God’s wonderful sense of humor: I sat down to write this, set the Ipod to Benedictine Chant, typed the quote above and my cell phone rang. First, my best friend in Savannah and then my estranged husband called me in rapid succession. Thanks to both of them for proving my point.
I struggle to find silence in this busy world. I am the mother of two young boys and live with my mother and older sister. I am rarely home alone and when I do get time alone I have laundry to do at the laundromat; errands to run; phone calls and emails to return; and then there’s the radio in the car. That is all the external noise I deal with on a day-to-day basis. Then even more deafening is the constant internal racket. There is this nasty little gremlin voice in my head constantly harping on every move I make.
“Oh you are NOT wearing THAT are you? You do NOT have the figure for THAT and you know it!”
“Wonderful! You’re yelling at the boys again. Way to scream like a banshee! Trying out for the Mother-of-the-Year awards are you?”
“Do you even read what you write? With that many typos, its barely literate never mind readable!”
“You aren’t going to call back so-and-so? You know this is why you suck at keeping friends. You’re a total flake.”
I could go on for pages but I’ll skip the diatribe tonight. I know God is in there somewhere aching to get through to me that He loves me, flaky banshee that I am. I wish He would just shout down the gremlin in my head instead of waiting for me to choose to silence it and choose to try to hear Him. I wish He would just text me sometime – “C U @ Mass K? Luv ya! 😉 God”.
In this world of constant noise and constant communication, silence and stillness are becoming rare commodities. My spiritual director has often tried to convince me to spend more time in the adoration chapel at my parish of St. James. I can’t do it. It is not for lack of desire but lack of patience. I walk into the chapel and want nothing more than to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. Then the noise starts. Someone has to read and turn pages in a book. Someone else needs to dig out a tissue from a plastic pack. Another has forgotten to silence the cell phone. And the keys – like somehow it is of utmost importance to locate one’s keys BEFORE exiting the chapel, even if the key chain is eight inches long and buried at the bottom of a seemingly bottomless purse. I do realize this is my issue and no one else’s. Patience is a virtue, unfortunately it is not one of mine. Okay, so the chapel is not the place for me. Then where?
I go to the beach often in the winter. I love it at that time of year, so wild, deserted, seemingly so desolate, yet there is always some shore bird feasting on crabs or a hawk hunting mice along the bluffs. I can be alone and occasionally I manage to silence the gremlin long enough to hear whispers in the waves. But it’s July now and the beach is crowded most of the time. How do I carve out that silence for myself when I am lucky to be alone for the twenty minutes it takes to drive to and from my weekly therapy appointments?
Maybe it isn’t so much the silence that I am seeking, but the stillness. There is an inner quiet that comes when I stop listening to all the noise around me and especially stop listening to the gremlin in my head. Little by little, I am finding ways to find silence and to use those moments of silence to find stillness, even if it is only in small doses.
I take the long way home from therapy. I shut off the radio and roll down the windows. I silence the cell phone at night and don’t turn it on in the morning until I am ready to deal with the world’s intrusions. I lay awake in my bed for at least ten minutes in the morning and just breathe. At night, I draw on the image St. Therese of Lisieux often used in her autobiography. I try to picture myself as a child, curled on the lap of God, my father.
For me, I was always on my father’s lap as a child. He read to me every night and he hated Dr. Seuss and The Bernstein Bears. He read me poetry by Longfellow, Frost, Dickenson, Poe, Tennyson, Blake, and many others. It was more than my little child’s mind could fathom at the time, but I loved the rhythm and the flow of the words. I loved the intonation and inflection of his voice. There was a passion and a love in the words he read to me that went beyond the words on the page. This was his gift to me, not only as a little girl, but even now as a grown woman.