Before I start this post, let me just say I am not a hermit who spends all of her weekend time blogging about her dog and Diet Coke addiction. I actually have a very busy life, and Fridays are a long day for me as I get to school by 6:15, go straight to the gym to teach a class after school, and return home about 6 PM. After a long day at the end of a long week, I typically choose to be fairly antisocial on Friday nights. Even an extrovert like me needs to recharge my batteries before I hit the ground running again Saturday morning. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you were considering adding me to a prayer list, because you think I need a social life.
My post this week comes from the Daily Post weekly writing challenge which challenged bloggers this week to ”make ‘silence’ a presence” in a post. Now, if you know me well, you probably just snorted your drink out your nose, because “silence” and “Hayley” go together like “Justin Bieber” and “good music.” They don’t. I will be the first to admit that silence is not my nature, and in many instances is not even my preference, but something about this writing challenged intrigued me. How would I, who am so adverse to silence that I talk in my sleep, write about a topic that I seem to know so little about? Silence is golden? Negative, ghost rider. Not buying it. But what is silence to me? What role does silence play in my life? Am I really never silent? Do I even want to be silent? It gave me a lot to ponder.
Before I can really delve deep into silence, I feel like I have to explore and explain why I love noise. Not noise in a negative sense. Noise as in the sounds of life. With noise comes the delightful sound of a 1st grader reading a funny book for the first time. Have you ever heard a child squeal with laughter at just the right moment? It is magic that cannot be found in silence. While I am on the topic of kids, have you ever heard a kid who is a struggling reader finally sound out that really hard word? Or what about that moment when you hear a child speaking kindly to a child no one else has befriended? Silence is what? I don’t know, but I know I would choose noise every time in those moments.
In noise, I have the precious memory of my Papaw’s voice booming, “Hey, Fat Cat!” everytime I walked in the door, and his laugh…oh. my. word…his laugh. I try not to live with regrets, but I do regret not recording Papaw’s voice before he died. I would give up so very many things to be able to hear his voice or his laugh just one more time. Silence doesn’t hold that for me.
Sound delivers me to and motivates me to stay in the moment in the grittiest part of my workouts. Noise is chatting with my best friends on a long run. It’s laughing really hard and loud with my coworkers at lunch. It’s my puppy’s sweet doggy snore. Noise is the soft rhythm of my fan lulling me to sleep at night. It’s how I think out loud when I am alone. It’s the carrier of the Southern accents I love so much. It’s my favorite outlet of praise and worship. Even the Bible tells us to ”make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Seriously, ya’ll, if Jesus is on board with noise, then I am saying LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE! Clearly, silence is not my nature. It’s just not. Silence is what?! Crap. Total crap.
This might have been how I would have directed this entire post if it hadn’t been for a conversation with a dear friend and coworker this week. As we were catching up, I told her some things I had been praying about, and she told me she had really been focusing on not just praying but actually stopping to listen. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God” kept running through her head. Be still. Listen. Know. Rest. Stop. Talking. This conversation with her made me think of this writing challenge, and it really pushed me to think about the beauty of silence. Is there beauty in silence? Can I find beauty in silence? Can I even be silent long enough to do any serious consideration of silence? (I tried timing my silence…8 minutes was all I managed. Total fail). Needless to say, it was hard. Really hard in fact, but here is what I found in the sound of slience.
Silence comes with the look of deep concentration on a child’s face when they are trying so hard to figure out that word or solve that problem. They are silent, because they are so focused on doing their best and making you proud.
Silence is the peace that was in the room after I said my last “I love you” to my Papaw as he was dying. It was so still and so painfully perfect that anything but silence would have ruined that precious moment.
I always smile when my constantly overly excited dog finally stops snoring and settles into a silent slumber. He is never as sweet and restful as he is when he is all snuggled up.
Silence is the reward a teacher or a parent gets when you control your temper when your kids drive you to that point where you just. can’t. take. them. anymore. Can. not. CAN. NOT. But you keep your nuclear meltdown under control until you get to the bathroom. Alone. Where it is silent. So silent, in fact, that when you think, “Thank you, JESUS, for the silence in this bathroom” God says, “SHHHH! This is a silent place.” (If you think a single girl with no kids doesn’t know what this feels like, come spend one day in my classroom. During a full moon, it will only take one hour until you too are sucking your thumb in the faculty bathroom soaking up the silence as long as you can.)
On a cool fall morning in the little valley where I grew up, there is the kind of silence you can only find in the country. Because I am a biased Southern girl, I like to think it’s the kind of silence you can only find in the country in the South…a soothing silence that is so mesmerizing you are almost scared to move, because one false step could ruin it all. The silence of shade trees in autumn colors and farm animals still asleep and farm land before the day’s work has begun is so unique that you just have to experience it to know what I mean. I woke up to the sound of that silence on the mornings when we buried my Mamaw and Papaw. It had been a long time since I had lived in the country, but when I woke up to that sweet, small town, Southern silence, it was like I had never left. I let that silence wash over me, and it was such a comfort to my soul.
Silence is found in the joy of a big bear hug from a friend you are so excited to see that you just don’t know what to say when you see them, so instead you just SQUEEZE them. Silence is the comfort of a friend who knows that sometimes when you are hurt, talking it out DOESN’T always help and just leaves you be. Silence is in the patience of a much more reserved friend who has always lovingly embraced my boisterous nature, and silence is the grace she possesses that would never be genuine in me but is oh so perfectly her. Silence is what? Oh…silence is not so bad after all.
So, there you have it. My take on silence: the good, the bad, and the noisy. I definitely feel like I still stink at the whole “be still and know” part of prayer and meditation. I know there are people who know me who wish I could maybe not be so loud all the time. I also know God loves me and forgives me even when there is more “squirm, talk, and worry” during my time with Him than there is being still and knowing. I also know that I am super blessed to have friends who love me for who I am: loud, talkative, opinionated, and almost never silent. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to try to go appreciate the joyful silence of my cozy Friday night. I will be hiding in the bathroom if you need me. Shhhhhh…
Hayley and Riley (the silent, snoozing pooch)
*This is for my sweet, long time friend who I won’t name, but so she will recognize herself, I will say, “WOO-HOP!” I love you and your peaceful, quiet grace. I need some of that in my life.