The Lost Art of Tuning Out

As a child, I was mesmerized with the extraordinary ability my mother had to simply “tune things out”. As she sat, nose in book, with the telephone resonating it’s urgent message, demanding to be picked up, and the dog barking through the window at the cat across the street, I often wondered if her quiet mastery was somehow related to a hearing problem. It wasn’t.

I spent my years in quiet frustration as a student, trying to study with the distraction of my two sisters arguing, and the washing machine spinning, secretly envious of my mother’s special power and wishing I had inherited it. I would eventually learn that the art of tuning out was a skill, long years in development with the requirement of specialized equipment – namely, children.

I have three children. Noisy, argumentative distractions that have a keen sense of the perfect moment to hit me up for some money or ask for a privilege that would have normally been denied. As I sit, typing away at my latest epiphany of a novel, I hear them asking me…something. Eager to finish my thoughts on the screen, I’m all too happy to give them whatever their heart desires, often to my own demise.

My mother had balance. That is what I was missing. She knew when to ignore, and when to really listen – an adroitness I failed to pick up. I spent hours in silent meditation, looking for the difference between perfect solitude and a general lack of reasonable thought process. Meditation worked wonders for my inner sanctity and is still an important part of my every day life, but I still failed to find harmony in my chaotic life. I recently spent some time studying my cat – the master of oblivion – only to realize that his little ear-jerks meant that he heard everything.

It came to me then. I called my cat’s name and it went unheeded, until I shook the little pouch containing his favourite treat and he was at my feet within seconds. The art of tuning out doesn’t mean that you hear nothing – you hear everything, and allow your mind to subconsciously decide what is important. All this time, I’ve been practicing the act of ignorance – the desire to be alone forces one to react in a negative way.

I have since detached myself of my desire for quiet (nearly), and have found that some things are better heard. My children are happier with a mother who takes the time to listen, no matter what daunting tasks build up before her, and I find myself a more patient person. Accepting that life has it’s distracting moments has made me less agitated as I feel the gentle tap on my shoulder, accompanied by my husband’s voice in my ear, “Honey? Didn’t you hear the children fighting?”.

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