Saturday, March 6, 2010

An Empty House

There was a time in my life when I could be very bored in an empty house. Maybe the year I lived alone, certainly when I was a teenager and didn't know how to self-entertain as well as I do now. Since having a kid, I rarely have that problem. A few hours to myself usually fly by, filled with to-do lists and uninterrupted phone calls and rest. Now, I've not only been given a few hours but for a few days here, I've been gifted my home, a quiet, family-up-in-VA, no-one-in-the-guest-room empty house. And I have no idea what to do with myself.

Yesterday, I made a huge list. Actually, three lists, if you want to be technical; outside chores, inside chores and work stuff. And when my son and husband pushed out that door this morning and left with me with those lists and my dog, I was ready for three days of naps, productivity, jogging without a stroller, eating whatever the heck I want on the couch because a toddler isn't around to remind me that I'm not supposed to and, above all, just free time to myself. About 10 minutes after they left, I was sitting on the couch staring out the window wondering what the heck I'd gotten myself into. I felt forlorn, I felt befuddled. And 8 hours later, after lunch with a friend and a few hours of good yard work, I'm still feeling lost. Still wondering how I can long for quiet so badly, only to receive it and feel like I want to give it back.

Part of my problem is that I think I just struggle with quiet, which is a strange thing for an introvert to admit. At the beginning of my sabbatical, I panicked at that the thought that I was supposed to devote hours every day to just sitting quietly and hearing from God. I think I've trained myself how to survive busyness and noise, even how to thrive on it and in those moments when they are stripped away, I've found I can feel barren. Things that I don't want to think about, such as the list of things I wish I'd done differently in my most recent large group talk or that conversation I need to have with my dad, just come pushing to the surface and I feel tempted, once again, to find my identity in my ability to produce. In my ability to be good at things, to solve all problems, to be in perfect harmony with all humans around me and to keep the lives of my family organized and full of energy. Tempted to strive for acceptance.

This is a hard thing to shake. It's like that feeling of nausea I used to get the whole day before I'd run the 400 meters in high school. The only thing that alleviated that was running the race, and, not uncommonly, vomiting at the end of it. While I rather think that vomiting is not quite the solution to my spiritual dilemma, perhaps there's something to the race analogy. What do I fear the most? The silence, the limitless, structureless freedom. So, I should probably turn off the stereo, find a comfy spot, make a cup of tea and embrace it. I need to look that silence in the face, tell all the things clamoring to divert my focus from the one True God onto myself to shut the heck up and just sit. Put away the lists for a few hours and just be.

So, phone off. Stereo down. Quiet descend. Here I go.

1 comment:

  1. Glad I saw this on facebook just now, Carolyn. I was looking forward to seeing you this weekend on my trip to Richmond, but, wait...! It's nice to hear your thoughts and struggles with this, since I feel very similar. I have been putting off a lot til Spring Break when i will "finally have some peace and quiet" without students. Praying for the discipline to do what you're doing in the last few sentences.