On Silence and Cacophony and Things That Soothe the Soul

I woke up yesterday morning to silence which happens to me exactly never and made me think that there was a strange and awesome aligning of the planets… or that kind, gentle faeries came in the night to cast magical, sleeping mommy spells… or that I suddenly went blessedly deaf… or that the Rapture happened and I didn’t make the cut and the apocalypse has been terribly misunderstood and only ever wanted to come in peace, after all.

It turns out, four out of five kids weren’t home yesterday morning which, in my book, was a miracle on par with the Second Coming of Christ. And the fifth kid? I discovered Aden (after I stopped for a leisurely cup of coffee) plugged into the television, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, and intent on charging her brain to Full Rot before she went away to camp for the week where there are – gasp – No Screens At All.

Early in the morning, Greg and my dad took our 12-year-old boy child to a major league ball game in Seattle, thanks to free tickets from a friend. Three hours by car each way to see the Mariners and the Red Sox duke it out and, most importantly, to eat processed, salty meat products and extra-garlicky garlic fries.

The dog and I were at loose ends in all the quiet, to be honest. There was no knock-knocking on the kitchen table or thump-thumping down the stairs or screeching at the siblings, and so we both forgot to bark for hours and hours, and we watched each other warily, unnerved by the constant serenity.

I went to church yesterday morning (not just to cover my Rapture bases), and I remembered to politely turn off my phone for the service.

A few weeks ago, which was the second-to-the-last time I turned off my phone, Abby texted me from a friend’s house in the middle of the night to tell me she was having an asthma attack and couldn’t breathe and forgot her inhaler and needed me and “Mom Mom Mom Mom HELLO MOM i need u!!!!!!” I got her message 6 hours later.

Last week, which was the time-before-this-one that I turned off my phone, my sister-in-law texted to tell me that my little nephew was being transported in an ambulance to the hospital because he forgot – again, stupid allergies – that breathing is important, and could I please come right now right now right now to watch her other kids so she could be with her boy? I got her message 2 hours later.

Yesterday morning when I turned off my phone, my dad texted to tell me that they didn’t make it to Seattle for the ball game because Greg had a sudden hankering for some narcotic assistance with passing a kidney stone, and hanging out in the hospital lobby in Portland is almost as good as a fun guys’ trip, anyway. I got his message an hour and a half later.

Although I hear we’re too tied as a culture to our phones, I’ve decided to never turn mine off again. I shall follow Greg’s fine example forthwith and begin escorting mine everywhere. I plan to name him Sting and tell him all of my very best secrets and kiss him every night before I go to bed. And if the Rapture happens and I’m not paying attention to the trumpets in the sky because I’m staring at Sting, I’ll just have to hope that Jesus has an awesome, unlimited texting plan so he can get through to me and all the other phone-starers. It appears as though I’m not very good at being present for my family without a deeper, more personal relationship with my phone, and since Being Present is a whole lot what Love looks like, I want very much to be there when they need me.

Greg arrived home around 2:00 yesterday afternoon, stoned on narcotics and pain and working really hard to Give Birth, Man-Style. I was a great help to him, teaching him Lamaze and enforcing the Do Not Email or Facebook or Text On Narcotics rule which is something teetotalers, like Greg, don’t learn earlier in life. I helped, though, most of all by polishing off our two-pound bag of pretzel M&M’s all by myself so he wouldn’t have to get out of bed do it.

By 10:00 pm, Greg passed out with his bedside light on. All of that Not Texting really wore him out, and maybe the relentless waves of pain did, too.

Cai and Cael fell asleep on our floor, a tangled mess of preschooler limbs and pillows and stuffed bears and stained blankets, and Cael stutter-snored throughout the night – not rhythmic and soothing, the way babies breathe with their vocal cords, but full of stops and starts and ricochets and interruptions.

Abby came home from the beach and she brought her best friend with her; I told them to be extremely quiet because Dad was still very sick, so they slammed cupboard doors and turned up the television volume and giggled like crackhead hyenas.

Ian stumbled into our room around midnight, a frenetic zombie intent on sleep walking his way to mass destruction or, at the very least, a good snack. He startled the dog and me and set us both to barking at him which made us feel content and fulfilled.

I tried to prepare myself for a sleepless night, which is always as useless as preparing for grief. It’ll either lay you flat or it won’t, and nothing you do to prepare will make any difference at all.

In the end, we all slept fine, lulled somehow by the cacophony of this chaotic life.

I woke up yesterday morning to silence, and it was very, very good. But it turns out silence isn’t the only thing that soothes the soul.


