These words have been as alien to me as the lack of snow and constant sunshine in January. I recently left family, friends, snowy winters, and the solace I find in familiar surroundings to start my first “real” job and discover who is at the core of this particular woman. My life to this point has not just been filled with noise, it has been characterized by it. Raised to value a tough work ethic above all else, I fill my life with constant “doings” and have not had time or room to experience such ideas as contemplation, meditation, or even relaxation for about as long as I can remember. Here in this strange new land, I have found myself alone. I have found myself in silence. I have even found myself with free time on my hands. What do I do with these strange new companions?
When I first arrived at my new apartment, I avoided them. I kept the TV on at all times. I listened to CDs. I called family and friends. I reasoned that coming from a large family and a graduate school experience blessed with innumerable roommates and friends, I needed the noise to transition. Eventually I realized it was more than that. I was hiding from something. Hiding from what? loneliness. solitude. thoughts. God.
I started turning the TV on less often. I forced myself to read or work in silence. I spent time in meditative and listening prayer. Slowly, my life became more balanced with times of noise, times of quiet, and times of complete silence. I’d like to say that all of a sudden my life made sense! My vision was clearer! I arrived at what the great psychologists have called self-actualization! Not quite. For me the quieting of my soul is a relentless struggle. I can control the noise in my environment, but it’s a persistent struggle for me to control the noise in my mind. What does this say of me as a woman? as a Christian? What am I avoiding, and why am I so terrified of going there?
It hasn’t been completely hopeless. I have made minute progress during this time. It’s almost like I’m looking through the lens of a camera, and I’m struggling and fighting to focus this lens, and even though I haven’t quite gotten there, I can still see the picture just a little bit clearer. Certain things have come more into focus for me. For one thing, I’ve realized how often I focus on the wrong thing. Like I’m focusing the camera on a gray twig and missing out on the vibrant hydrangea behind it.
As a woman it’s so easy for me to get caught up in looking out for everyone else’s needs. Proving I can get everything done. Exhibiting my strength in every task or situation. But in doing all that I miss out on being me. I miss out in discovering who I am when no one is around and nothing needs to be done. I miss out in experiencing relationship where I can be as fully cared for and known as I care for and know the other. Somewhere in this life, I have to find that space of rest. Then I can experience the peace, quiet, silence, and stillness I was created for.