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Peace Within the Noise

by Jennifer Smith 5 months ago in self help
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When our resolve is strong, but the opposition is stronger.

New home, no curtains. Photo by author.

Resolutions are funny things. We make them address a behavior we would like to change, modify, or even adapt in our daily lives. They begin on shaky ground; our resistance and lack of motivation have had quite the head start. Stick-to-itiveness is inherently tough on them. Similar to the religious observation of Lent, we are asking those resolutions to do something in opposition to the behavior we love. Their ultimate goal is to disrupt behavior we have, at least, found passively comfortable.

Unlike Lent, there is no instant gratification with the mere idea of sacrifice in celebration and honor of someone else. Nope. Resolutions require work. Work on ourselves. Yikes. The sacrifice and promises we have challenged ourselves to are not complete in 40 days. We do not want the contrary behavior to return. Lent tends to have a higher success rate —36 days is the average lifespan of a resolution made before the new year.

Why is it so hard to celebrate and honor ourselves beyond 40 days?

Maybe we already are.

Maybe resolutions are purely additional noise in a world that is not satisfied with us being at peace. This world wants us to want more than we have, do more than we are doing, and be more than the energy we have already mustered. What does it know about us individually? It already gives us things we do not ask for—Double Stuffed Oreos for one. And then this same world tells us every year that we need to resolve to undo its damage.

I say we stop listening.

By Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

I am a mom. I believe I consented to restless nights and high-functioning anxiety about 11 years ago. When I finally hit a peaceful stride with the first, the second one comes seven-and-a-half years later. There is nothing like the worry that comes with the breathing pattern of babies and the stress of forgetting how you did it all the first time around. I am in a stage of motherhood that involves keeping a toddler fed—and safe—and keeping an elementary-aged child on track in school—and safe. If the books full of warnings about choking hazards and pesticides on produce were not traumatic enough, here comes instant access to a million more horrors. There is no going back once you have read a story, and you now have no choice but to add it to that stressful list that threatens the joys of parenthood. Caring about my own needs is often pushed to after their bedtime, and at that point, I am begging my own eyes to close.

But I do not go to bed. Well, I don't go to sleep. You know what I mean.

The time after the kids went to sleep was mine. A few hours to live that other life. Eat the secret treats. Watch the bad reality television. Exercise. Or not. Read. Work on a creative project. Catch up on the news. Browse social media without the guilt. None of those are wrong choices. But for me, things had to change.

The stress knots between my shoulder blades that were causing numbness in my fingers demanded it.

I wish I could say I do not know when or what has caused that energy shift. I would be lying if I told you I do not know why I no longer care about "Keeping Up With," or drink a glass of wine with the Housewives in whatever city they are tearing up now. I have had that dramatic exit from Facebook, and I no longer watch the news. The past six years' worth of energy in the country has been heavy. My shoulders could not bear the weight any longer.

Stepping away from nighttime indulgences in my deliberate immersion and participation in some of the heaviness was the first step.

The world has become louder in the decade I have been a parent. Tuning it out is a dogged pursuit, yet essentially important. For me, there were no resolutions, only a lot of ripping off the band-aids and quitting cold turkey. It was not easy, and the build-up led to an explosion. Yes—Facebook. And yes—cousins. It is what it is.

Ultimately I had to realize that giving eager ears to the noise generated by the world was something that was in my control. I was choosing it. I was losing sleep while trying to be more informed and more prepared. More was resulting in less.

There are circumstances and all the inhumanities of the world that my humility saw I cannot solve from my bed between 7:30 and 10 p.m. Instead, my mind was wide awake and weighed down with information not essential to my well-being or that of my family.

In the recent past, I believed I was the one to make sure distant family members and old high school friends knew their information was wrong. I even cared whether or not they knew what my kids were up to, even though they had not been a part of my life since I was a child. They had not contributed to the health or happiness of my family, and they represented an unnecessary tether to angry thoughts.

Watching the dysfunction of reality show families and wealthy eccentric ladies made me feel more comfortable in my dysfunction. I would also dwell in the envy over having such a large family that allowed for picking sides and having confidants. Putting aside the fact that their situations are artificial, are we taking care of ourselves by investing in the poor behaviors of others? Those shows were a way to distract my mind. They were also contributing to the silent chaos I felt about my relationships.

Plus, the first run of a reality show is always the best. Anything beyond season 3 is just messing with us. Remove from the library. I will admit to keeping a couple of them out of sociological fascination. Research purposes only. I have zero desire to be a sister wife, and chartering a superyacht is a lofty goal, just so we are clear.

"Calm your mind." A lesson my son learned in the 1st grade. Photo by author.

I have lived in Hawai'i for eighteen years. The ocean and the beach have not always been peaceful places. They represented places I ran to in times of heartache. A vessel to catch my tears and to clear my mind for work I could not do in an empty apartment. I now enjoy the beach as most people do. Even the thought of the ocean and sitting in the warm sun is relaxing.

The waves cancel the noise.

You can hear the screams of delight as the waves catch kids trying to outsmart them, but not much else. There is always a gentle hum, even at the lowest of tides in the earliest of mornings. I imagine people love loud concerts for the same reason. When your head hits the pillow later, your mind is still there as the hum soothes you to sleep.

My goal continues to be recognizing and eliminating the noise. Without the machine. Without the waves. I hold myself accountable for what keeps me up at night and wakes me with the inevitable stress hangover. When I feel the tug to reactivate that social media app, I remind myself of the other ways to find the people I miss and make plans to buy them a card. When I want to know the latest details on whatever the chaos of the day is, I remind myself that it will, unfortunately, be there in the morning. And I am already the best parent my kids have. No blog or Pinterest wormhole will convince me to do more than I am. They need me to sleep.

And for the love of goodness, I need to stop reading books that make me mad before bed. My goal is to add more fiction on the to-read list. It is great to know things, but words that contribute to dissatisfaction with what I cannot change is something else. I can find intelligent and peaceful voices that provide a roadmap for a healthier society. I want to seek those people and support them. Their words will help ease an anxious mind.

I will continue setting goals instead of resolutions. Resolutions have the weight of more noise, and honestly, they stink of others' failed intentions.

self help

About the author

Jennifer Smith

California girl, living my questionably best life in Hawai'i. Wife and mom. A lover of sports, books, craft time, black coffee, and overthinking.

Reading and writing helps me make sense of the world—big W global one, and little w mine.

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