When we lived overseas we quickly became accustomed to the cultural routine of a daily quiet time. Each work day people would return home for the lunch hour. Then, there was supposed to be time for a short rest before returning to work or school. Now that we live in the US that custom has become nearly impossible for the rest of my family, but I still love an afternoon quiet time. I set my alarm for 10 -15 minutes, turn off my phone and rest. After working hard through the morning with all its traffic noises, errands, conversations, podcasts and music, the sound of silence is a blissful invitation that quickly entices me to sleep. Silence can be a gift.
But, there was a time, especially when we were overseas, when I was feeling particularly lonely. Silence felt more like an enemy. It threatened to swallow up my happiness, my personality and my energy. I just wanted to go to sleep to escape the sadness I felt.
Normally life has a way of balancing out the noisy and the quiet times and presenting them to us at the time we need them. Morning activities at home require the family to communicate increasingly as the coffee sets in and the breakfasts fills our bellies and wakes up minds. We feel energy increasing for the tasks ahead. We work through the day engaging in conversations with friends, co-workers, bank tellers, the lady at the lunch line. We listen to podcasts or the radio during our commutes to work and school drop-off and pick-up line. Then as the evening begins to come to a close the noises begin to turn down their volume. The world becomes increasingly quiet until all is silent. We’re ready for silent sleep again.
Isolation, however, has a way of taking away sounds that we did not even realize we relied on so heavily. The momentum of business can carry you through a few days of quiet at home. But, too much quiet and you’ll soon find yourself slowing down like a battery that’s petering out. Don’t let the gift of quiet sabotage your happiness and productivity. Be intentional about the sounds with which you surround yourself. We were made for human contact, so we were made for sound. Take some time to consider the routines you are reimagining and implementing for yourself and your family. When do you need sound? What kind of sound would be most beneficial for the given activity? How loud should the sounds be?
An excellent example of this kind of sound control is a personal exercise playlist. I like to start my exercise routine with the same quiet song every time. It is so familiar that as soon as the song begins, my body seems to automatically start my stretching routine. As my muscles start to warm up and I increase the intensity of the workout, I also increase the volume and beat of the songs. It’s difficult to work hard and fast to a ballad! The rhythms get faster as my heart rate goes up. Then as the workout winds down and I start to cool off, I turn the volume down and slow the songs again. Another example are the holidays. For most people, Christmas music and the sound of football games signals our brains that festivities are coming! When we were overseas, I would play old recorded football games, just because of the sounds they added to our house, and they way they made me feel.
So what kinds of sounds do you and your family need? For our son, who is an extrovert, the quietness of social distancing is particularly challenging. I have encouraged him to keep his music on. Sing to it. Dance. Keep moving. He needs sounds in order to not feel the weight of the isolation. I know this because I feel it too. I’ve downloaded Spotify onto my phone, and I can link that to our speaker and be surrounded by all kinds of voices that keep my heart happy.
In addition to the first temptation, letting silence hover in your home, another temptation is to match the kinds of sounds you play to how you feel in a moment, rather than being intentional about how you want to feel. Are you feeling lonely and sad? Then, don’t play sappy ballads of lost lovers in misery and despair! Be intentional about the environment you want to create in your home and the way you want to feel. Play music to match this. Put on the beach boys! It’s hard to feel blue with those California surfers voices floating through your home.
This is also part of why it is so hard to play worship music when you feel down. But, it is exactly what you need to! When you least feel like worshipping is likely when you need it the most. This is part of the spiritual battle. Your spiritual enemy does not want you to enjoy happiness and peace during this time. He is winning when you allow your isolation to steal your joy. Don’t let it! Fight! Fight with worship. King David said in Psalms 34:1, “I WILL bless the Lord at ALL times, His praise will be continually on my mouth.” Let that be your declaration also. Let the praises rise. It will change the environment of your home entirely.
Here is a third sound temptation. As humans we are naturally drawn to disaster. We don’t like it, but we are naturally curious and constantly want the updates. But, filling our minds and our homes with the constant stream of media and news that the networks are more than happy to dish out will only feed negativity. The sounds of the news will undoubtedly bread fear, worry, anxiety, anger and leave you emotionally exhausted! You can easily know what you need to know by reading a few headlines and some key articles. This will keep your impulses to hear the news stories in endless cycles at bay and your nerves quieted. And when your nerves are calm, the people around you, especially your children, will benefit. Children automatically mirror our emotional states. When you’re stressed and anxious they follow suite. When you’re calm and at peace, they will be too.
Here is my tip for today. It is, control the sounds allowed into your home. Do yourself and your family a favor and turn off the news and TV. Save the sappy, sad ballads for another time. Instead, update your playlists, or pull out some old albums.
Isolation is a great time to start listening to instructive podcasts. Certainly these will be healthier than binge-watching your favorite shows! Your access to the internet gives you a world of information and education at your fingertips. What educational or inspiring audiobooks can you determine to get through? What novels can you and your family enjoy? If you discipline yourself to take advantage of these resources you can come to the other side of social isolation with tools in your heart and mind that will position you to hit the ground running with new ideas and energy.
This could be your most creative, productive and peaceful season ever.
Until tomorrow, I hope you see what God has placed in your life to bless your soul.