I took a bath today. That's not a terribly uncommon thing, especially when Adam works late. I made a cup of tea, chose the bath salt that best tickled my nose, found an in-progress book that I wanted to finish (all ordinary) and then plugged my phone in in another room and walked away from it.
My tea was delicious, despite going undocumented. I found a way to mark the page whereon was a quote that I wanted to make note of, and to remember a word that I needed to look up. When I checked my phone afterward, there was nothing on it but a single Instagram notification.
I am new to the smartphone thing. I had a phone that called, texted, and took grainy pictures before - the summer I spent in New York, if I was trying to find someplace and my previous research failed me, I targeted someone who had just finished a conversation on their smartphone to ask (if they didn't know the answer, which they often did, they had the ability to look it up for me). Just after Brooklyn was born, Adam gave me an old iPhone of his with the SIM card removed, thereby rendering it an iPod Touch. I fiddled with Instagram and stayed very current with Facebook and email for about a year and a half - until it died, just before I started my 31 Days challenge on Jen Hatmaker's book 7 (it wasn't ironic timing at all).
But after four months of spending my lunch/Brooklyn's nap reading quietly on the balcony, and filling my other spare time with writing and knitting, my old phone died. And I succumbed to an iPhone, ostensibly so that I could Instagram photos of busy toddler Brooklyn and brand-new Tobin for the sake of out-of-town grandparents.
Admittedly, I've always taken lots of pictures of things - it's how I remember them, and I enjoy going back and looking through my collection of memories. And I appreciate the way that social media has somehow made it acceptable to publicize things like what-you're-having-for-dinner alongside gorgeous sunsets. But when my "camera" has internet access and a host of useful-in-their-place apps, it becomes a bit more perilous.
There's been a disquiet in my soul of late. I started noticing it when I set out to knit a washcloth a day for a month (not a "project," just a reasonable quota for the deadline I'm meeting), and discovered exactly how reasonable it was if I knitted instead of, say, scrolling through Twitter.
So I've been making changes. No phones at meals. If I eat alone, I bring a book (lifelong habit, to my mum's chagrin). I'm on the launch team for a couple of books, so I figured out how to get the pdfs onto a Kindle (the old school kind) so I could read them without distraction. Even right now, I've maximized this page so that I don't have tabs or toolbars hovering around the edges of my screen.
The book I chose for my bath was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a gift from a friend who knows me well. I read the whole section on Permission, which was particularly poignant at the moment. And as I was toweling off and staring at the cover, a distinct shade of pink stood out to me as a song lyric drifted through my mind. Hush your noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.
That color became associated with those words for me over six months ago. At the time, it didn't make much sense, but I filed it away. In this context it swirled over me with her thoughts on the near-sentient nature of inspiration, the ordinary sacredness of creativity, and the idea that immersion and passion matter more than influence and platforms.
"Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you, but I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen." There's a reason August Rush is one of my favorite movies - the reminder to listen is one that I need periodically.
As the Advent season of anticipatory waiting begins, I think of waiting as a verb, not as something that just happens to us. If a host of angels suddenly appeared in the sky, singing, would I even notice? But the shepherds did, and recognized it as the answer to a question that had been left hanging 400 years earlier. Because they were waiting - anxiously, eagerly, desperately - hearts wide to receive good news and ears open to hear it.
My complaint of demotivation and lack of creative genius falls under the same umbrella as my cry to God about how He never answers my questions - and both probably have the same solution. Hush your noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.