Many times, I’ve wished: If only everything in life would pause for awhile. If only, for a few days, maybe a week, there was no work. No meetings. No class. No homework. No balancing act of social gatherings and obligations. If only everyone would decide, let’s take a break. Let’s stop for a bit.
Instead, there would be quiet, and in the quiet, there would be space for the world to grow. There would be lazy days, good sleep, novels to read, journals to write in, long walks, new recipes, late-morning coffee, chats on the phone, and yoga in the living room. There would be time to think and be grateful and love and get to know myself again and re-evaluate what is really meaningful to me. There would be time to find the layers of beauty and wonder and meaning that get suffocated by hurry and busyness.
Of course, now we all get this chance, this opportunity. But I can’t say that I’m glad, because now there is also fear. Fear about what the future will hold in a world that has shut down. A world where businesses have stopped making money, where so many people are applying for unemployment that the system is overrun.
I can’t say I’m glad, because now I’m alone with myself, and there are all the unintended consequences of having no distractions. It’s like when I was a kid, and all throughout the school year I would fantasize about the summer. I’d think, I’ll be so happy in the summer. I’ll do so many fun things. I’ll swim, and read books, play with my friends, ride my bike, go to the zoo, watch movies, learn how to play the piano. I won’t be stuck in this building learning about the War of 1812 for six hours.
Then summer comes. You get up to use the restroom and you realize you’ve been staring at a wall blankly for six hours. You wish you had homework to do because that would give you a reason to move. When everything stops, you stop too. Because you no longer have a use. You no longer have obligations except those that you give yourself. Instead of feeling bigger, you feel smaller. Instead of expanding, your world shrinks.
There’s a difference between how I see it now and how I saw it when I was a kid. Now I know there is not something wrong with me. It’s normal. The quiet is hard, even for those of us who already love it. We’re not used to living without distractions, without being pulled in several directions. We’re addicted to busyness, and like any addiction, it’s hard to stop. You don’t know how to rebuild something new in place of what was lost.
Listen. There is still value to be found, that we can all find, in this time. We don’t have to just get through it. Despite fear and uncertainty, there is still gold in them hills.
For me, I will have to adjust, to give myself some structure, to be intentional about how I use my time. I will need to be gracious with myself when I get frustrated and depressed. I will need to let myself hate this situation sometimes, let myself love it other times, and not feel guilty about either.
I will need to go outside at night and look at the stars and remember that I am a finite created being in the midst of a vast universe. I will need to breathe in deeply and feel gratitude for the air in my lungs, for each moment of time as it passes.
The world is not small, and neither am I. Both are larger and more expansive than I experience them to be. I am full of love and dreams and words and emotions and potentialities and versions of reality that I can create. I was chosen for this time and this setting, and it will have its place in my story.
I hope you will find your own way to live fully in this quiet.