Stock photo: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi/Pexels

I’m not quite sure if my distractible nature was something I was born with or if it was nurtured in me when I became a mother just shy of my 25th birthday. But considering my childhood tendencies to daydream in grammar school and pull all-nighters in college — I was probably wired for distraction.

Some of my best creative works were born in moments of distraction. So I’ve learned to embrace my left-brain dominance and intuitive nature and sometimes just go with the flow.

Then there’s the reality of caregiving for a medically fragile child — talk about distractions! Just last week, I was sitting in church after Mass enjoying the quiet contemplation while my phone kept buzzing in my bag. It buzzed enough that I knew I had to check because Johanna was with an aide. She had already had a few brief seizures earlier in that morning. Sure enough, the seizure alert device was auto-dialing me because it had detected a seizure. The aide assured me through the app and through texting that everything was fine.

But I knew there were too many brief breakthrough seizures to ignore. My time of quiet morning prayer ended abruptly with a quick trip to the hospital for STAT blood work to test sodium levels which had been previously declining and could provide a reason for the uptick in seizure activity.

By the end of the day, I was driving Jo to the pharmacy to check on emergency medications and while we drove her service dog started throwing up. I called my husband to take the dog to the vet while Jo and I went to get my car cleaned.

The following day we were scheduled for nuclear dye injections and brain imaging studies in Manhattan. There was no way I was driving two and a half hours each way to Manhattan with the smell of dog vomit in the back seat.

So my quiet morning of contemplation ended with Jo and me in the waiting room of the car wash. The chemical smell of car fresheners and wax eclipsed the memories of my early morning and the scent of candles burning in the quiet church.

Suffice to say my life is filled with distractions — many of which I cannot control. But what I can control I must — to preserve my sanity and sense of purpose in the chaos. It was this thought that pervaded my mind as I sat next to Jo during the nuclear dye injections, the brain scans and the meeting with doctors and nurses. Controlling distractions was on my mind as I made the very long drive home from Manhattan through rush hour traffic and was my last thought as I lay my head down on my pillow that night.

We canceled all our commitments the next day and Jo and I even slept in (as long as we could before our 4-month-old puppy announced it was time for breakfast and to pee). In the quiet of the morning, I prayed with scripture as I watched the birds at the feeder. I recalled my quiet time in the church days before and a stirring of the Spirit as a still small voice which was rudely interrupted by the chaos of daily life.

The thought occurred to me to take a break from social media and mute non-essential texts throughout the day. I had already turned off most notifications to limit the interruptions of social media and a timer — ironically in the shape and sound of a cute little blue bird — alerted me when my time on Facebook reached an hour. Usually, I respond by logging out for the rest of the day. But sometimes an alert to my email or messenger beckoned me to step back in to respond.

Quick response is rarely possible on social media.

I thought about the possible repercussions of logging off social media for an extended period of time. I’ve mentioned the wonderful Bible study group I’m a part of on Facebook. Reflecting on scripture with Christian women from the local area and around the world is one of the nicest connections I’ve made through social media. What about updates from friends for whom I pray and share in their joys and struggles? And all the puppy pictures? If I left Facebook for six weeks, by the time I return, our new puppy would be a little dog.

As I considered my options of what to do — I was certain there was one thing I didn’t want to do — make a big announcement on my Facebook page that I was “fasting from social media for Lent.” Don’t get me wrong — I understand and respect people who feel the need to do that and I suppose by writing about in this column,  I kind of am announcing it.

But I knew the Lord wasn’t asking me to see this as part of my fast for Lent. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I’d pop up on social media for puppy pictures or prayers for my daughter or even to post this column on my Facebook page.

There are a lot of distractions in my life which are beyond my control — especially caring for my youngest daughter with special needs. And being a creative person whose brain is wired for distraction means I have to work harder to focus on the tasks at hand.

The first few days were a little hard. I had to delete apps to keep my focus and reduce the temptation to check in on my social media accounts. If only dealing with other distractions in my life were this easy, life could be a breeze. But just two weeks in and I’m finding more time to be quiet and focus on things that matter more than news feeds and updates.

It’s all about embracing the gift of silence.

I quiet the distractions I can control so as to cultivate silence. If the world of technology —especially texting and social media seems to be competing for your attention and distracting you, consider setting some limits and take a break. Embrace the sound of silence — just in time to hear the birds chirping with the coming spring.

 

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Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen