I recently obtained one of my favorite things in the world. In the basement of my grandparent’s home in Salina has sat a mid-century hi-if stereo that hasn’t been used in years. It was always this sort of fixture in the basement – you knew it was there and what it was but didn’t get too much attention paid to it.
When my grandparents moved into an assisted living facility we were invited to chose items from the house that were meaningful to us or reminded us in some way of Grandma and Grandpa. I’m not really sure what compelled me to do so at the time but I blurted out to my mom, “I want the stereo”. Looking back, it’s a little weird that I did so- it wasn’t a “staple of my childhood” and it wasn’t really something that I connect to them specifically, I just knew I wanted it in my home.
It’s here now, placed prominently in my living room and gets used every day. I’ve begun an obsession of searching for records, visiting record stores and buying them online. I’ve found albums that my parents had when I was a kid and albums released by my favorite artists – thank goodness musicians are still releasing their albums on vinyl. There’s a eclectic mix of Billy Holiday, Fleetwood Mac, The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons constantly ringing throughout my home and I adore the process of selecting a record to listen to, placing it on the turntable and listening to the entire side without the modern propensity to skip a song or search through a playlist.
In the month or so the console stereo has sat in my living room I’ve pondered why I enjoy it so much and I’ve come to the conclusion that I love it because it’s so intentional. Weirdly, this record player has become a metaphor for my life’s current season.
The first thing I noticed when placing a modern, vinyl record on the turntable is that the sound was a little “off”. I know these songs backwards and forwards and I’ve listened to them digitally for years. Digital sound is as near perfect as modern technology can make it but the sound coming from these albums seemed different – it was deeper, richer but also dragged a bit. There are pops and scratches. I quickly learned that modern albums need to be played at 33 1/3 RPM rather than 33 or 45 RPM that older albums were run at. Much to my dismay, I discovered that one of my favorite albums has been scratched – probably but one of the kids trying to learn how to use the player. It’s not ruined, it’s simply annoying. I’m fighting the urge to replace the album because I’m trying to practice a new philosophy in my life: when things are so easily replaced, they lose their value. We live in an age of “easy come, easy go”. Our grandparents and great-grandparents purchased most items that they owned once. If it broke, they fixed it. If it was damaged, they adapted. If it aged, it was seen as a beautiful patina that could only live on something built with care to withstand time. The stereo can be seen as one of those items. It’s 50 or 60 years old but was taken care of, treated well and maintained. Even after purchasing cassette players and CD players, Grandma and Grandpa still hung on to it because they valued it and the use they had for it. My mom has memories of listening to children’s records and learning how to place the needle. If they had just pitched it when something new came along I wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it now.
I love that listening to records makes you actually slow down and enjoy the experience. Living with digital music has been wonderful to music lovers like me but it’s taken away part of the experience. We can now walk around with thousands of songs in our pocket. We can create play lists of our favorite songs and skip what we don’t like. Music can be a constant background noise without ever having to move to change what’s being played and we’re probably not REALLY listening to it. By listening to a record you take in an album as an experience. You have to be intentional about what you chose to listen to. You have to physically get up and flip the record to hear the second half of the album. Skipping a song isn’t as easy as pushing the next button. I think we’ve forgotten that creating an album is an art form like a novel or play – there’s a story involved. The songs are carefully chosen and their placement in the lineup is important. I’ve noticed that by taking the time to slow down and appreciate that is similar to slowing down and appreciating so many other things in life. Our lives are constantly being updated for convenience but it’s just making us all more anxious and miserable. The “stuff” that’s created to make our lives easier or more efficient is really just making us jam more into less. More work into less time. More gadgets, more money spent, more attention given to an obscure digital world instead of the world that’s literally right in front of us. Rather than enjoying the beautiful colors of fall, we’re viewing them from behind our phones trying to capture the perfect image of ourselves holding pumpkins lattes and “enjoying this beautiful fall day” #blessed
David and I decided after my diagnosis that I would take on less work in order to spend more time with our family, truly enjoying what’s important and living IN that moment. To be very honest, it’s been a little tough. I’ve spent 15 or 16 years filling up my schedule full of work and volunteering and social get togethers and play dates in an effort to feel in control, to feel like if I worked hard nothing bad would happen. It obviously doesn’t work that way. I spent so much time running from one thing to the next, doing and doing and doing for our business that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the fruits of my labor – I was simply trying to grow more fruit. That’s a hard habit to break but I am I’m working hard to be more present. To practice clearing my mind and sitting quietly in the now rather than thinking about the next thing I have to do. I’m working on putting more effort into the things that last rather than the things that are convenient. I want to be like the experience I have with that stereo – well thought out, intentional, flawed but still beautiful. I want to accept the flaws around me and in me as the beautiful patina they can be rather than something that needs to be easily replaced.
I have a beautiful friend named Tiffany whom I’ve known and loved for 20 some years. She and I chat a lot about these sorts of things and she as a passion for helping women overcome the shame in their lives and live the life that their creator intended for them. She’s even working to bring that passion into the world as a service that she can provide. She is really good at getting me to ask questions of myself – “way do you do that?” “Why do you think you feel that way?” She gives me permission to let go of what I think others expect of me and focus in on what I can expect from myself. We were chatting yesterday and got into a discussion about how we live our modern lives and how it’s not making our lives better, it’s making them more painful and more difficult to get through. We discussed the question “What am I doing in my life that makes life worth living?” THAT, right there is what I’m making the new theme of my life. I’m fighting a hard battle just to stay alive – so the question is, WHY? What is worth this battle? It’s certainly not my iphone or trips to Starbucks for a cup of fall-flavored deliciousness. It’s not lots of money in my bank account or having my photos featured in a bridal magazine. All of those things can season life, but they can’t be the meat and potatoes. The substance of my life and the legacy I’ll some day leave behind must be based on the relationships I build (most importantly with my husband, children, parents and siblings), the service I can be to others and the good I can help cultivate in a world bombarded by bad. Those are the things I’m going to fill my time with and now with the help of a family heirloom playing in my home, I’ll slow down and do it with a beautiful soundtrack.