Day 3

Why has “quiet” been so difficult for me?  Why, as I age, do I seek to find it more often?

I have two teenage children.  One is fifteen and the other is twelve.  I’m amazed by the amount of noise two individuals can create and find. The moment we hop in the car, the radio is on.  The moment we get home, ITunes is pulled up.  Skype, cell phones, the noise is incessant…we are a culture of noise.

When I was a kid…I was right where they are.  At night, my digital clock radio would, with sixty minutes of “snooze”available to it, be turned to radio station Big Ways 61.  Somewhere within that hour I drifted off to sleep with the radio to follow shortly after.

In my 20’s I made myself a very busy person. While completely unconscious of it (heck who could be conscious with all that sound?) I now know that the inside noise, the messages I was saying to myself, were pretty harsh.  “You aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough.

Molly, you aren’t enough.”

On and on, the noise within my own brain was so loud that the only thing that might compete with it and actually drown it out was finding louder noise outside of it.  Not a minute in my day would go by without noise…literally…noise.

Over the last ten years, I’ve been pulled to the power of quiet in my outer world. My attraction for it has been a gradual process. Listening to my breath, practicing yoga, calmer music, running without music, solo walks in the woods, sitting quietly on my front porch.

Sometimes it has been kinda scary.

Anxiety would present itself and I wasn’t sure why. Moods were up and down. Anger appeared at times to come from nowhere…but my guess is…with the decreasing outside noise, the inside noise (as inaccurate as the messages were) was getting a chance at last to be heard…and who wouldn’t experience anxiety, moods, anger and a whole host of other emotional ups and down if the noise was suggesting that somehow “Molly, you are less than.”

But silence/Love/God stuck with me.  And gradually I have come to see that I can silence the noise inside too. Over the last several years, I’ve even been able to find quiet within my thoughts…to silence them delight in a sunset, hear my feet land on leaves during a  rainy run in the woods, hear the sighs of my puppy while he sleeps on the floor next to me, hear the birds this morning begin to reveal the first stirrings of spring.  It is within these delicate moments of silence where I find gratitude for simple things…where tenderness, kindness and compassion for myself stirs as well.

Our puppy Ryder, peeking out between morning naps!

I don’t regret a thing, but do wonder how quickly I might have come to peace with myself had I been disciplined enough or introduced to the power of quiet when I was younger.  But then again, I realize that we all come, in our own time and in our own way, to learn that which we are meant to learn, when ready.

Where does quiet fit into your life?  Why do you think we are a culture of noise? What might we gain (or lose) by quieting the outside noise?  How has your relationship with noise and quiet evolved over the years?  Share with this community won’t you?  I have no doubt that you are here, right now, reading this because something about quiet draws you…doesn’t it?

19 thoughts on “Day 3

  1. I agree that we live in a culture of noise and feel that my most rewarding moments in life have been quiet ones. There are blessings all around us and the noise often covers them up. Finding time to be quiet every day has drastically changed my life, made me more aware and helped me to see divine love more clearly.

  2. As a mom of 4 children ages 8 and under, silence is the rarest of all commodities in my life and home. I have learned to find the silence in the midst of chaos and noise – quite literally – I can find my silence even when the decibel level registers above the public nuisance level. My silence is almost a dream state that I have found I can tap in to amidst the pandemonium of kids, dogs, radio, piano, laundry noise, traffic, microwave sounds, doorbell, and perpetual conversation of all degrees of intensity. My silence may not be like another one’s silence, but it is my source of peace and comfort in the midst of the NOISE of life. Without it, i know I would be caught in the eye of the storm – twisting and spinning without the gift to see and hear what it is I am really here to do and be.

  3. Molly- thanks-again- for sharing. I love to write and even when people regularly encourage you, it’s always a little scary to put your thoughts out there and take the chance that you’ve crossed the line and everyone’s gonna go: “Huh?” So thanks for sharing all those things with us that you might have hesitated about. I can tell you you are reaching more people than you will ever know about.
    I think silence is one of those things the mid-30s me often wishes so hard that the early 20’s me had “gotten”. All the what-ifs and if-onlys that go along with that- “if only I’d taken the time to know myself, to be quiet and listen, to pick up on that warning sign inside….then “X” wouldn’t have happened”. BUT I am a strong believer that we are who we are b/c of all the choices we’ve made along the way- and not that everyone has to “learn from their own mistakes” and you can’t learn from others, but we know the hardest lessons and the ones that most stick with us were the hardest ones to learn. All that to say- I think it is a rare “young” person 🙂 who truly values silence. I’m sure there are plenty who do, but it takes ALOT of maturity and wisdom and confidence to choose silence against what the rest of the world is “telling” you matters. I think GOTR is such an amazing program for JUST this reason- teaching girls how to be wise and confident and mature and steadfast in the face of incredible pressure (aka life). Who knows, maybe a whole generation of 20-somethings will learn to appreciate silence and they (and we) will have you to thank! Do not stop writing and be encouraged- even if NO ONE comments, your words are being read by hundreds I guarantee.
    P.S. I often think that you and Kristin Armstrong would be great friends. The two of you inspire the same places in me- running, honestly/vulnerability, stretching, growing, challenging, accepting, sharing/inspiring, faith, relationships, forgiving….I could go on and on.

