Ep_008 Distracted? Tune it Out (Transcription)

Posted by Kristine Franklin

00:00:00 – 00:00:05 – Musical Interlude

Kristine: Hello and welcome!

Hey, have you seen the movie Up, you know that movie with the little boy and the old man and they go on this adventure in this big balloon? It’s a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeing. There’s a character in that movie that might remind you of yourself sometimes. It’s the dog. Remember the talking dog? He’s got this gizmo that makes it so he can talk and so that we also get to hear his thoughts, and so he’ll be saying something and suddenly he sees a squirrel and he yells, squirrel! Because that’s what went through his head. And then his focus is completely on the squirrel, forgetting about what the rest of the conversation was. It’s taken over his brain. Do you ever get like that dog? Squirrel!

So you’re listening to your spouse tell you about work and you’re listening and you’re really listening and you’re really paying attention and then all of a sudden you remember you’ve got to get that load of laundry out of the dryer before the shirts wrinkle, squirrel! Or you’re at Mass and you’ve promised the Lord you going to pay better attention and the kids are being pretty good, they’re not fighting, they’re not whining, nobody’s pushing, nobody’s hungry and you’re actually paying attention. You are, you’re paying attention and squirrel! You’d think about — the lawn mower needs an oil change, gosh so does the car, and your attention is gone. You’re distracted.

You get a few minutes of quiet time, you start to pray the Rosary, you get halfway through and you realize you’ve been thinking about that problem your parents are having with finances that — have you know your mom’s been calling you and telling you about it and you’re worried and you realize you spent half the Rosary worrying and going over the last conversation you had with your mom about their finances.

And you wonder how come I can’t pay attention? How come I can’t focus? What’s wrong with me? You’re distracted, your mind drifts and even when you’re trying really hard to listen, to live in the moment, to take time to pray, to pay attention and be present at Mass, you fail. And then there are all the texts and e-mails, phone calls, noise TV all around, do you feel frustrated at all the distractions in life? Every part of life is there a realistic way to cut back on distractions and train yourself to be able to focus.

Good news, yes, Father Michael Rennier writing at Aleteia, says he’s really distracted too. It’s a modern problem. Even if you don’t live in a monastery he says there are ways to cut down on distractions. So, let’s take a look at the world you live in. It’s very noisy, it’s a culture that is scared to death of boredom, and so there’s an electronics and easy access to the Internet, and entertainment, the TV is on all day, there’s radio in the house, radio in the car, there is ask Alexa, there’s phones on your person day and night, maybe next to your bed at night time. There’s just a lot of extraneous noise and things to take your attention. The average family has their TV on five hours a day and some of those TVs are just on so that it won’t be quiet, so that the house won’t be silent. Do you know anybody like that, who needs a television on from the minute they wake up in the morning, just so that the house won’t be silent?

When you drive, there’s music, there’s radio, there’s your phone, ha ha ha, sneaking a text, just so you don’t miss it, just in case, even though you know that peaking at your phone makes you as good a driver as a very drunk person for that moment that you could kill yourself and others, but you can’t resist, it’s such a distraction. When you shop, there’s music in the store, announcements, they’re just isn’t any peace.

Fr. Rennier thinks most people would be — rather be endlessly distracted than bored. They’d rather have endless input, play a game, play Solitaire anything except be bored and he includes himself. Every year Father goes on a retreat, away from his phone, TV, music, radio, news all the stuff that you know makes noise in his world. He takes really long walks and he prays in a quiet silent chapel and you know what he says? he says at first it feels like torture, this is a retreat? It’s torture. But then after a few days, he says, It feels like — a withdrawal from an addiction. His mind settles down and he starts to feel peaceful inside and he can think, and he can pray, and he can concentrate and focus.

Entertainment has its place, right. But Father Says, it’s also excessive, addicting and debilitating. Background music is all on the surface, it’s not the same as paying for that ticket and going to the concert and listening with your full mind. You’re not really listening to background music, but it’s filling up the spaces. Keeping the TV on for noise or never driving anywhere without the radio, keeps your mind from going deep on any subject, it just gives you a feeling of being filled up, but it’s not real filled up. It’s not like the filled up you get going to a concert, or how you filled up you get from a great conversation, where you’re focused and you’re enjoying the moment. It’s just a distraction for your brain, a distraction to keep you from the horror of being bored.

