The month of April has been a non-stop collection of days—good and meaningful activity—but non-stop. It’s been a month of elementary school lasts: last Read, Right, and Run race in Forest Park, last choir performance at the Cardinals game. We celebrated her 11th birthday and collected items for our favorite non-profit organization. We drove west for a youth lock-in one weekend, and then a week later I drove further west to participate in a young authors conference. I visited with friends, met a new baby, and am listening to a laugh out loud funny novel on my commutes to and from work.
I haven’t been sleeping well, and have the sneaking suspicion that I am now of the age where I must temper my caffeine intake. I won’t be able to test that theory completely until I get past this irritating case of mouth breathing I have as I fight congestion in my sinuses. I feel miserable and yet…
I also feel an odd and unexpected sense of peace.
I believe this sense of ease is in part a by-product of my Lenten practice. I did not listen to any music, podcast, or audiobook on the drives to and from work. I hated almost every minute of it, but I knew it was good for me so I kept at it. In the quiet I had time and space to face some things I really didn’t want to contemplate. In the quiet I saw with clarity how much these things I was fasting from helped elevate my moods and cope with the difficulties of my everyday life. But with a break from these coping mechanisms, the Lenten season also gave me an opportunity to heal some things that needed to be brought into the light.
Part of what made this practice bearable was my honesty about how much I didn’t like it. Saying the words freed me. I knew I didn’t have to like the activity for it to have positive effects on me.
On some days when the quiet didn’t feel so daunting, it actually served as space for creative brainstorming. Many of the ideas that I ended up using during my 45-minute writing workshop came from those minutes in the quiet.
I contemplated the shifts I was feeling in some relationships. I reflected on my feelings and actions, and by the time I faced these people in person, I had my emotions and intentions sorted out and the interactions helped me know what the next right thing was. I am convinced that without this quiet I would not have been able to navigate the chaotic days of the past month with as much calm and confidence as I have.
As the third anniversary of my divorce approaches, I sense I’m going through another passage—a new set of endings and beginnings. I no longer feel so raw and vulnerable. I have found new rhythms to my solitude and my active mothering. I am firmly planted on my two feet. I don’t fear the unknown. I feel a sturdy sense of, “I’ve got this,” no matter what life my throws my way next.
I am struck by how unbothered by my solitude I am. I have learned to love my own company. I sit alone in restaurants and don’t feel self-conscious. A weekend without my daughter no longer threatens to take me under as it did in the past. I am free of the crutch that social media in all its faux-closeness was for me. For a while I was text-dependent on friends who lived out of town. I had tricked myself into thinking that those texts could evaporate the distance. The truth is I had to come to terms with the fact that I live HERE. Not there. I had to surrender to the idea that my life was best lived on the soil I am planted in. Once I made that mental shift, I felt the peace wiggle into place. Like the tulips in my backyard, I am blooming where I am planted.
I am much more comfortable with the rhythms of my writing now. I understand that when I’m not physically writing, I am doing the mental work that will become something later. When I write, I end a session with Page Done. I don’t have to text a friend as accountability anymore. I am my own accountability.
I feel so much more settled now. I’ve never felt like this before. I also prize silences now. I do not fill awkward silences with chatter. I sit in the space and wait for meaningful words to come. If they don’t, I don’t fight that either.
“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.” -Julian of Norwich