Eight in the morning came and with it a few reminders. It was now 2017. I was back in Providence. I still needed to unpack my suitcase and do laundry. My stomach is heavy and I know it has to do with the text that came at midnight. I had been counting on that job and now it’s not there. I look at my phone; it’s 8:12. I’m back at square one and I know the corners of my mind will fill with chatter if I don’t do something. So I carry myself downstairs and pull two mixing bowls from the cabinet. I grab apples from the fridge and dig out the measuring spoons from the drawer.
Quiet mornings like this have become more common for me. At first, it was a luxury. In Brooklyn, I fell asleep most nights listening to street chatter under my window and woke in the morning to the tink, tink, tink of a man collecting bottles and cans for cash. It’s been hard adjusting to life without structure. I miss having a checklist to mark off. College is done and a job remains elusive.
The present lessons are interior and uncomfortable. Be. Wait. Trust. My brain skirts around those ideas like poison ivy, laughing nervously, eager to move on. I know I’m being invited to reflection, but I try to mute that suggestion with things like Instagram or playing music loudly or reorganizing the pantry for no reason.
Waiting in silence is much like waiting for the sun to rise. My housemate and I chased the sunrise the first Sunday of the year. We stumbled out the door, coffee in our thermoses and secretive smiles on our five o’clock faces. I worried we’d miss it. But we parked the car and inched our way over slippery rocks to the edge of the ocean. Dawn settled a lavender light over the shore, over the sleepy neighborhood, over our faces which were laser focused on the horizon. We waited, watching the ocean crash itself against the rocks and leap towards us. Then in an instant, she came, strong and steady, a faithful shade of amber. She slipped behind clouds for a minute and then rose again, unfurling herself across the ocean.
I don’t like waiting, but it’s the prescription I’ve been handed. I have to swallow it like bad medicine, eyes pinched closed, brow furrowed with yuck. Waiting in silence is hard but not for reasons you’d think. It’s not hard because you don’t get to talk or because there’s nothing to hear. Silence is not about enduring nothingness. It’s learning how to listen to what is there when we aren’t distracted.
From Ruth Haley Barton:
“Solitude and silence are not, in the end, about success and failure. They are about showing up and letting God do the rest. They are not an end in themselves; they are merely a means through which we regularly make ourselves available to God for the intimacy of relationship and for the work of transformation that only God can accomplish.”