Five Weeks Alone // Lessons in Quiet, Pt. 1
Once upon a time (about three months ago), my husband called from work to say that Boeing wanted him in Miami for five weeks and if he said yes, he'd be leaving, for five weeks, in about 3 days. And he'd be gone the whole time.... for five weeks.
I realize that some families are familiar with those types of stretches but we are definitely not. The long-time-apart was not anything we signed up for and I felt completely ill-equipped to handle it so suddenly... but it was the kind of opportunity that might not ever come around again. It meant pulling up my bootstraps and saying, "Of course you should go!" And then calling my mom and
begging asking politely for a visit from Grandma during his time away.
So off he went, and so began my journey into weird and uncharted territory in a soul that I didn't realize was so... uncharted.
As long as my wheels were spinning in the everyday routine, I felt pretty normal.
Cereal poured, lunch packed, off to school, diapers changed, dog walked, books read, NAP TIME!, laundry washed, floor swept, pick-up line, snack time, dinner time, dishes time, bath time, bed time. DONE.
But at the end of the day, when my turning gears usually turned towards Josh, there was only quiet. With him busy and overwhelmed and the time difference complicating things, there was hardly even room for a phone call between the two of us. I'd slide into his side of the bed at night and feel the weight of the quiet pressing on me like a tangible thing.
I expected to be anxious at night but it felt nothing like fear. I wasn't even sad or lonely, just alone.
Being alone like that, sitting there on my husband's side of the bed while the children slept and the clock ticked loud in the living room, it's hard to explain why I felt so aware of myself. And so very aware of God.
Maybe it's a similar feeling to standing before some great chasm or ocean. Something vast and wide-out-open and there you are just standing there, small. Maybe it's because without all the distractions and company of another human, I felt the weight and need of my own spirit in the presence of an omnipresent God.
Maybe I couldn't handle the quiet well.
Noise is something I'm used to. There is always sound happening when you live in the suburbs and you have children and a dog that barks at birds and squirrels and the postman. But, except for the dog, it's manageable noise. I can and definitely do manage a lot of our environment. I keep the kids at a tolerable noise-level, keep the house clean, full of whatever natural light Seattle has to offer that day, pleasantly decorated, scented with oils... and I fill it with whatever background music or information that seems to fit the vibe that I'm after.
I can listen to hipster folk in the morning, theological podcasts in the afternoon, 60's French pop at dinner time, and soulful jazz with my glass of Cabernet at night. Whatever I'm in the mood to hear or think about, it's all pretty much at my fingertips.
I can control it all.
But there was just something about that chasm feeling at the end of the night. Every night, I'd let it hang and just sit in the uncomfortable and uncertain quiet. I couldn't really control anything about it.
What do you do when there's no one to talk to and filling the silence with anything feels like a disobedience?
All I could do was sit there and think. And all I could think about was how weird it was that I wasn't afraid or lonely. After a night or two, my rambling and disjointed thoughts eventually flat-lined into something more like prayer. In a silent room at the end of the day, I was alone and small; God was there and big.
I wanted that feeling in the daylight.
To be continued during some other nap time :)