The horizon disappears from view while the landscape appeared featureless, leaving no points of visual reference by which to navigate. I watched as the first flurries gently fell to the ground. I had a hard time sleeping that night—feverish, tossing and turning, sweating through sheets.
I’ve always been a city girl. I love the energy, the diversity, the noise. I love the variety of experiences, the speed, and volume, the endless chatter, the din of traffic. As I learned to dwell in the silence of my own heart, though, I found myself drawn to the weightless and airy, like the expanse of the blue sky above us.
Just as I’d developed all kinds of defenses so that I didn’t have to connect deeply with fear or anxiety or complicated relational dynamics, I’d done the same thing with my health: I was a careful calorie tracker, a militant trainer. Wildly disciplined, and hellbent on winning my competitions.
You can’t outrun anything. I’ve tried. What has led me here was not one snap-your-fingers, before-and-after change. Instead, there have been a thousand little reasons and voices, whispers and suggestions. The only way through the emptiness is to stare down that deep wound unflinchingly. You show up wide-eyed, and that is when the healing begins.
It’s like when you’re walking in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, and every few feet someone gives you a postcard or a leaflet, an invitation to something, a show or a club. Every few steps, an invitation—then another, then another, until finally there were so many invitations I could fan them out like a dealer with a deck of cards on a table in Vegas, and I realized that my answer to all these invitations was yes.
Yes, I will lay down this frantic way of living. Yes, I will show up to the event that I’ve been invited to. This event, of course, is my life. I’ve learned so much through the silence, and the space created in its absence. I’ve learned how to lower the volume just enough so my ears don’t bleed—so that I can hear the music of my life.
I used to be an avoider, an escaper, an anywhere-but-here with all my thoughts and feelings kind of gal. While I wanted so deeply and desperately to live right in the actual-messy-gritty-fabulous-ridiculous present, I had a whole arsenal of tricks to distract me from it.
My most formidable off-ramp: The stories I narrated to myself. Then, there was my body image. Then, food and the restriction of it. Alcohol and the overconsumption of it. Throwing myself into my work. Then white-knuckling my way to success. All of this was my armor, insulating me from the pain. But the messiness of it all was the fabric of my life, woven amid love and friendships, travel and laundry.
When you insulate yourself from some of it, you insulate yourself from all of it—and I want to be right in it, painful or not. Unarmed, with a belly full of trepidation.
In this season, this unabashed passage, I’m laying down my arms, opening my hands, to mix the metaphors thoroughly. I love the simplicity of this season: It’s noticeably quiet, and I’m surprised to find how much I like it.
For the first time, I’m able to stay in the space, right inside the silence, held there, mesmerized, content, empty. If you think it’s impossible to turn down the volume or lay down your armor, I’m here to tell you that you can. I’m a hardened case—a lifelong connoisseuse of motion and excessiveness of any kind. If I can climb into the silence, anyone on earth can join me there, I promise.
Sometimes, I read books about the contemplative life. It seems they’re always written by, you know, contemplative people—people who love to be alone, whose lives have always been calibrated by simplicity. I’m not sure that helps me, but the tenderness of life unarmed is welcoming me into the sweetest season of life I’ve yet known.
Release whatever it is that you clench onto with angry fists. The number on a scale, alcohol, shopping. That car, that secret habit, the punishing workouts. The pills, the lies, the affair. The money, the success, the winning. Whatever it is that you grab like a lifeline, when you let it go—that’s when you’ll hear the silence between the musical notes.
That’s when you’ll feel the groove, the rhythm you were made to feel. When you hear it, you’ll realize it sounds a lot like your own heartbeat, the rhythm of life, pumping in your chest—and it’s the most beautiful melody you’ve ever heard.
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