This title is not a foreshadow into a ‘sermon’ like post on the definition and application of stillness. Its also not showing the resolve of some catastrophic event that came about in my life. This post came to me in the still of the night as I sleepily took inventory of myself while feeding my newborn son. It came to me retrospectively as I gazed into my dozing son’s face. And, In a time of openness and sharing of new ideas and differing perspectives, I’ve actually found it increasingly more difficult to do such a thing and have went back to unpacking some of those ideas and perspectives through writing.
A person’s silence is often feared and/or misunderstood by as being the absence of opinion or perspective. Sometimes, being in a room of those who have such strong opinions can be almost condemning for someone like me who loves to talk and share my perspective, but also who can appreciate thoughtful personal perspective. And, by “thoughtful perspective” I mean asking yourself what/who/how was that view shaped. For me, a person’s silence in the midst of those environments can mean many things.
Growing up and being able to reflect years later, I can see how so much of what went on in my home and neighborhood was out of my control. There was arguing, yelling, and other disturbances that led me to adapt and accept things that were helpful for that period in my life but would need to be ‘untaught’ at a later point in my life. As what some might suggest as an ‘extroverted-introvert’, I have found myself retreating to places of stillness more frequently than perhaps most, which might explain why people feel that there is a need to project such terms as ‘arrogant’, ‘depressed’, and ‘awkward’ upon me. Often, many are surprised when I actually share my perspective and join in on conversations. They see that I am keenly observant and can hold a conversation with the best of them.
What they do not know is that my stillness came from recently living through what I feel was an emotionally and mentally draining period of time that reminded me of my time in combat a little over 10 years ago. It wasn’t because it was ‘in my personality’ or some form of self-loathing. For me, creating an environment where I can bring myself to the forefront without being condemned for “who” I am is where I needed to find to then return to being fully engaged. I didn’t feel safe, so naturally I’m going to guarded.
This silence [stillness] can unnerve others. It’s unusual to them, so instead of trying to understand it [me], they usually pass undue judgement, painful remarks, or (in their mind) put me into a box that makes it easy to dismiss and/or define me as someone without context and substance. And, this is because many do not ask question anymore; many do not have faith in the works that have preceded that very moment. I too am trying to learn ‘how to live in the moment’, but I am also trying to have more faith in the things that have got me here and the vision I have for myself going forward. Moments of ‘stillness’ allow me to do that.
Stillness allows me to listen deeply to what my heart and mind are saying. It gives me room to tune out the outer world and hone in on my inner worlds. It gives me peace. When I was younger, I had no control over what was going on in my physical environment so I drew strength from within and from the spiritually-guided teachings I received from my “Big 3” (i.e. — Grandmother, Mother, and Aunt) — my spirituality became my grounding force. It kept me ‘smiling’ when I wanted to frown. It gave me strength, courage, and the will to do what might have been hard for others. Those things can not be found talking to others always, sometimes it involves just ‘being still’. In a world that’s constantly reminding everyone to speak up, speak out, speak your mind, be you, be free, take up space, be bold, be seen, be heard, do better, do you to ‘unlearn’ trauma — we forget that not everyone heals in the same way or have the same needs. In every “self-care, self-love, be YOU” book sold on the market, there’s been an underlying urgency and pressure to win the so-called “healing” race, to fight our traumas with fists and beat it down until it can’t hurt us anymore. That’s absurd! How do you ‘win’ against the things that have shaped you and made you — YOU? And, what is the prize for conforming those things into a socially acceptable place when those things are the things that speak to character and traits that have shaped your path and outcomes?
And, for a while, I internalized that urgency… And, that urgency traveled through me (and sometimes those around me) and created an anxiety I can only compare to my time as a veteran and entering into a hostile environment. Anxious to heal, anxious to be perfect, anxious to not slip up or make mistakes or be human because…I just HAD to heal in the ways others said worked.
As an extremely empathetic person who can sometimes absorb the world around me, sometimes I internalize the words, fears, doubts, emotions of others. It’s challenging to differentiate what is my own baggage/needs/desires/words/emotions…and what is just some baggage I took on from someone else. This is the process I have been working through since the birth of my son. Stillness centers me when I’m in need of healing, but also stillness can be to my detriment. When I was younger, I was taught to reject pain and to be strong in the face of adversity. “Never let them see you cry, angry, be hurt… Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world”. That’s the rhetoric I knew, so whenever conflict would surface… I always believed that holding to my peace and being still would lead me to a ‘better’. That’s what kept me.
As a result, I internalized a lot and never spoke of things that bothered me or that I didn’t understand. So, stillness was also my restrictor. It prevented me from asking questions and getting clarity in healthy ways when I was younger. It prevented me from understanding what I was complicit for and what was ‘out of my control’. On both sides of my family, we didn’t talk — we fought or avoided. Often.
As I continue to ‘unlearn’ behaviors that do not benefit me and get clarity on the things that have caused me undue duress, being in the moment and finding the peace in those moments where ever I am planted has been challenging to foster. Yet, in this very moment, it’s been quite the solace.