Aside from the occasional beetle that scampers around the edge of the room and the stink bug squashed beneath a copy of Nat Geo over by the door, I’m alone. Completely alone.
I’m an hour from home.
An hour from normal.
An hour from the blessings God has poured into my life that exhaust me by noon each day.
I’ve been given the tremendous opportunity to enjoy a much-needed getaway at a cabin that is fresh, open, and bright. It’s on a rolling grassy hill in the middle of farmland. There’s not a single tree around the cabin. Just grass, a bit of sagebrush, and countless beetle cities. The cabin is built for small retreats with four bunks to a room but today it’s just me. No dogs barking, teenagers arguing, cars speeding down the road or video games. No sprinklers, lawn mowers, or sounds of the fridge being constantly opened and closed.
It’s just quiet. I’ve been here nearly 36 hours and haven’t turned on any music. The only noises are the whispering fans that keep the cabin cool and the frequently interrupting taps on the picture windows as bugs try unsuccessfully to fly through the cabin. But I only hear the taps when I rest in the corner chair. If I sit still long enough, I swear I can hear guitars strumming somewhere. It’s the craziest thing.
I need some isolation. It’s been a rough year. My soul feels muddy, my heart needs mending and my thoughts need spread out on the crafting table so I can carefully evaluate each one and decide if it’s worth keeping. I didn’t realize how greatly I needed space and silence until after I spent several hours in the corner chair just staring at the wall. It was great.
My thoughts take on refreshing shapes and colors. Or perhaps my thoughts are being shaped by the book I’m spoiling myself with – a fictional and deliciously satisfying read by Lisa Sampson. She’s one of my favs.
Lisa is a friend of mine. She just doesn’t know it and may never on this side of the pearly gates. Her storylines are beautiful vines of human confession twisted with truths of simplicity, beauty, and authenticity. I want to be one of her book characters. While wearing linen. And huge sun hats.
Several years ago, I very intentionally created a ‘reading space’ in our family office by placing a comfy chair next to my personal bookshelf of current reads and resources. Next to the chair, I placed a simple side table that holds a delicate reading lamp and cup of pens and highlighters. I made sure the chair faced the windows so I could witness the early morning dance of the tree branches outside. I would go to sleep each night eagerly anticipating my tomorrow mornings when the house was silent and I could enjoy a hot cup of coffee, quiet reading time, and the branches. On more than just one occasion, I would close my eyes to contemplate life’s great mysteries only to wake up half a hour later with my mouth hanging open. And, of course, the boys were up and the silence had fled. Dangit.
Nowadays I find respite in writing which requires a closing of the door, study, research and mental breathing space. I love it but my writing time is not as regular as I would like it to be so my heart smiles on the occasional morning when the house is silent, I have coffee in-hand, and I crawl into my reading chair.
Recently I watched a commercial portraying a couple in the woods camping. They were settling in for the night and their peaceful tent was too quiet. To bring comfort and invite sleep, they turned a sleep app on and selected city noises. This was a commercial for a wireless phone plan, of course. Being the person I am, my heart frowned a bit in and wondered how many people are truly uncomfortable with silence.
Of course, being the geek I am, I did a bit of research on the health of silence and the more I read, the more my thoughts were sorrowed with the amount of anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-emotion meds that our society needs to function when maybe we all just need to and stare out a window or enjoy our back patios for an hour or two each morning, sans technology. Most doctors won’t prescribe silence (it’s just bad business) and we do heavily rely on doctors to do the thinking for us. I’ve been on this bandwagon a time or twenty and it’s usually when I’m running too hard and too fast through life that I feel the need for a fast solution.
Years ago, I was challenged by Jim Collins and his concept of the ‘Stop Doing List’. I loved the idea of doing less and creating intentional breathing space. This concept goes hand-in-hand with his ever-present challenge of not spending so much time, emotional and physical energy on good things when you have the choice to spend time on the truly great things in life. Collins goes so far as to say that good is the enemy of great. Investing in our health, quality relationships, exploiting personal strengths, and investing in work that has the opportunity to change lives are great things. I’ve found that when I’m only invested in good things, not great things, my entire being is dissatisfied with life and easily irritated. I don’t want to live that way.
I don’t hear bugs tapping on the windows at home. Granted, I don’t have huge picture windows at home but the principle remains – my life is a constant hum of activity and I’m not stopping to listen. To rest. To just be. I allow busyness and noise to cloud my thoughts and best judgement. And I forget silence. To make the situation worse, I’m guilty of allowing noise to preside in the lives and hearts of my own children. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them twitch on the media-free days that follow intensely busy seasons of life.
My heart is challenged. My list of ‘Stop Doings’ needs to grow.
*Written late Summer of 2017
As always, I invite feedback on my posts and certainly welcome your personal ‘stop doings’ suggestions and ideas!
Resources (because I just can’t help myself):
*Jim Collins Concepts from Good to Great
*Inc.com –Silence is really good for you
*Huffington Post – Why silence is so good for your brain
*Medical Daily – 5 health benefits of being silent for your brain and body
(Three of the above articles may have similar titles but have varying points and research!)
…I should probably go clean up that stink bug…