Sometimes, I like to listen to music or podcasts while I work. The sounds, the music, and the conversation keep me alert and focused–or, at least, more alert and focused than the miscellaneous background office sounds I would otherwise hear.
The music or the chatter in my ears also helps distract me from how slow time is passing or how boring whatever task it is I’m doing really is. Kind of like watching TV while running on a treadmill or listening to fast-paced music in a cardio class.
The sounds I pump into my head also fill up the void of silence in my office. Because silence can be anxiety-inducing, I put on something to calm myself. Like leaving the radio on for your dog while your out of the house. Or putting on some light background music at a dinner party. Just a little something to bridge those precipitous stimuli gaps that can be so heavy, alarming, and potent.
Every now and again, I find myself pausing the music or the programming and just sitting quietly in my office. In these moments, I’ll look at the computer screen, but only perfunctorily. I’m not really looking at anything. Just kind of taking a minute.
I’ll be sitting there with my headphones in, but nothing on. Just pausing. Trying to pause my head.
Because the modern, developed world is so full of stimuli now and everyone else wants you to listen to, see, click on, or visit this or that, it is pretty difficult to find a break–a pause.
I know my instincts in the brief breaks in my day are to check my phone, scroll through various social media, make some social media, read an article, listen to a new song, watch a short video, etc. But all of this busyness is more than a distraction to me: it stresses me out a lot. It makes me feel like I’m constantly moving or doing something.
It’s like picking at a scab–rather than do nothing and let nature run its course, I feel compelled to act even though my actions are counterproductive.
So, in those moments where I find myself paused, I struggle. I want to open up my phone and scroll. I want to look through everyone’s postings and shares and likes. I want to read five news outlets. I want to watch all these videos. But since that’s impossible, I just end up wasting that precious pause on garbage I didn’t even get to really choose.
Going forward, I am going to try to pause actively. To choose to pause. To take little breaks from the bright lights, pretty colors, wild sounds, and mysterious allure of the virtual world sitting on my desk inside that magic little black rectangle. Give my brain, my head, my heart, and my soul a moment to kind of digest what’s happening and what I’m feeling before I add more to the plate.
Rather than hitting pause because someone stopped by my office or because my phone rang, I am going to try to pause deliberately. And embrace a moment of self-manufactured calm.