“Be still and know that I am…”
…God (well, Psalm 46:10, actually, but same thing, really)
There are these rare people who have the ability to be still, to be fully present, right now, where they are and whoever they are with, and to listen, intensely, to others.
I am not one of them.
Being still is not my forte.
I always think of that verse up there as ending with “I am.” But it is actually, “I am God.”
Either way, to me it is basically God’s way of saying, “Shut yer pie hole and remember that I’m here; listen for me.”
Failing to be still and to be present to the people in the same room with you is a form of toxicity. I did it at work, and I have done it for years at home. My thoughts were and are always racing around, to the past and future, to the “to-do’s” and the “fix that”s and the “will you f…in get ON with it already?”s. Never focused on the right NOW.
I come from a long line of women whose behavior indicated a belief that the cure for any kind of illness or upset, depression, bereavement, disappointment, setback etc., was a good round of vigorous housework followed by a brisk walk outside, preferably in sub-freezing weather. Move, do, bustle, hustle.
Being still was not on their list.
These women also kept up a running commentary of self-talk – Grandma and Mom did it at a whisper, under their breath. I do it out loud (no surprise to anyone who knows me personally.)
Keeping my big yap shut is a constant challenge to me.
I love words, the more syllables the better. I love to sing, and I am prone to sudden outbursts of song, regardless of my surroundings.
When I go for one of those brisk walks, I often exclaim, out loud, to no one in particular, usually when no one else is anywhere close, about the beauty I see around me.
I spend very little time being still.
Which makes it very hard to be fully present in the now. All that activity is an effective way of avoiding being still, being present, now. Because really, who wants to do that? If I stop doing stuff, I’ll notice that “now” kind of sucks. Mike’s gone, I’m unemployed and gaining weight, it snowed 15 inches and I just barely saved the new kitchen from a bad ice dam situation, but a bit of the paint is still ruined.
The point of being still, though, is to notice that “now” does not actually suck – in fact, it is pretty damn miraculous. If I have learned anything from losing Mike, it should be how precious every breath, every moment in this world is – and to cherish each simple thing here as the miraculous gift that it is, right NOW. Even the little bubbles in the paint on the ceiling from the almost-leak. Reminds me of how bad it used to be and isn’t, now.
I’m going to give being still a go. The old college try, anyway.
I took myself off the dating sites again. I really don’t need to go back to the playground and be the last one chosen for the team, just now. (Besides which, there were the two guys who listed “Dexter” among their favorite TV shows – you know, Dexter? The one about the serial killer? The kicker was the guy who listed his most recently read books, every single one of which had the word “killing” in the title. I kid you not. These are men who are trying to attract women, not send them screaming in terror for the exits.)
I have unsubscribed from lots of promotional and political emails I had been getting. They feel too intrusive, grabby and, in the case of the political ones, hysterical. The notifications of their arrival caused me to attend to my phone when I should have been attending to my child, whose existence is by far the most miraculous, and absolute, proof of the existence of God that anyone should ever need.
And this being “non-toxic Tuesday,” I have set myself what should be a simple, non-toxic love challenge: I’m going to try to get through an entire day without “thinking out loud,” also known as “talking to myself.” I have to be able to do this first, before I even think about trying to learn to meditate. I mean, meditate? You have to shut up inside your head! Who does that? Really, who can actually do that? Not me, not yet. Not NOW.
On the simpler task of not talking out loud to myself?
I already failed at it. Within seconds.
Seriously, seconds. I narrated my way through the house just to get to my laptop to write this. The only time I really succeed in being quiet (in terms of not having sounds come out of my mouth through the mechanism of my voice) is when I’m writing. But when I’m writing, words are still coming out, and I’m throwing the flag on that. Writing, while pleasurable and cathartic for me, will not count as stillness.
Talking to the cat, however, is exempt. She counts as another sentient being and talking to her is paying attention to her, now, so there.
Talking out loud to my late husband is also exempt. It just is, OK?
Reflexively saying “excuse me” out loud in an otherwise empty house when I sneeze or commit some other involuntary bodily expostulation is also exempt.
Listening to music is OK as long as I don’t talk back to the radio (e.g., Oh, come on, Carl! It’s 6 a.m.! Do we really need crashy-bangy Beethoven at 6 a.m.? Would it hurt so much to start the day with a little Palestrina or Bach cello suite or something?)
Reading is OK, and talking back to my favorite literary characters, laughing with them, crying with them, all good. (See, “it just is, OK?”, above).
Other than that, however, I am declaring my constant stream of babbling self-talk to be a form of displacement activity: a way to avoid being still. Being still requires being QUIET and listening. A kind of surrender (also not my forte. I’m a stand-my-ground-and-wear- you-down type).
The photo up there is of the male cardinal who lives in the yard. He’s in the crabtree by the deck, in all his crimson glory. What you probably can’t see is the female, who is always with him, and is near him in that tree, hidden in the background, far less ostentatious, quiet, steady, faithful, constant. Present, but not presenting. I want to be more like her. For the time being, anyway. For now.
When the sun comes back out, regardless of the temperature, I think I will take that brisk walk. I hope the only sound I make will be my breathing and the crunch of my boots on the snowy path. I’ll watch the red tailed hawks soar and circle, but I won’t exclaim. I’ll work on being still.
Oh, and I’ll mute notifications on my phone, for the duration of the walk. It’s a start, anyway.
I’ll keep you posted.
Until then, I remain,
Your most devoted, humble, obedient, etc.