I want to hear the thrum of my heart and remember that, for these fleeting moments, I am alive.
Last week I decided to stop talking.
I would have preferred to go on a silent retreat but that didn’t seem feasible. So I told my family I wasn’t going to speak for one day.
I wanted to tune in and hear on a deeper level. But most of all, I wanted a break from my own nagging, complaining voice.
Upon awakening, I would set the intention of gratitude. But as I cleared the breakfast dishes and hurried the kids along, I could feel myself slipping into the familiar pattern of resentment.
Every day seemed like the same routine, none of it of my choosing (although I know that it is, on some level). Call it domestic depression. Endless clutter to clear, stickiness to scrub, mouths to feed. Too much time doing tasks that drain rather than sustain me.
Acknowledging the negative thoughts and feelings only made me feel worse. I know I’m fortunate to have a healthy, loving family. So why do I feel so burdened? Why can’t I appreciate the opportunity to care for them?
Blaming myself didn’t help. Increasingly, my frustration seeped into my words and tone. I was turning into someone I didn’t want to be.
So I hoped that a day of silence might help reset my emotional temperature.
My children were disconcerted. One grew quiet alongside me while the other grew louder, determined to get a response. I held steady, sending nonverbal messages of reassurance and amusement. When I couldn’t get a point across, I used pencil and paper.
And I discovered that I could focus and hear better when I was quiet. I felt less overwhelmed and worked with greater intensity and awareness. I was more present.
I slipped up a few times, responding to my kids’ requests without thinking. And when I was using the self-checkout at a grocery store across town (where it seemed unlikely I’d run into anyone I knew), I pressed the button for organic yams by mistake and had to decide whether to pay the extra four dollars or explain the situation to the clerk. Thriftiness won.
Talking has its uses. Still, I felt sad when the new day dawned and my experiment was over. I knew I would miss the subtle awareness of the silence. Somehow, it connected me to my innermost self in a way that soothed and nourished. It was a relief to hear my essential heart beating strong as ever, only drowned out by the crashing waves of living.
I realized I don’t need to talk nearly as much as I do. My children know what I expect; nagging only increases their resistance. So I’m trying to stick to nonverbal communication as much as possible. Flicking on the bedroom light rouses the kids. Putting on my coat proclaims that I’m heading out the door and they better get a move on. Hugs and smiles bind us in a way words cannot.
Being silent for a day made me appreciate the gift of speech but also the liabilities. Talking can take us on a meandering journey out of the present, away from the moment-to-moment experience of the body, mind and spirit. I want to hear the thrum of my heart and remember that, for these fleeting moments, I am alive.
So I’m striving for the same clarity of speech that I seek in my written work. Bluster and flurry must be swept away for truth to shine through.
There’s an inner path that waits in the darkness for us to remember it and bring a lantern.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel