The Courage To Be Still

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Image via Pixabay

There are 553 books on my Goodreads “to read” list.

 

I have at least three more flute pieces to write, and I have four novel ideas, one awaiting another major revision, and one that is 3/4 drafted.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, we have two kids out of the house at 6:45 a.m. to get to band; every Wednesday it’s three of them at 7 a.m. for choir; and on Fridays, it’s 6:45 a.m. again for Julianna’s physical therapy. Michael goes to school for three hours in the afternoon, but too many of those hours are chiseled away by appointments and busy work.

All this to say I don’t have time anymore: to scrapbook, to garden, to practice my flute. Sometimes my kids are raiding the clean clothes pile for socks and underwear for almost two weeks before I have time to fold it.

My heart feels frantic. If I opt out of the nasty election news (and there’s plenty of that, isn’t there?), I feel remiss in my duty to be an educated voter and an informed citizen of Planet Earth.. But listening to it undermines my hope in the possibility of a better world. I turn on the radio in the car and I listen and listen and listen as my insides wind tighter and tighter.

And into this smoldering, writhing mass of not-peace drops a headline:

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

I don’t even click through, because I remember reading it before. We need to be still. It’s not just for introverts and aspiring contemplatives. It makes our brains grow, it makes us better people, more cognizant of ourselves and our place in the world. Seeing the headline pop up on my Facebook feed is the road sign from God I didn’t know I was waiting for.

How long has it been since I took time to “come away”? Weeks? Months? I’ve been oh so productive, but I’m feeling disconnected from my life, scrabbling at its messy edges instead of living gut deep.

But the longer I wait to shut down my brain, the harder it is to do so. I get antsy with the quiet in the car. I long to fill it. Nervous with the silence. I play games: I can turn the radio on at the next stoplight. When I turn it on, my addiction to stimulus kicks in and go, “ooh, that’s  niiiiice…” for about three seconds, until I realize they’re arguing about something they have no control over at all. I think, “How is this enriching their lives or mine?”

And so, finally, I grit my teeth and summon the courage to enter the stillness for real.

It takes a full day to relax into the silence in the van. A full day for my brain to figure out what to talk about with my ride-along little man, whose last year of small childhood I’ve been so recklessly squandering with all that productivity and serenity-shredding noise.

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Image by revmrb, via Flickr

And today, I sit at the edge of a creek, watching the leaves fall: twirling like helicopters, tumbling end over end, dive-bombing the limestone or landing noiselessly on the surface of the water, where they embark on an unhurried journey downstream. Watching them drift out of the shadows and into the sunlight and back again, until they catch on a submerged log or get waterlogged and sink to the bottom to become next year’s silt. Watching the play of sunlight on golden trees and the red-brown carpet of fallen leaves on the steep slope across the way. Pausing to write, and then, again, to summon the courage to be still.

We are made for more than this, but we are also made for this.

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