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19 responses to “On Silence and Cacophony and Things That Soothe the Soul”

  1. oh my goodness i’m sorry your hubby had to suffer and i hope he’s doing well now, but i sure did get a good laugh out of this post. i am still wiping the tears!! LOL

  2. Better yet, stick that vibrating cell phone in your bra during church (and at meetings, and in restaurants, and in the bathroom, and…). That way your family can reach you the one time they really need you (and the gazillion times they don’t REALLY need you) and you get a tingly reward.

  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sucks so bad at using the cell phone. I hate being accessible – which is obvious since only my husband and the school nurse have my number. I’ve missed a “We’re on our way to the ER” call and a “come get your kid at school as a seizure has catapulted him out of his chair and he hit his head” call, which is exactly why I have my phone.

    I’m going to follow in your footsteps and name my phone Bono or McDreamy and see if it gets a little more attention.

  4. Thanks for the laugh! I loved the comments just as much as the post! I too, have been victim to turning off my phone rarely only to miss important messages. Although I’m not willing to leave it on during church after witnessing a friend receive and read a text during the sermon. Yes, it was from a relative that was watching his kids, but he was also a practical joker: the text started sounding a loud siren followed by the sounds of uh, well… having gas.
    I will forever remember that day in church. ( :

  5. I was going to reply something to this post, but I don’t remember what it was now, as I suddenly feel the need to refill my handy dandy camelbak water bottle with ice cold refreshing h2o….

  6. Clearly, the cause of excess drama in your life is the shutting off of your phone. Please, Beth, leave your phone on. (When I go to church I leave it in the car. That way, 1) I’m not THAT person in the middle of the prayer with “Yankee Doodle Dandy” of something far, far worse emanating from my purse, and 2) I don’t have to remember to turn it back on.)
    Hope Greg has that baby soon.

  7. I so much hope Greg feels better soon. Thinking of you all. And there are clearly two lessons to be learned here: 1) as you say, it’s important to drink plenty of water, and 2) reading one’s phone whilst using the can apparently might yield dividends after all. Who knew? 😉


    • As a lovely British friend of mine who shall remain nameless once wrote in a hilarious e-mail on men and phones…

      “What is it about men and reading their iPhones on the toilet? It makes the experience last so much longer than it needs to. Which is perhaps the point of the exercise…We mamas, however, are limited to two minutes per day in the can, maximum, in total. It’s a crying shame. And possibly not good for the colon. As Leonard Hofstadter memorably announced in the first episode of BBT, a clean colon is just one less thing to worry about.”


      • Hahahaha! *snort*

        I’m so refined, I sometimes surprise even myself. Which is right and proper for one who aspires to be like Mary Poppins 😉

  8. I was looking up what things to kidney stone formation on Wikipedia, and it lists a pretty accurate description of the basic American diet. Such things as high dietary intake of animal protein, sodium, refined sugars, fructose and high fructose corn syrup,…apple juice, and cola drinks. So we’re all at risk, especially the guys (80% of all kidney stone sufferers).

    Really sorry, Greg. I’d send you over some chocolate to ease your convalescence, but apparently that’s on the list, as well.

  9. First, you are hilarious. Second, kidney stones are not. I have had three. One while pregnant. Give me childbirth any day. My condolences to your poor husband. Praying for him.

  10. Kidney stones terrify me. I have heard from women that have experienced both kidney stones and childbirth that the two are comparable. And I know that I cannot handle that kind of pain. So I drink extra water for the wile purpose of keeping them at bay.

    • Dear Greg,

      I did not tell this lovely man to make sure that the very, very, very first comment on this post was about drinking extra water… or to drive that point home by reinforcing his statement with the fact that doing so keeps kidney stones at bay.

      Yesterday at church, we talked about authenticity and taking that hard, terrible step of vulnerability in community by making our prayer requests be about Real Things instead of always, only, and rather pathetically about Safety in Travel as though all of the people who get into terrible car accidents forgot to spray their travel with God’s Magical Travel Elixir (not that I’m cynical or have tiny issues with prayer or wildly paraphrase the things we’re taught in church.) As a result, as soon as I rather belatedly learned that you had a kidney stone and were at the hospital, I texted Nate with a Real Thing prayer request, which reads as follows: “When Greg arrives home, please pray that I will wait at least a half hour before I accuse Greg of never ever ever ever drinking enough water. And also that I won’t be a beach like the kidney stones.” Except you and I both know I didn’t say “beach.”

      When you shuffled in the front door with your purple lips and Edward of Twilight white, white face, and you said, “I know, I know. I’ll drink more water,” I felt I knew what it was like for Jesus to be in the desert and for Satan to tempt him. But STILL I didn’t say it. I DIDN’T. Jesus and I are total rocks.

      That’s why – although you know already that I’m not subtle enough to pull it off – I feel like it’s important, dear, dear husband, for you know that this is NOT a set-up. And that I remain,

      your steadfast rock,


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