    1. Thanks Dawn…as you know one of our Girls on the Run lessons teaches the girls the SBLR method when confronted with doubt and/or peer pressure. Stop, Breathe, Listen, Respond. The idea being that the only way to be intentional is to slow down long enough to make decisions rooted in silence rather than conforming.

  4. Really liked this blog post! My grandma was born in 1895 and I envy that she was able to live decades before she had to deal with e-noise. We’ve been inundated with noise, particularly electronic media, for so long that many of us haven’t considered that there are alternatives. One thing we can all do is periodically strive for some relatively “noise-free” time. Start with small steps (i.e. an evening with no electronics) and see where it takes you! Then tell someone about your experience (in-person!), or even better, invite them to participate. I am doing something like this today. We are unplugging, to include NOT watching the Super Bowl. We are headed to Great Wolf Lodge. It will be noisy for sure, but fun, and it will show my children that it life does not come from that outlet in the wall.

  5. For many years I have taken teens from church on adventure trips in the summer. One of the highlights noted by them in conversations afterwards is always the silent solo time we have them take. Although typically dreaded by them, it seems it never fails to turn in to one of, if not the highlight of the trip.

    For myself as a leader as well, the time to set aside time to be still, to separate from the tyranny of the urgent, and just be and be still is so valuable. It is sometimes relaxing and other times invigorating but always valuable and renewing.
    A couple of years ago we started a tradition with our youth that is called Sound Off for Poverty and is a media fast. The youth are challenged to turn off all electronics, except for what’s needed for homework or true emergencies for anywhere from a day to a week. So, no texting, tweeting, cell phones, fb, email, Wii, video games, etc. The first year we did it, the kids asked for a “safe house”, a media free home where they could be that would help them keep their commitment to the media fast.That is how compelling and engulfing they felt media was in their lives. In that time, we also focused on poverty in America, excess in our lives and society, the homeless, etc.

    It was a powerful experience. Many of the students came away from it with commitments to reorder their priorities and relationships with God, others and even themselves. As adults, we too were moved by the experience and reminded of what is truly important.

    It has become so the norm to always have some sound that I think we even physiologically react initially to quiet. I don’t have any research to support my theory, but I have a strong hunch that there is somehow physiological change that we must adjust to as well as the psychological adjustment.

    I’m with you Molly, we all need more quiet, more time to be mindful.
    We need to provide opportunities for our children and youth to experience it and come to value it, as well.

  6. I’ve often wondered what it is, this love affair with noise. I’ve marveled at how captivated an old roommate, a boyfriend, people in the fitness room, NEED noise. The minute they wake up, or walk into the room, the TV goes on full blast. A few years ago I realized I simply don’t care what athlete cheated on his wife, or what celebrity has gotten into trouble, or what’s on TV tonight, or what I need to purchase to be a more complete person. This past August my TV remote stopped working and I finally got around to replacing it sometime in January. Six months without TV and I didn’t miss it. It’s amazing the realizations one can have when left with their own thoughts. Molly, in your blog you speak of inner demons, those thoughts that “I am not enough”. In the time I didn’t have TV, I realized I wasn’t happy in my relationship. We are both looking for marriage but I had this nagging feeling that “I was not enough” for him. When I broke it off I explained that I am not perfect and I am tired of exhausting myself trying, everyday, to be beautiful, sexy, smart, athletic, rich, a great cook. I was tired of having to prove my worth and myself as a potential wife. I finally turned the table and worried less about myself as a future wife and more about him as a potential husband. He is charming, tall, attractive and rich but his expectations seem so unrealistically high. I told him he’ll have no problem finding whatever it is he’s looking for, someone taller, more attractive, smarter, younger, someone who makes more money, someone who wants to be *perfect.* I am not perfect nor do I have any intention of trying, (personally I find perfect to be frightfully boring). As is, I am and always will be… enough 🙂

    p.s. I’m enjoying my single days, I get to *quietly* spoil myself instead of him!

  7. I have always been a person who needs silence and alone time to function in the world. If I do not get my minimum daily requirement, I get very stressed and short-tempered. I love the morning and usually get up at least and hour earlier than I “need” to in order to have quiet time with my own thoughts, journaling to help me sift through the noise in my head to find the true voices and identify the false voices there. Engaging the silence this way helps me “hear” the messages I want to concentrate on for the day. No matter how noisy my day gets, if I have that silent time and thoses points of reference to return to, I am less likely to lose myself.

