I mentioned in passing that Mr. Magpie has been using the Calm app, which promotes better sleep and a quieter mind. One thing he observed after only a few days of use was that he found it close to impossible to get through a single ten-minute meditation session during the daytime without interruption. This sparked a wide-ranging conversation on how much noise and interruption all of us contend with on a daily basis. Even when we are dialed in on our laptops for work, there are all kinds of chimes, pop-ups, and tones that remind us of the meeting in five minutes, or the message from a colleague, or the arrival of a new email. These alerts can be disabled, but do we do it? Not always. Even the presence of multiple tabs in a browser can occasionally feel like “noise” — the “other things” vying for your attention while you are attempting to just respond to this singular email. And all of that is only within the frame of your computer screen. Then we also have our smartphones, with their infinite notifications (news! emails! social media! wellness apps! reminders! phone calls!) and the technologies and appliances in our homes that beep and ding and, well, just make noise by virtue of functioning (a washing machine, the clang of radiator, the tick of a clock). And on top of that we have street noise (as I type this at 10:02 a.m. on Friday, I hear the lurch of a bus, wheels on wet pavement, someone shouting something) and of course the constant commotion of the loved ones we live with during this pandemic, when so many of us are at home together more often than not.
These sounds are not invariably “bad.” They are audible reminders of the very full and fortunate life that we have willingly built together and the technologies we have opted into. And I am still-astounded by the incredible conveniences that modern innovation has afforded us. I often tell Mr. Magpie that it feels like we are living out The Jetsons fantasy world — I basically have “robots” living in my home thanks to modern technology: “Siri, read me the news” and “Siri, call my mom” and “Siri, what’s the temperature outside?” I can run out of bananas and diapers, more or less press a button, and have them appear on my doorstep in two hours. It is unbelievable. And to have been one of the last generations with one leg on each side of the digital divide allows for peculiar wonderment: much to my daughter’s eventual chagrin, I will one day say: “I can remember the day my dad first brought a computer to our home, and it was about the size of an oven, and we shared it breathlessly, and it didn’t have Internet on it.” (“What on earth did it do then?!” Haha.)
But our conversation also touched on COVID-19, and how living through this pandemic and of necessity passing much more time together in a small space has intensified the noise and density of interruptions. There are always small feet padding around, more deliveries at the door, the echo of a voice on a business call, the clanging around of pots in the kitchen — it is a busy soundtrack and it is difficult to pass more than a minute in total silence.
And quiet is, I think, inherently healthful for us. (Do we all agree on that?) So what do we do in the case of a deficiency in it?
I think many of us have either cultivated tactics for tuning out or turning down “noise” or have adapted to its omnipresence with varying degrees of begrudgement. For example, I love using the “do not disturb” function on my laptop while focused on writing, and I have my phone automatically set to “do not disturb” mode from 10 PM to 7 AM every night. I try my absolute best to use the “one screen at a time” tech detox, though I admit I am horrible about it in the hour just before bed. On the flipside, I am so inured to them, I find myself virtually unbothered by certain types of notifications on my phone. I feel like they don’t even register half the time! So, too, with street noise unless it’s something truly jarring — it’s all just part of the fabric of my day-to-day life in Manhattan.
But I had to ask — how do you deal with interruptions in your life? How do you carve out quiet space for yourself?
+Dying over these adorable blue bow earrings.
+These brush pots are such a chic way to organize pens on a desktop. I also love the eclectic small boutique (House of Cardoon!) that stocks them — this shop was founded by a fellow UVA grad and female entrepreneur. (Thanks, C., for the intro.) Thinking I might gift one of these with a rainbow of Le Pens to a fellow writer as a gift for the holidays.
+These Barbour gloves are so smart.
+M. Gemi is running an amazing sale right now — these Tods-like loafers are marked down to $125!
+This tunic sweater is just the ticket for Black Friday shopping on the couch while watching a round of Christmas movies.
+Elegant upholstered bench at a great price.
+Last-minute Thanskgiving order for the children. I think I might send these in for mini’s Thanksgiving party at school. $3 for 10!
+Contemplating pre-ordering this plum oil, which keeps selling out! Chrissy Teigen recently raved about it on Instastories and I have to say I’m intrigued…
+After my comment about needing a new office chair in a recent post, a reader wrote in to say an interior designer had recommended this style. Chic and well-priced!
+There is still time to order a Thanksgiving day look!
+I love hearing Helena stories.
+Clever meal planning pad. (You can tear off the strip on the right to take with you to the grocery!)
+Which reminds me — how do you meal plan?