I’ve Forgotten How To Be Still

Photo by YasmingLP, via Flickr

When I was in the sixth grade, I wore soft contacts that I had to stick in this boiler thingamabob every night. And every night I would open the lid and unscrew the contact case to make sure my contacts were still in there. Not just once. Again and again, until the case got to hot to handle. Because you know, it was possible that I bumped the case when I opened it the last time, and the contact fell out.

I was thinking about this Monday night as I was speeding down the highway to spend three days at a gathering of liturgical composers. Because I was also thinking, What have I forgotten to account for in my plans for the family while I’m gone? Wait—I didn’t doublecheck to make sure I stuck my computer and my suitcase in the trunk. What if I get to St. Louis and I have no clothes? Even though I knew I had loaded both much earlier in the day so as to ease the stress of departure time.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a control freak or if this is one of the many sneaky ways anxiety tries to re-insert its soul-killing presence into my world.

(I’m sure the answer is: “Yes.”)

But truthfully, it got me thinking two things: first, that my neuroses have been with me much longer than I ever realized; and two, that I’ve forgotten how to “be still.” I still pay lip service to the idea, but it’s been months since I just went out into nature to sit, with no computer, with no agenda other than to exist and quiet my mind.

And my mental and spiritual health is suffering for it.

I could expound upon this subject at length but even I think it’s a tedious subject. Still, that memory of a young girl turning the light back on three or four or five times in quick succession, because irrational fear had her in an unbreakable grip, is a sobering reminder of how important it is for me to put the brakes on and regroup. To get back to my spiritual center, and quit gnashing my teeth at losing productive time to do it. Everything in the writing business is glacially slow, anyway. What do I gain by pushing so hard? Nothing at all.

I’m typing this post late on Tuesday night, hoping a brain dump will help me get to sleep. We had a break over the lunch hour today, and although my heart was longing to do battle with a novel title and either set of revisions suggested to me right before I left home, I knew I was being called to something simpler. I went outside and sat on a park bench beneath a cell tower disguised as an improbably tall pine tree, and I tried to shut my brain down by focusing on the whisper of the wind in the real pine tree and the blessed brightness of the watery sunshine. And then I took a walk through the Stations of the Cross here at the Mercy Center before coming back inside.

It was hard work. But I was better when I came back in. Not perfect. But better. This is my week: not a time to squeeze an hour of novel writing into the only break in the day—but a time to step back and truly retreat from the world—while I’ve done the weeks’ upon weeks’ worth of work to make my absence possible for my family.

Pray for me, these next two days, would you please?