When our world shut down and went quiet in March, I experienced something I’d never experienced before. Truthfully, I’ve experienced several firsts during this ethereal time, but this one in particular stands out.
One night soon after the shutdown, I couldn’t sleep. Whether it had been too much news that day, too much caffeine, or the huge and sudden life shifts weighing down, I’m not sure. But I got out of bed and walked outside to stand on our driveway about one o’clock in the morning and…nothing. Not a single thing. Not a sound, not a wind rustling the leaves, not an air conditioner unit humming. Nothing. We live in a town that sits close to a big metropolis city. There are always sounds of some sort. Highway noises never stop, people come home from work or the bar or a friend’s house at all hours or dogs bark. But this night there was no sound. Complete silence. It startled and soothed me at the same time.
Noise to Drown Out the Mind Noise
To let you know a little bit about me, I have to sleep with a fan on and a light. The noise of the fan helps shut out the mind noise that never seems to stop and then I can usually sleep. The mind noise is always with me, day and night. Sometimes it’s a good and productive noise, but most of the time it hounds me with failure messages, or regrets, or heaviness. The point is, I work to have some sort of noise in my life to drown out another noise. Strange, I know. So I’ve never really made friends with silence, I avoid it. This night, however, was the beginning of a new thing.
Out on my driveway, after the first initial shock and recognition of the strange phenomenon of utter silence in the world I occupy, something awakened inside me. I wasn’t scared, I was in awe. And I just let it be. I stayed there in the quiet dark for a while.
Silence as a Teacher
Since then, I’ve looked for opportunities of silence, and welcomed them. I still sleep with a fan on, but I’m able to turn the TV off and shut off all vestiges of light and sleep quietly. I find times in the day when I can shut off all news, all music, even my phone and just be. Amazingly, I’m hearing things from deep inside I haven’t listened to in decades. Maybe never.
Because of the shelter at home orders, because there was nothing else I could do and no place else I could go, and because the news seemed to always be scary and overwhelming, moments of silence were all I had. In those moments, it became so quiet I could hear my soul whisper, and I listened.
Things I’ve Learned from Listening
- I’ve failed many times, but I am not a failure. Know how I know? Because every single day I get up and try again. Every. Single. Day.
- I have so much love in my life, and love is what is most important. Not the money, not the activities, not the clothes, not the size of my jeans. At the end of my life, none of those things will matter. Who I love and who loves me is of invaluable worth.
- Even with all the pain and devastation, I have gone through, life is good. For the most part, my life is good. It has a sweetness about it, even in the hard times.
- I have so much to be grateful for. More than I ever imagined. And though I’m sure I will still miss seeing some of them, I want to be intentional in looking for the gifts of my life. Ann Voskamp writes poetically in her book One Thousand Gifts about seeing the beauty in the every day around us.
- Hugs are wonderful. Toruch is lifeblood. I’ve missed hugs.
- Stripped of all I busy myself with in my job, in my routine, in my ruts, I’m still okay. My achievements, what I get accomplished, and what I earn, these don’t define my value or my worth. My heart does.
- I have some things to work on and some areas that are not my strong suits, but these, too, are gifts. These qualities or flaws remind me every day I’m not IT, and I will never be IT. But I am enough, and I am a work in process, and that will always be okay.
Newfound Friendship with Silence
Somewhere along the way many years ago, I lost touch with the quiet parts of me. In the routines that were my life, I became complacent and comfortable being inside the usual. Leave it to a worldwide pandemic to upend not just global life, but this small life in Texas. I know this crisis is not over, and I’m sure there will be many challenges ahead, but I hope life will not be the same for me after this. I’m hoping my newfound friendship with silence lasts a lifetime. For another perspective, check out the blog post “Embrace the Season You’re In–Something Valuable is Coming by Nicole Pilgrim here.