ARE, TOO!!!!
Sometimes too much of a good thing could be making noise, like binge-listening to podcasts. I’m speaking from personal experience. Podcasts can be so informational and inspiring. However, if in order to binge-listen to a whole bunch of episodes, you need to ignore all the things, (I’m talking to you, kids…please forgive me) then maybe it’s too much. There’s a well known talk given by Dallin H. Oaks called Good, Better, Best found here. The concept is simple, but so powerful. Not everything can be the most important thing. There are so many good things, but we probably should prioritize them. Dallin H Oaks said, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best.”
I have too much of a good thing in my life and my family will tell you what it is. They would tell you that my biggest distraction is my phone. My phone isn’t the problem, though. There are lots of good, better, best things that can come as a result of my phone. I’m the problem. I would deny it when Keegan would say anything about my phone usage. Or I’d have excuses when my kids would ask why I’m “on my phone again.” And I would get defensive. Actually, I still do make excuses and get defensive. Sure, I have tried to be more purposeful with my time. I’ve tried setting boundaries. In some ways I’m much improved, but it’s still a problem.
It was a real eye-opening experience when I tracked one of my mornings a few months ago. (Kendra Hennessy is my new favourite and she challenged me to do this. She’s huge on routine, mindset and cleaning.) I wrote down everything that I did for a few hours. I was absolutely shocked with the results. Seeing tangible evidence written down showed me that my biggest distraction that morning was my phone. My morning was filled with many start and stops. I’d have a strong start to my morning, like tidying the house after breakfast. I’d tidy but also take breaks to change the music I was listening to. Or check texts. Or google how long it takes to hard boil eggs in the instant pot (for some reason I never remember the time). Or to check the weather app.
I continued to do some other things, too, like study the scriptures. There are amazing online resources out there to up the ante on my scripture study, so I chose to go on my phone for this. But after a while, I’d get a notification for something and I’d go down the rabbit hole. I’d get distracted and check Facebook. Then I’d text someone. Then I’d check IMDb to see how tall Sigourney Weaver is. Eventually, I’d go back to my scripture study, but I was not efficient and I surely wasn’t effective.
There are so many uses for my phone. One of the uses is to read ebooks or listen to audiobooks. Thank goodness for the free apps I have access to, especially since the library is closed. Thank you Libby and Hoopla! (Fun fact: if Lachlan was a girl, I wanted to name him Libby. I wanted D as a middle name, after my amazing Grandma Dora.) I love to read. Sometimes I sacrifice my sleep in order to read. Sometimes I sacrifice quality time with my kids in order to read. Sure, I’m hanging out by them when I read, but I’m not very present. Reading is better than lots of things. Reading is essential in my life, but I allow it to take over. I’m sometimes an all or nothing kind of girl.
Because our laptop broke, I’ve been using my phone for everything. Regardless, I can’t keep denying the obvious. I am still on my phone more often than I need to be. And that’s a fact. Confession: Facebook isn’t my kryptonite anymore, sending and watching Marco Polo videos is. Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing is evil about using Facebook or Marco Polo. Both apps are instrumental in helping us stay connected with each other. During this isolating time we are living, it’s even more important to connect.
Although I’m working on setting boundaries and being more intentional with my phone usage, the message I’m sending to my family is clear. My phone is a priority. (If I get a notification, one of kids automatically delivers it to me. “Mom, your phone got a text!”) What if I talked to my phone the way I sometimes talked to my kids? What if I told my phone “In a minute”or “I’m just in the middle of something and then I can give you my attention” or “No, not right now” or “Maybe later” or “Can’t you see I’m busy?” when I got a notification? This really has me thinking.
By now, you might be thinking, “Okay, Jacquie. We get it. You have a phone addiction.” Please stay with me, though.
My phone has become way too accessible for me. And I’m way too accessible for my phone. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become no different than Pavlov’s dog. Instead of salivating when the bell rings, I drop everything to check my phone when it rings or dings. I’m drowning out the good noise around me. How am I supposed to feel the Spirit amidst those distractions?
The fascinating thing to me is that this blog post took on a life of its own. I was only going to briefly touch on my phone. I had so much more to say. I’m thinking I was guided to make a written confession of sorts. I’ve said these things out loud before, but seeing the words in written form has had an impact on me. I have a problem. I know the solution isn’t to throw my phone away. That just isn’t feasible. The solution isn’t to set screen time limits. It’s a great option, but I can easily dismiss those notifications. I think the solution for right now is to leave my phone in a different area than where I physically am. And I need to put it on airplane mode. (Why haven’t I thought about that before? So simple!) When the time is appropriate, I will access my phone. I need to figure out what is appropriate, but this is a start.
With all this talk of noise and distraction, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Satan some credit. I remember hearing the quote, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” He wants us so busy and so distracted that we drown out that still small voice. He doesn’t want us to feel connected to God through the Spirit. I’m so glad I’ve been working on hearing the Spirit more, because He guided me to write this blog post and to truly reflect on it. Uninviting the Spirit opens up an unofficial invitation to Satan. But I don’t want him to be a squatter in my home. Like the shirt says that I’ve seen around, “Not today Satan”. Not today.
I’m dying to know. How are you flushing the toilet? Are you drowning out any good messages? What is the biggest noise in your life? What is your biggest distraction? How are you combatting these tendencies? We have a pretty unique opportunity right now during our isolation. We have time to identify our biggest distractions and then take action!