My Date With Silence

In Print Issues, She's Enjoying the Journey by Paige Mead

It’s raining. I’ve been moving from one restless thought to another. I should be reading. Should be writing. I have work to do. What if my loan doesn’t come through? What if I pick the wrong projects to pour my energy into and I end up with a whole bunch of dead-ends instead of closing and billing for projects? Do I need to rewrite my book to get it to sell? I bought a puppy in December; and now I’m struggling to get her trained, and I’m afraid it’s coming between my husband and me.

Is there any more coffee left?

In the middle of all of that, I keep drifting off in my head as though there was somewhere else I could be. My eyes wander off the page I’m reading for the third time (because I need to get this reading done), and they land on the blue spring flowers waking up in the rain on the side of my yard. I planted them 3 years ago now, and each year they’ve spread out along the border and over a small wall.

Every year the cascade of blooms is more electric, more eye-catching, heartier. Then I catch myself, feeling peaceful and pleased, and I feel guilty for the pause and the drift-away. I think if I gave myself permission, I could literally sit here at this window and stare at those beautiful blooms for hours. It seems self-indulgent when my list of to-dos is written in bold in my mind and literally pulsing behind my eyes.

And now, amidst this pandemic, when the sea of job candidates is swelling, and the jobs are gone, which is precisely why the sea swells, here, now, I’m furloughed. I should have MORE time to read, to write, to develop future business, to answer everyone’s calls. In fact, the level of noise has risen to an all-time high in my head; and not just there… everywhere but the flower bed, it seems. In the garden, it’s quiet. I’m quiet. I can make the decision to go into the garden when I’m tired of the clamor of everything else because it’s like going into another dimension.

I can’t write anything with my hands in the soil.

Can’t read either. I can’t answer emails, calls, texts. I can’t cook for my family if I’m in the garden. Can’t watch tv or catch up with the news. I could listen to a podcast, that voice says, trying to break through; that way I’d at least be making good use of SOME of my time. Suddenly I feel obstinate. But I opt for music when I’m in the garden, because, let’s be honest with ourselves, I don’t want to listen to other people when I’m purposefully zoning out.

What does that say about me? What does it mean If I love my work, and I love the people I help, and I love my family, but I still want to exit stage left even if for only a few hours? Weren’t we taught as kids that a little rest, a little slumber, and poverty will come on like a bandit in the night? In my generation, I know I’m not the only one who heard that from well-meaning elders. I was born with a work ethic inscribed in my DNA.

Does that mean I’m lazy if I indulge the silence?

There’s that petulant voice again, calling me names to keep me under control. What an effective master that voice can be. Yet, my eyes drift back out the window to the electric blue blossoms waking up in the rain. Which one do I indulge: the silence or the noise? Am I selfish if I set the work down, close my computer, don’t check my phone or email, and instead allow my gaze to wander, my thinking too slow, and the silence to caress me? Will the business machine I’ve built over the last 5 years keep humming? Or will it grind to a halt?

Silence beckons to me, like a secret lover. My breathing slows as I flirt with it. My body starts to relax, and I can feel the tension drain from the muscles in my face. I breathe through my nose, deeply, one cleansing breath after another. I smile to myself. How odd a thought to consider silence my lover, I think. Maybe “odd” isn’t the right word. Stimulating? Can silence be stimulating? Silence, my lover, calls to me from across the yard and beckons me to approach. A hummingbird flies in and out of the blossoms. The rain is gentle and light.

There is no question about it.

I want to be in the garden, no NEED to be in the garden. Deep cleansing breath. My lover awaits. I know how it will feel to turn off the noise, the responsibilities, the worry, the shoulds and the musts, the anxieties, the clamor for my attention, the books that aren’t getting read, the podcasts I’m not listening to, the social media I am flat-out ignoring; and all at once I am just a little less concerned. I might make a few people angsty if I disappear for a while. That would hardly be the end of the world. Deep breath. Now the pull is stronger. It feels less like an indulgence, and more like a pressing need.

The pragmatic and petulant voice resurges, “But what about everything else on your to-do list?” What about the work that isn’t getting done? The time you’re wasting? What about your responsibilities to other people? Or the money you aren’t making while you’re turning off and getting away? What about the POVERTY BANDIT??? None of those things is going anywhere. The more I watch the garden, and the life in it, and imagine the smells of fragrant flowers blooming that I planted in the past, the smell of the clean air and the chirp of the birds, I don’t even care that it’s still gently raining. In fact, I imagine it almost as a shower I need on my skin.

Battle over. I win.

I find I can’t focus on my work now even if I try. The noise of regular life is tinny and distant, as though disappearing around the corner. I’m aware of my breathing, the feel of my body, the fact that I’m a little hungry. I think my husband just said my name, and for a moment I focus on the sound and hear him, playing with the puppy and laughing. The kids are fine, he’s fine, business will wait, social media will not care if I’m gone for a while. No one needs me to do anything just now, and it’s the perfect time for a tryst with silence.