I think I’ve forgotten how to live in the quiet.
Silence is such a rarity in my life that when I experience an elusive moment of quiet I often feel uneasy.
Anyone with young children will tell you, quiet usually means trouble.
Quiet means my toddler unraveled the toilet paper in the bathroom or found a book to chew apart. Quiet means my kindergartner found our tablet and is hiding in her room watching the “My Little Pony” movie on Netflix for the 50th time.
Sometimes quiet means my husband has taken the girls to the store to give me a rare few minutes to myself. In moments like this I often sit in the silence and just take it all in…for about a minute.
Then, the restlessness comes.
Honestly, I’m just afraid I will fall asleep if I sit in the quiet too long. After all, being a parent is tiring business.
So, after my minute of silence, I’m looking to fill my coveted alone time with some noise.
Sometimes it’s a TV show or music while I clean or a phone call with a friend. Or, more often, it’s all of these things at once.
I’m a chronic multi-tasker. I don’t say that with pride, but as a confession. Don’t get me wrong, multi-tasking is sometimes a necessity.
But, where did I get the idea that the only way to live well is to get as much shoved into my day as possible?
And all that stuff often comes with a lot of noise. I think the noise keeps my mind busy even when I don’t have to be.
I sometimes imagine what my life would have been like if I lived a hundred years ago. While in many ways life would be harder- especially for a woman, it would also be a lot quieter, I think. I would probably read more and be more physically active.
At least that’s what I tell myself.
I think about what a day in my life would look like if I cut out all the technology. No TV. No radio. No computer. No tablet. No phone. No fan humming at night as I sleep.
I get jittery just thinking about it. I think that’s why I find it so hard to enjoy any moments of quiet- true silence is foreign to me. Even when I meditate or pray, music nearly always accompanies me or the sound of my own voice praying aloud. Rarely do I sit and just listen without any sounds.
Without the noise, I’m stripped of all my connection to the world and I’m forced to be really alone with myself. And God. And, honestly, that thought terrifies me on days when I feel overwhelmed with sadness about things happening in the world or with worry about the future.
I push away the unsettling emotions I’m afraid to confront.
I fill my days with constant doings and at the end of them I lay in bed feeling worn out recalling all the things I’ve done and all that has been left undone. I go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat.
I don’t always feel like this, but it is accurate more days than not. And it’s exhausting.
There’s a great Wendell Berry poem that I often reflect on:
“When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
I want to know the freedom of living in the quiet.
I guess it all starts with today…
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Wendell Berry, “The Peace of Wild Things” from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.