Thursday, February 25, 2010

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

"A little less noise there! A little less noise!" --Peter Pan

I’m Catholic. I "do" Lent, the 40 days before Easter. I try to make some kind of little (generally microscopic) sacrifice so I can think more about God, life, the bigger picture, etc. Sort of a spiritual de-cluttering. At least in theory that’s what I do. The years of giving up snacks or chocolate are ancient history for me. I didn’t even entertain the idea of giving up coffee for more than the 20 seconds it took for me to envision Humanity v. Me Uncaffeinated. Scary stuff.

Life has lived me for too long. I’m ready to switch that paradigm around so that I’m the one living life. The noise and stress and mayhem that follow in my wake are what I’ve decided to give up for Lent this year. I am giving up NOISE.

I know there have been studies and confabs and such about how today people are so over-stimulated they’ve lost the ability to think critically and coherently and make intelligent decisions. Sound bytes and drama and texting and Youtube leave no room for thinking. People let life live them, instead of the other way around, often simply because the world is too much with them in the tv, radio, internet, cell phones, Blackberries, etc. Sight and sound clutter are so pervasive.

We’re just so connected and constantly ON, we don’t have room to think about what the heck we are even connected to, and why?

And lest this come off sounding like I’m on a holier than thou soap box, I did take time last night to show my sister the Muppet version of Bohemian Rhapsody on Youtube. So funny.

ANYWAY, I am looking for quiet reflection this Lent.

This should be easy. My three kids are in school all day. My spouse is a quiet guy. I’m not teaching right now, so I have roughly 7 hours each day where I am Utterly Alone. I should be a guru by now, with all the moments I have for meditation. Or I should be organizing my paper clips or performing some other Martha Stewart-esque Feats of Domesticity as I reflect on the Deep Meaning of Life.

Yeah…I should.

But I am seeing the truth of the old phrase, nature abhors a vacuum. Honestly, looking around the rugs in my house, nature apparently isn’t the only one who abhors a vacuum. My nature also apparently abhors silence. Quiet is hard to pin down. Normally I play music, shuffling through my Ipod, listening to YoYo Ma, then Little Shop of Horrors, then Evanescence, then Popple. I put the tv on just to have some background noise. I find myself singing, or tapping, or humming. Heck, I’ve even vacuumed, at least it makes some noise in my quiet house.

Quiet is hard. Noise is easy.

Quiet forces me to think, to face the things I’ve tried to sing show tunes over for the last several years. At some moments I am tempted to find thinking overrated. The quiet place is not without its mental perils.

In the quiet I realize just how noisy the INSIDE of my head is. I suppose that’s a good first step, but it’s not a pleasant realization.

I am seeing some positives to my attempts at quiet. I actually read a BOOK, an honest to goodness BOOK WITH PAGES the other day, one that opened my eyes to new ideas about how we perceive the world and how we are perceived (Double Take, by Kevin Connelly). I finally cracked open another book about prayer that some friends recommended. In the quiet I have enforced during my endless hours as chauffeur (oh, how I miss my radio!) I have noticed the farms and country roads along my tedious ride. I am seeing some benefit to quiet, as elusive as it may be.

And really, as soon as my children come through the door, sound returns to my home…not noise, not random decibels that clutter my mind, but actual sounds of kids who Have Important Things To Say, and Insist that Mom Listen. I’m finding if I’m quiet during the day, it’s much easier to hear my kids when they come home, to be the mom I signed on to be.

Granted, I’m one week into Lent. I have already rationalized my cheating on the noise front about 6 times (if I’m doing something for a charity, listening to music is Helpful, thus beneficial to the common good…sigh…I am as bad at this as I used to be when I’d avoid chocolate for 40 days). But I am determined to try to find that elusive silence, because I know in the quiet I can regain lost ground, conquer demons, and maybe think of things to write about here!

But now I have one more charity basket to wrap…shhh...


  1. I went on a silent retreat a few years back, and it took me about 40 hours into the retreat before I could actually begin to pray. So sad, but even amidst the silence, I could not quiet the noise within my own head. What a great thing to give up! God bless your efforts!!

  2. glad you are blogging. You have much to say, but first you must be's His way of straightening things out for you, and not you thinking it though. Esp. like the bit about the quietness preparing you for the kids as they re-enter the home in the afternoon...sort of a sanctuary thing ..your heart is ready to listen..bless your efforts, in all things....D

  3. It's taken 20 years working in a library-like atmosphere to get used to the silence... I used to go to work and "rock in the corner" in my head about those things (you know, the stuff beyond our control but running the show); quietness, quietude, in my head, that's inconsistent, we will Zen together...

  4. During Advent and Lent I participate in a faith-sharing group at our church, Thursday evenings. We were discussing this exact topic last week, how to make time for reflection.

    It is almost impossible for me to sit down it seems, when I do my mind teems with all the stuff I could be doing, the things undone.

    So for me walking is the best time, I usually take the dog and walk. Walking calms the need for me to be "doing something" and frees my mind to meditate on spiritual things. Part of my Lenten journey this year involves walking, I'm forcing myself to make time (and the dog is loving it).

  5. it's funny, I need the noise to make myself move. Granted, my desperate wishing for music during the day is making my 40 minutes on the treadmill with Dr. Who Season 1 that much more palatable. But if the weather ever gets nicer, and I can walk, I think that could maybe help clear my head, too.

    There's an awful lot of clutter in my head.

    And I'm noticing how loud my fish tank is.

    This is challenging. Sigh. And I am a wimp. A noisy wimp...

    I try to get to a little faith group some friends do, but it's the same time as G's dance class (the only class in NJ I think she could do), so I haven't been in months...but I think it's valuable to find out how other people find quiet. I'm still looking! : )