Things at work have been quiet lately. With the majority of my team in Europe for three weeks I have been holding down the fort. I sip my coffee, play whatever music I want, send my emails, cross of my tasks, and think.
Without other voices and fewer phone calls my brain has been on over drive – feeling the need to fill the spaces of vacant casual office conversations with measurements of accomplishment and tracking my goals.
I’m driven by productivity. All the personality tests tell me “efficiency” is one of my strengths.
And yet, this summer, the universe is telling me to shut off those dials I used to quantify life and sit instead, in quiet, with myself.
My husband has been playing softball two nights a week and gets home late.
My side hustle marketing job slowed to a trickle as my mentor also took a six week sabbatical.
My mom, much to my dismay, tells me she’s busy with dinner at friends, or on bike rides in Breckenridge, or at a movie with Martha who is the best movie theatre photographer you will ever meet. (pst… I didn’t forget)
Our bible study took a break and is perhaps falling apart forever.
I’m realizing kids go back to school this week (um what? I haven’t done any cool summer things besides climb a mountain) and summer is coming to a close.
I’ve found myself going from quiet office, to the gym with headphones on, to my house, where I cook and wait and read – voices of characters filling my head.
As an introvert, I proudly love to decompress with a book (I’ve got Hillary Clinton’s new one loading on my Kindle right now) and I politely turn down invitations to venture out into the world in favor of, um, my back porch and a glass of wine.
But I’m more comfortable there when my days are filled with tasks and to-do lists and deadlines.
This summer, I’ve had few deadlines and despite my best efforts, the ones I’ve created for myself have fizzled.
Two years ago, when Dad died, my mom was given the dark gift of time. She would sit and read hundreds of books by herself, flicking pages and wiping tears and I’d cook for her, angrily swatting at my grief gremlin, wondering when the hell would it be my turn to sit, and read, and cry?
The gremlin burrowed deeper into my pocket, nibbling as she went, saying she preferred to emerge in quiet.
I see why people are scared of silence.
We scramble to fill our time with other’s voices – of friends, of family, of bosses and self-help authors, and even literary characters. These outside forces demand a level of performance, perfection, and escape we can beat ourselves up until we attain.
This summer, others stopped talking and filling my time. My head got moving and my heart got gurgling and if I let them, both body parts pulled my grief gremlin up by the feathers on its head, out of my heart pocket, and into my hands.
“We’re ready” the head and the heart told the gremlin. They conspired to give me the quiet I needed.
This summer, while bosses were in Europe and mothers were out living again and husbands were out smacking softballs and swatting mosquitos, I sat and read and cried.
It was my turn. To sit and to process and let all of what I pushed down bubble up and ooze onto tissues while I ate dinner at the kitchen table by myself.
I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, but rather, perplexed by this huge open space. I’d shovel in stir-fry or noodles and look curiously at my heart holes. The voids of his missing mingling with all the remedies I’ve tried to use to fill my wound.
I keep thinking of Thomas in the Bible, when he doubts Jesus’ resurrection. I like to think Jesus takes Thomas’ hand and holds his fingers over his wounds.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:24-29
Jesus knows Thomas has to touch the scars to believe not only in the truth of Jesus’ power, but to have closure so he can move forward.
Jesus goes right in, tenderly saying to Thomas ‘I see how my pain caused you great pain. How my wounds have given you some too. The scars can heal. Touch them and see. And move forward.’
This summer, all this damn quiet has opened my wounds.
People are busy and instead the spirit is present.
She holds my fingers over my scars, touching and tending and healing as I sit and read and cry.
Noise will come again. People return from Europe. Task lists and projects and deadlines will loom.
But for now, I sit quietly, smoothing beautiful skin and wiping my glistening eyes.
this essay is a beautiful thing! thank you
the quiet is a bit scary. I don’t wish for quiet anymore because quiet would mean my kids are gone away somewhere and not next to me playing their toys. I rather like their noise because it’s comforting to know they’re there.