After over a year of writing this column, I’ve settled into a bit of a routine. Typically, I borrow my wife’s laptop, go to the kitchen table, get myself something to drink, turn the lights down and the Grateful Dead up — and sit. It’s probably not conventional, nor recommended, but when I sit down, I rarely have any idea about the topic I’m going to address. But I sit still and hope some inspiration comes to me. So far it has worked, albeit better or quicker sometimes than others.
Truth be told, I have always had a difficult time sitting still. On my first day of kindergarten, I got in trouble with Mrs. Gail Miller for running in the classroom. While I don’t have a problem with physically running any longer, my mind tends to always be racing. There is always something that has the attention of my thoughts. That’s not something of which I’m proud, because I’ve had to learn how to push that clutter into a corner when I really need to focus on something, despite it always trying to sneak back to the forefront.
My church recently had a small group study in which I participated. Our pastor asked the question, when was the last time you really heard silence? I think the point was all the tangible distractions we have in life. However, I thought more about the metaphorical ones. And I realized, I’m not sure I have ever truly experienced silence. And that has been by my own doing. When Alanis Morrissette sang, “Why are you so petrified of silence?” she was talking to me.
I think it is one reason I try to be involved in a variety of activities. I used to think I had a chronic case of FOMO, the trendy acronym for “fear of missing out.” I have decided that isn’t the case though because I’ve never been one to experience jealousy much. I have plenty of flaws, but that’s one that I’ve thankfully avoided most of my life. If I’m being self-reflective, I think mine is more of a craving of accomplishment. Not necessarily for accolades or ego-building, but for feeling like I have done something worthwhile. It has led me to have had some unique and wonderful experiences in my life and I feel like I must chase that feeling, sometimes to the detriment of my family, if not my own self-interests.
My wife often asks me why I seem to be constantly adding things to my schedule. I honestly have no answer. It’s not a dissatisfaction with my life, nor a lack of interest in being home. But I think the sitting still, even metaphorically, causes me to feel like there is something better that could be done with my time. Realistically, I know spending time with her and our children is the best way to spend any free moment, and time that I will never get back no matter how much I wish for it in the future. It’s still difficult though.
Maybe Newton’s first law of motion applies to more than physics. “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion...” Being at rest scares me. We have no guarantees in our lives. What if I squander what time and opportunities with which I have been blessed and depart this world without having done all that I want? I know that it’s impossible to do everything, and yet I keep trying.
I don’t feel unique in this, though. I have a feeling that many people have to fight the urge to constantly be doing something. Maybe we’ve forgotten how to relax. Weeknights get filled with meetings and practices. Weekends get filled with projects and planned activities. Even vacations, the time specifically set aside for rejuvenation, get every minute planned out. We no longer just stop and do nothing.
Back mid-summer, we purchased some rocking chairs for our front porch. I think it may have been one of the best investments for my mental health ever. When I’m tired, when I’m frustrated, when I just need time to myself, even just a five-minute rock on the porch staring into space, trying to think of nothing, seems to put me in an almost instantly better mood. That stillness and quiet, foreign as it has always been for me, is a blessing in and of itself. I highly recommend a porch rocking chair for anyone in need of solace.
I’ve always admired Morgan Freeman as an actor. He has a voice that you simply love to hear, and it’s unique because of an undeliberate unhurried pace in its cadence. Freeman once said, “Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen — that stillness becomes a radiance.”
From a master of making slowness pay off in his own life, Freeman’s words truly resonate. Being still has worked for me in my writing, why should I doubt it will in the rest of my life? Why should you doubt it would in yours?
Tommy Druen is a resident of Scott County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.