Note from Stacey: Every Thursday we’re thrilled to offer Laura’s Mileposts in the Distance column.
You would think after nearly two years of finding mileposts that I’d learn to be comfortable with how ideas show up; that I’d learn to trust that the words will be there when I need them. Instead, when the deadline for this space looms and there’s nothing on my screen, sensible thoughts flee and a messy ball of panic settles in my stomach. I just know that this is finally IT: the day there is nothing to write.
So I pace or go for a walk or play solitaire, trying to pry loose a fleeting thought that would make sense in the structure of this blog. I search out a memory of something I’ve learned or look through my lists of things I plan to work on in the future. Usually something breaks loose and I run with it.
But this week there has only been silence. Not a mocking “I’m hiding from you” kind of silence. Rather a quiet, solicitous grayish blue silence. It’s a quivering sort of amorphous knowing that says “there’s something, but it’s just not ready yet” but I ignore that and have been knocking hard against that silence demanding some knowledge from it.
Then this morning I found this in my file of things to think about (better known as my Deep Thoughts file):
To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear. ~ Mark Nepo
Well, of course! Listening well is about being in a good relationship with people you love and trying to be more present with them. I was thrilled – here was a launching spot. So come on grayish blue wall of silence, give me some words!
I paced some. I sat down to write and immediately stood up again. I needed nuts. I need a smoothie. I need to empty the dishwasher. (All tried and true methods of bringing ideas to the forefront of my mind.)
Then finally, finally, there it was: “What if mumble, mumble, mumble?” Sometimes my thoughts mutter when they should be clarion clear. “Come again?” I thought.
What if…mumble…silence…mumble, mumble…embrace…mumble, mumble…change?
Why did the now not solicitous but murky gray blue silence match up embrace, my word of the year, with change? I was not having any of this. I’d write about the house next door that’s been under construction is finished! I’d write again how walking instead of running brought on more creative thinking! I’d write about how the length of our days is slowly creeping up, bringing small hints of spring. I’d write –
And here I was stumped. Those ideas were fine, but they didn’t get to the root of why this wall was there and why I couldn’t figure a way under, over or around it. My only way was through (guess I needed a refresher from last week.)
So I reduced my stranglehold on the need to NOT change and held the silence in a gentler way. And then the full sentence hit my head:
What if listening to the silence now makes you ready to embrace the changes ahead?
It made more sense. Did you ever just sense that change was down the road or up around the corner just waiting for you? I mean, we’ve all experienced unexpected change that can come from upheavals in health and fortune and vagaries of fate. But this sense of impending change has been more along the lines of a simpler turn to something different. Better? Who really knows, but I certainly hope so.
Maybe this time around I’ll make those changes with grace and economy of style rather than raging and leaving angry divots from dragging my feet. I’ve got the sense that being quiet and listening to the changes on the wind without judgment and with my utmost attention will prepare me so much better for what lies ahead.
Thus spake the grayish blue wall of silence.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.