Fr. Rennier quotes a philosopher, Rodon Scruton who says that, the background sounds of modern life are less and less human. Think about that. What were the background sounds of life 150 years ago? I’ve got to think about that. The cows mooing out in the yard, the dog thumping his tail on the floor, the kids and the house, you know, no radio, no TV. Somebody playing a musical instrument or humming a song, somebody else working on a project tap tap tap of the hammer, woojah woojah of a saw, those are human sounds, but the modern sounds of life are becoming less and less human. People are doing fewer human things with their time, not walking through the woods in the quiet, listening to the birds, looking for mushrooms, identifying the wild flowers. Not lying in the backyard with the kids and identifying the constellations or going looking for rocks in the in the gravel pit, looking for cool rocks on the beach. Not knitting socks by the fireplace, not playing any instruments. Families aren’t preparing meals together, they’re not sitting and talking about their day without background noise interfering.

Father Rennier says that background noise — it’s like air pollution. It kind of seeps in you know, and reduces the quality of your life and you don’t really notice it until you’re coughing and choking and smothering and unable to concentrate. When you are so afraid of quiet and so terrified of boredom, that you have to constantly pull out your phone and look at it, you’ve become impoverished. You’re a poor person if you can’t sit with yourself in silence. That’s what he says. So what do you do? Go live in a monastery! No, no. You don’t have to go live in a monastery, definitely not practical. But Father shares six of the ways he cuts down on distractions in his life, maybe it’s worth a try. Yeah definitely, it is definitely worth a try. Try this Father says.

Keep the TV off unless you’re actually sitting down to watch a specific show. That works. That works great. Just keep the TV off. When you’re ready to watch whatever, turn it on. When it’s over, turn it off.

Number two, get in the habit of saying a prayer every time you go up or down a flight of stairs. Now, that’s a kind of an odd one, but it’s something you do all day, even just going out into the garage or out into the front yard, back and forth over a threshold in and out of the house if you don’t have stairs in your home, up and down from the basement to do laundry, if you live where there’s a basement. Every time you do a flight of stairs say a prayer. It puts your stair-climbing in the moment and makes it productive and fruitful.

Keep your phone in your pocket or your purse and do not take it out while you’re driving, of course not when you’re driving, when you’re in the grocery store line, (how rude) and never ever ever in a restaurant. Just make some rules for yourself. Put it away or even better leave it home, leave it home.

Fourth, take time every week to do something spiritually uplifting, like reading quietly, sitting outside with a cup of coffee, doing a craft or a hobby, going for a walk, do it silently. Get to Mass a little early and spend time in prayer. Do you get to Mass like at the last minute, slide into your pew and kneel really quick? How about if you got there three minutes earlier and spend some time in silence? I know that can be hard in a noisy parish, but you can find that place inside your head, just three minutes before Mass.

And six, he says even if it’s hard, try to get away to a silent retreat once a year or every other year, or every third year. It gives you a chance to look at your own distraction addictions right, because no phones, no TV, no Internet, and experience a few days without those things that distract, and it might just spur you on to make some permanent changes in your life, so that you can focus, so that you can have some silence and prayer and pay attention at Mass. Don’t be afraid to be bored. It gives you the chance to find freedom from distractions and to develop a deeper appreciation of real life.

So next time you’re waiting somewhere, the airport, the dentist office, the doctor, the DMV, leave your phone put away. Watch the people, they’re interesting. Pray for each one of them, think about your day. If you’ve got a kid with you, play a little game, tic-tac-toe, the DOT game on paper. Whatever, read them a story, leave your phone put away. Don’t let distractions rob you of having a rich inner life. Don’t be like the dog, squirrel! Make space in your head for quiet, for settling down and for listening to God. You can do it. Next up, e-mail inbox. This wife thinks her husband watches way too much TV.

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Kristine: Welcome back. It’s time for e-mail inbox, where you write in a question and get a frank answer, pull no punches Kristine.

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Kristine: If you’d like to submit a question for e-mail inbox, go to helloandwelcomeshow.com and click on e-mail inbox, fill out the form, ask your question. Only a few questions are going to get on the air, but we will pray for everybody who writes, so ask away.

Okay so today’s e-mail is from Alexa in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hello Canadians! She says, “Dear Kristine, my husband watches a lot of TV. He doesn’t watch anything bad, mostly sports. I don’t object to the shows he watches, but he watches every night after the kids are in bed until bedtime. I’m starting to really resent it. When I complain he gets mad. What do you think?”

Okay Alexa. A lot of people are like your husband and watching TV in the evening is just their default, it’s just what they do. They grew up doing it, they watched the parents doing it, they did it when they were single and it’s just how they unwind, it’s just a habit. Evening TV may be as normal to your husband as putting on socks every morning. It’s just what he does. He’s probably trying not to be mean to you, so give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn’t have any sinister reason for watching TV every night. Just assume good intentions.

