I’ve never been much good at sitting still. When I was in Kindergarten, nap time was the exactly right time for me get in trouble. (Be still? Be quiet? When there’s so much to say? Well, I’m so sorry Mrs. McDonough but I have to talk to someone about that smell in the cafeteria. It came from the spaghetti and smelled nothing like spaghetti and that’s something a girl like me has to get her head around.) It’s not that I don’t like to be still (although all I can think about is tomorrow and it’s awkward to hear myself swallow my own spit.) It’s just that I am the worst at safeguarding my own time, and so I tend to be the busiest person in all the world, all the time, while I simultaneously sigh and groan and carry on about how tired I am and how I have all these life goals and can never seem to get to them because I’m way too busy for myself. (Whoah. Deep breaths, girl. Calm down.)
Granted, it’s been an unusual couple of years. Leaving Florida and moving to England was a huge undertaking in and of itself that required a lot of our time. Being here and getting used to all the new things and learning every new inch of life as an expat was also quite time consuming. Then of course, there was the insatiable desire to get out and see the world from this new launch pad and so there were weeks and weeks of travel and in between the travel there were 26 house guests visiting us from the states. It was all so wonderful I can hardly I believe it. And also I can hardly remember it because I was so tired.
In June, when the kids’ school let out for half term, we took a massive road trip across Europe. It was easily one of the greatest trips of my life and easily the most exhausting too, and when it finally came time to make the summer break plans I had run out of gas. My calendar had nothing written on it. There was no trip booked, no place to be, no visitors coming … nothing. Each tiny square was gloriously blank, representing days which were gloriously blank too, and I sort of started to bare my teeth and growl every time someone even hinted at taking so much as a light pencil to one of the empty spaces.
“I need to plan a vacation and a trip home” I kept saying “but I can’t seem to bring myself to put anything in that white space right now. I feel like a dog with a meaty bone.” And so I didn’t. I didn’t plan anything. We went to the beach for a day. Went hiking for a day. A few outings here and there, but by and large we have sat in this house and we have been still. The kids have slept until noon. I reorganized the bedrooms. We got a puppy and got him house trained. We’ve done a whole lot of nothing too impressive and lo and behold it was like shoving B vitamins down the throat of my creative side.
Stillness is an unlikely powerful force. It moves the tectonics in you in subtle ways that don’t show up on seismometers. It doesn’t rattle your bones or crack your foundation. Instead it shifts your awareness to places in you that you’ve put on hold, or ignored or buried underground to keep safe until you could get back to it. And that’s where Stillness led me these last few weeks. On an expedition to find dreams I’d put away for safekeeping, a discovery of some new things I’d like to try and a mission to hit the start button on a thing or two I’d paused for so long I was afraid maybe they were stuck. (They weren’t.) The point is, Stillness moves you. And that’s really weird and therefore I was completely not ready for that illogical business.
But just because something is illogical doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, especially when dealing in the realm of the psyche and the spirit and the plate tectonics of the human soul. And sometimes it’s the illogical thing that bubbles to the surface making the most sense and bringing with it a whole new direction or sense of purpose. But it needs you to sit down and be quiet. It needs you to rest. It needs you to wait. It needs you to be still. Because more often than not, that new life changing epiphany or earth shattering idea comes to you as a subtle thing and subtle things often go undetected because we’re too busy being busy to notice. And let’s face it. A big idea needs a person who isn’t too busy for it.
While it seemed the most unnatural thing in the world to me, to leave a whole summer hanging on our calendar utterly void, something supernatural kept me from giving in to the temptation to litter it with things to do for the sake of doing things. Thankfully, our souls know better than we do and I’m happy to report I listened for once. (Although truth be told, my soul totally arm wrestled me every time I tried to make plans, and it won because it can be a badass.)
Being busy is not always a bad thing, but never being still always is. Inspiration needs you to be available, not so overly scheduled there’s no time for magic to happen. So take a few steps back. If you see some space coming up on your calendar and it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a phenomenon like that, get protective over it for a change. Say no to that lunch date and that weekend getaway and that volunteer gig and that cookout. Just for a little while. I’m not telling you to be an antisocial hermit or become an agoraphobic. I’m simply encouraging you to go radio silent for some time. Read. Journal. Listen to a podcast. Paint. While you’re busy doing nothing, fill it with something that will tickle the sleepy parts of you awake. And then reassess what that meant for you. For some, maybe it was just a delightful period of renewal and you’ll be ready to step back out into your life fully tuned into what you love and ready to do it better than ever. And for others, maybe you’ll step out to find your path is altogether different and exciting and new. So move on with that excited spirit of adventure and exploration, taking on new challenges, and giving birth to new ideas, while always actively and consciously looking for that next space in your future to make camp for awhile. Where you can fold inward, grab a cup of tea, commune with your own thoughts and be still.
You won’t be sorry. You’ll be changed.