Photo: Another little snapshot from my Valentine’s Day gift. The colors are still quite vibrant and I’m ever so pleased.
I apologize for not writing on Wednesday and not putting up a fail post. I was a maniac on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation to be away for the last few days, and finally there came a time to make choices of how to use my time before walking away from all my technology… and even putting up a Fail post would have taken too much time.
That’s right. All of my technology. I walked away from all of it…err… most of it. I took my phone with me… for a retreat for 3 days at a monastery. Did you know that there is a monastery just steps from Harvard square in Cambridge? Not only that, but it’s a silent order. There is a little sign in front of the public entrance that reads: “Silence available here.”
My Lord, how I’ve needed silence.
I will be very honest with you: I haven’t been doing well. I have been deeply, uncontrollably sad and tired. I’ve been mourning Grandy, I’ve been stressing about the nation, I’ve been thinking about Father… I have been grieving and grieving with no respite. I’ve been doing this daily life, taking on new projects, writing out task lists, creating and completing projects, mothering, wifing, being a good neighbor… and grieving. Just grieving. Everything has been loud and my head has been full and I’ve never, ever been so miserable. I have felt adrift, I have felt tired, I have felt overwhelmed… I have been bone-deep tired, and I have been incredibly, inconsolably sad.
So when the opportunity was presented in December to take a silent retreat as part of the church Women’s group, I jumped at the opportunity. My husband had to move Heaven and earth to make it happen, even calling up the in-laws for help (Lordy), but he gave me the space. He made it happen for me. So I cleaned this house, prepped the meals, went crazy packing and walked out this door ready to be away. To be welcomed into silence.
And what I found there was… more misery.
I was a fish out of water. Not in control of anything around me. Completely aware of the (literally) unspoken rules, not wanting to break them, unable to relax. It took a full 24 hours to find a rhythm and to open up and understand.
I’d taken knitting with me, my one-stitch hoop, two Moleskines and a book about writing to read. I told myself I’d be free to work, would have hours to languish in the silence and be free. I had visions of writing my novel in its entirety in a fever one of the nights while I was away.
Of course that didn’t happen. Come on. Why do I do that to myself?
What I did do was sleep. And I ate some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten (I told The Husband that I have to significantly up my bread game. I told him he’s gonna get fat. He told me he was willing to take the hit for the purpose of my practice). I learned a lot about Christian Mysticism and monastic wisdom, learning a completely different understanding of the power of prayer and an understanding of how to communicate with God. I learned a new way to be a Christian, a different understanding of how to practice and be… I learned how to pray and meditate in an ancient way, and in so doing, I “settled into” the silence.
I was told by the Brother who was leading our retreat that I needed to get out of my head (a safe place for me) and resettle back into the heart, back into the place where God is within me. What I found there will have to be the subject of a future post or two. I found heaviness, unpleasantness… but emerged on the other side. That emergence is important, because that is what I’ve been missing. I feel like I’ve been stuck and wading in the same spot for a while, but in the silence I finally found an exit and even a little bit of peace.
Grandy is still gone. So is Father. The nation is still insane. These are things I cannot deny, nor can I change. But I found the light in myself again. I picked up new tools to help me find it when I lose it in the future (and I will. I know I will). I may have even found the pieces of inspiration I need to get writing again. I found, finally, a wholeness in the stillness. That doesn’t mean that I’m whole yet, but I rediscovered that wholeness is achievable. Thanks be to God.
One idea that I encountered at the retreat, and has been circling around in my consciousness for a while, is this idea that each of us carries the light of God in us. Therefore, we are all infinitely beautiful. We are the salt of the earth, we carry God’s light into the world. No matter who we are. I love that. I’m going to let that anchor my wishes for you on this icy Friday, the start of a long weekend. I wish you a bit of stillness, the gift of a silent room, and a little time in the light of your heart. I hope that illuminates a truth in you, something deep and moving, something that transforms the very way you see the world for just a bit of time. I wish you food prepared by skillful hands, sumptuous and complex, like a spicy chipotle-black bean soup, perhaps? I wish you crusty, wonderful bread to go with that, too. I’m telling you, this blog is about to carbo-load like whoa. I wish you a hug from a person who love yous, tight and lingering, rocking and warm. I wish you words uttered only for you, piercing with truth, weighty with sincerity. But mostly, I wish you the powerful moment that comes with sincerely loving yourself. Look yourself in the mirror and see beauty for a moment, Dear Reader. You are infinitely beautiful. You are luminous and wonderful. What you give matters, what you do matters, and no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are loved and worthy of being so. Just the way you are, you are worthy and loved and wonderful.
Until Monday, reach out, fight on, speak truth, laugh loudly, and take care.