  8. Molly, Love what you are doing here. Thanks for the invitation to reflect and question. I crave silence. My temperament does, just like it craves gentleness and peace. For awhile, I struggled with how to have peace in my exterior life because I seem to so relish in it in my interior- and, yet, my life does not allow for all the peace, all the quiet I want. I have a two year old spirited son and a spirited husband who walks through rooms and turns on whatever noise is available in that space. I teach. I run a nonprofit that works with preteens. I do public speaking. Was I wrong about the gifts that I was giving the world, should I be doing something more quiet? And then I realized that my desire for peacefulness is about having it within, even when my exterior life is swirling. And so now I work on giving myself the elements I need to maintain that peaceful interior in the midst of the wild ride.

  9. I don’t remember quiet.

    A parlour trick that my friends like to make me do is to say, “What song?” and I will start singing something seemingly random from the middle of the second verse, because there is usually music in my head, playing like background music to whatever I happen to be doing. It’s like a perpetual episode of Glee…and it can get very annoying.

    When people leave and I’m not actively working at something, the music stops and the noise becomes racing thoughts…generally those of trying to think my way to another outcome, thinking of things I should’ve said, things I should’ve become, ideas I should’ve had. It. Never. Stops. I have often sought out tv, internet, music, whatever to try and drown it out.

    What’s interesting is that this incessant noise in my head has led me into some wonderful experiences. I think myself into paid “working” vacations, into friendships I may have missed, into places other people may not see the reasoning behind, but that feel great to me. But, more often than not, I talk myself OUT of things, or into things that are simply not true, necessary or possible.

    I finally came to a point a few months ago where the noise was so loud and so mean that I truly believed that I was losing my mind. I stopped being able to hear myself. It was someone else’s voice, I don’t even know who it was. Nothing could stop it, nothing could convince me that the thoughts I had weren’t true or fair to myself, and it was getting louder and louder and louder. So I did something I swore I’d never do: I told a doctor. He said, “Let’s get the anxiety under control while we find a long-term solution.”

    I was stunned. Anxiety? A disorder? But I’m so capable, so functioning, no one has to take care of me…I just can’t stop thinking, surely that’s not a…shhhhh…..mental illness.

    I figured I’d give it a shot though, since I was feeling desperate and frankly, scared out of my wits. Literally.

    It’s been about 6 weeks, and what I have found is that the noise doesn’t stop. Honestly, I didn’t want it to stop completely. It’s who I am, it makes me me, and without my inner voice I think I’d feel quite lonely. Instead, I find that what I think of as In-Charge Andi takes over when the noise starts to become nasty. I feel more focused, more rational, more sure of myself. I also feel much more ready to pursue a long-term way to handle the anxiety, as my personal choice is not to be medicated for long, no matter how mild or non-habit forming it may be. I just had no idea that what I had was “anxiety”. I don’t know what I thought anxiety was. It’s all so clear now.

    It’s funny to me that the doctor told me also that I didn’t have to tell anyone, that this can be kept to myself and that it was no one else’s business. Which is true. But…to me, this is something to celebrate. I can hear myself. I can.

    1. Andi…this is powerful “stuff” you have shared here. I think this could be a beautiful “share” in which many folks could find comfort. I’m with you…deciphering which voices are true…which are not…and then realizing even more so…that I am neither off these. I am simply the observer…Keep coming back!

  10. About 11 years ago now, I was camping with my family in Montana. Now we don’t camp at the crowded campgrounds off the main roads. We go as far as the dirt roads take us and then set up camp. My dad and I had a moment together just looking around us at the bluest sky and greenest trees you can imagine. He said to me, “Listen.” I listened but didn’t hear a thing. He said, “Exactly.” We continued to sit there in silence. In that moment, I remember feeling a peace and clarity I had never felt before. That was the first time I realized silence could be so beautiful. As time past, I lost my appreciation of that silence and became all caught up in the noise of the world again.
    Two years ago I began to run and do yoga. When I run, I do not listen to music. I don’t even like to talk to anyone else when I run. While running, I find my peace and quiet. Early in the morning, before most of the world is awake is my favorite time to run. There is something about running that calms all the noise in my head. Yoga has also become an oasis where life becomes quiet and not so chaotic.
    I try to get out and hike every chance I get as well. I take my kids with me. My daughter is just like me. She enjoys the beauty of silence that you find on a little path deep in a forest. My son usually says to me, “Tell me again Mom, why are we doing this.” I hope one day he will figure it out and look back and say, “I got it Mom. I know why we do this.”

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