So, is watching TV every single night a good thing? Just because it feels like the normal thing? No. If it’s interfering in your marriage, TV can start to feel like the other woman right? He spends hours and hours and hours paying attention to it and not to you. I bet he would be thrilled if you sat there with him and watched it, but for you, you feel it’s a barrier. You said you’re resenting it and that you’ve complained to him and he hasn’t really taken it very well. Remember that it’s really hard to change a habit, really, really hard. And if TV watching after dinner after the kids are in bed, is a habit for your husband, he’s going to really resist changing it. It’s going to be hard, it’s a habit, especially since he probably thinks nothing of it. He probably feels like this is the normal way to spend an evening. And when you complain, it’s probably it just feels to him like you’re nagging him for something that he doesn’t even see as a problem. And who wants to be nagged? Nobody, nobody.

So Alexa, would you be willing to try this? Try this. Arrange a date away from the house for you and him, something special. Maybe a walk in the park, go to the beach or hike in the woods, something you both like to do. I don’t know, whatever it is you like to do and how you’re enjoying your time together and visiting, bring up the subject like this. “Honey our marriage is super important to me and I know it’s important to you, and I’m feeling that there’s an area that we can work on together, can we talk about that?” Let’s hope he says, okay, well — of course now he’s worried right? But it’s definitely not a big deal but you’re not being accusative okay, you’re opening up and saying “we.” Then tell him it would mean a lot to you and that it would help you feel loved, it would be like a way to say I love you, if the two of you could have one or two TV free nights a week. He may come back with, what are we going to do, you know? Remember it’s his lifetime habit, he can’t imagine the evening without TV okay? He might come back with, what are we going to do? And he might be defensive, remember it’s a lifetime habit. But it’s not about him, assure him “it’s not about you honey, I love you.” Just remind him that you want a growing and blossoming marriage, and that you want a growing and increasing friendship with him.

Now have a list of things ready when he says, what are we going to do, of things you might like to do together. Go out for coffee, get a babysitter and have a date, go to — I don’t know, to a ball game or something, take the kids to the park, work on a puzzle, you pick the puzzle honey, play cards. If you like to spend time in the kitchen together, bake, bake a whole bunch of stuff, bake the cookies that the kids like, bake together. Tell him you’d like to learn one of his hobbies or do a sport together, play on a mixed soccer league or a mixed volleyball league.

A person who watches TV for hours and hours every day, is going to feel a little bit threatened by emptying out that space. So, be sure that you have some ideas and ask him to contribute some ideas of what could we do if we cut out one or two nights a week and we made it the special date night just for us, no TV, and we did something else instead. So be sure to have an idea of encouraging him to talk about what would be a fun thing to do and remind him that it’s good — also good for your kids to see that you’re working on your friendship, that it’s good a good example to them on how to work on your friendship and your relationship. You are going to have to be really vulnerable Alexa, because he could just blow you off. But you can hope for the best and then on your side of it, how about if you offer to watch TV with him once or twice a week? Let him choose the night, let him choose the shows, make a date out of it, make it deliberate, give a little in his direction too.

Finally, you know resentment is just like a wound in your heart that festers kind of like pus, you know in a bad cut. He might not change, your husband may never change. You can be vulnerable, you can make the suggestion and he may still watch TV every night. You can only change yourself. If the sound of TV is annoying to you, get him some wireless headphones, get him some really good ones. Pray and when you feel that resentment creeping up, hand it over to the Lord. You’ve done what you could do, you don’t want to nag your husband. The Lord is at work in his heart and you can’t change him but you can ask the Lord to help you accept him just the way he is.

You know if you have resentment against someone, the offertory at Mass is a really good place to hand that over to the Lord. You know as the basket goes by, just you know sort of mentally put that in there, I resent, I’m resenting that he watches so much TV. Here it is again, I’m feeling that feeling, Lord this is all I have to offer, take it. Help me love my husband just the way he is. Help me accept what I can’t change. Alexa, I hope that helps God bless you.

Here’s another one, email inbox. Jen writes, “I don’t really like the traditional Latin Mass, but a bunch of my friends are always shaming me over it, especially people in social media. They argue about it and I don’t want to argue. They want to discuss it and convince me but I don’t want to listen. What should I do?”

I love this. Jen, there’s a reason there’s an unfriend button at Facebook and block and take a break from this person and silence and use those buttons, use those buttons. The wonderful thing about social media is how well you can turn stuff and people off. Take a break, take a break. Unfriend the person if they won’t let up on you, or just take a break from them. A real friend accepts you just exactly the way you are. So if you don’t like the shaming and the arguments, you have the power to turn it off. Just go for it. Use that block feature, you don’t have to listen to anybody who tries to make you feel bad, you don’t have to argue, you don’t have to discuss, you can just block them, silence them or unfriend. Go for it.

Next one. Here’s a question from Joe and he’s writing from — sounds like California. Joe says, “Kristine, my wife and I are expecting our first baby, it’s a boy and I have known what I wanted to name my son from before I was every even married. My wife and I are fighting about what to name the baby. What do you say?”

I say, Joe, this is — I’m sure this is something people fight about, but you don’t need to be fighting about this. This is an important decision that you both need to make together right. Okay, so you’ve got this name maybe Joe Jr., and you’ve known since before you were married, in other words before you even met your wife, you’ve had this idea in your mind of this is what your kid is going to be named. Now it would’ve been great if you married somebody who completely agreed with you on that, but evidently you haven’t. You’ve married somebody with ideas of her own. Here’s what I would say for you to do Joe. Honestly, you need to let that go, let it go. Because you are not going to — either of you be happy with a baby whose name you didn’t agree on. Let it go.

Now, let it go and together why don’t you guys visit a Catholic names baby website, Catholic names, and find a few together that you both like. Just make some lists. What are your top ten favorites? What are your top — what are your top twenty favorites? What are your top twenty favorites and together, find a few names, name combinations that you both can live with. Don’t impose your dream of what your kids should be named on your wife. That is not fair, that’s not fair at all. The baby is going to be named by both of you, and you know what? she might come around, she might change her mind in the end, but right now you aren’t giving her any freedom to have an opinion, and that’s not making her feel very loved. So give it up for now Joe, give it up for good, give it up for the Lord. Say. ‘Lord, I’m giving this up for you,” and find some names together that you can agree on. Put it in the Lord’s hand, let that go. Maybe the next boy will get that name that you’ve been thinking of since before you were married, but not this one I think. Let the first baby be named for sure by both of you. I hope that helps.

And last question. This from Marie, Marie is writing from Kentucky, she doesn’t say what city. Marie says, “Dear Kristine, my son turned 18 and joined the Navy without our permission. We are very upset and worried about the danger he could be in, it is not what we wanted for him. I am angry and I’m upset and I don’t even know what to do.”

And my answer is, guess what Marie, there’s nothing you can do. Your 18 year old has signed up to join the Navy and it’s done, and this is part of parenting, is that when kids are adults they’re going to make choices that you don’t like, they’re going to make choices that disturb you, they’re going to make choices that alarm you and they’re going to make choices that you have no control over at all.

This is one of the hardest things about being a mom, is letting them grow up and make their own choices and yeah, maybe a mistake, maybe in the long run it will be a mistake and he’ll resent it, and he’ll regret that he ever joined the Navy. But maybe it’ll be great for him. Maybe it’ll work out really well and you’re really worried because you’re a mom and when you know, the thought of your kid going into the military, who likes that idea? There’s a lot of danger out there. But he’s made that decision and your job is to accept and support. He hasn’t done anything wrong, he isn’t doing anything sinful, so your job is to accept and support. You know it’s really hard to accept the people we love sometimes when they make decisions that we wouldn’t make for them. Or if they make a decision that we think — that you think is a poor decision. It sounds like you think your son has made a really poor decision but you know what, you know whether it’s a poor decision or not, it was his decision to make and not yours.

So, here’s how you can pray, of course pray for his safety, pray for that as he’s in boot camp or whatever they do in the Navy, that he would — his spiritual life would be enriched and that there would be — pray for the good chaplains aboard ship wherever he is assigned, pray that he would find Christian friends, Catholic buddies, pray that the Lord would keep him from danger, but also pray this for your own self.

Pray that the Lord would work on your heart so that as your son continues to make decisions that aren’t the decisions you would choose for him, because he’s out of your hands now, that you would accept him just the way he is, because that’s the way God accepts you, just the way you are. Give that same gift to your son, even when it’s really hard. It will take practice believe me, it will take practice to give him permission in your heart, whether he asked for your permission or not, to accept the way it is and to accept him just the way he is. Because that’s how God accepts you. It will be okay, Mary, it really well. Thanks for writing and I hope everything works out with your son and I hope that he makes it in the Navy and maybe he’ll love it and it’ll be a career. You just don’t know, you can’t see around the corners but God can. So leave it in His hands. He is kind and loving and caring and He loves your son so much more than you do, so you need to give up your worry, give up your resentment, give up your anger and accept your son for who he is.

If you’ve got a question, go to helloandwelcomeshow.com and fill out the e-mail inbox form. I would love to tackle your question. Next time on Hello and welcome, teach your daughter to love her period. Yep, that’s for dads too. Remember that God loves you and that Jesus is near.

00:25:28 – 00:25:46 – Musical Outro