Nestling into the New Year


Two more days left in 2019. In these days of limbo between the 26th and the 1st, I am trying to embrace the quiet, take in the silence before the new year. I am trying to rest intentionally before the madness starts all over again.

I have also been trying to think of my word for 2020, a word to guide my thoughts, work, and growth, as well as my writing, for the year. So I have been considering what it is I want to accomplish in 2020. I know that I want to recreate my relationship with Winter, with its silence, bleakness, and dormancy. I want to find the ways to benefit from this season, which is necessary to the process of growth: a restful time. I want to re-learn how to rest.

Is that my word then? Rest? Rest for my body. Rest and peace for my soul. Resting in faith, contentment, and gratitude. Taking moments to step back, to embrace quiet and rest in the midst of all that is going on and all I am striving for.

Rest.

I will admit that, when this word first came to mind a few days ago, I resisted it. “Rest isn’t a goal. Isn’t an intention!” I told myself. But what else could it be when even the plants and animals bear witness to its necessity? We human begins are the ones who have bought into the idea of hustle, of constant going and work and striving. Of shoving quiet and stillness to the side, cursing them as unproductive or lazy. But how can we do our best without a chance to rest? How can I?

I need rest. And I have already begun! In the past few days, I have risen in the quiet of my still-sleeping household. I have embraced early-morning, snow-deep silence. Even today, I have sat here in my hushed living room, the only soundtrack the crackling fireplace flames, for the past two hours. It hails windily outside our little cottage, but, within, my tree twinkles sweetly and an amber candle fills the air with its warm scent, drawing my senses and spirit down into relaxation. I have been nestled on the couch with blanket, books, pen, and coffee–reading, praying, writing–while my beloved daughter takes her fun upstairs and has been miraculously quiet herself. Our house has been full of rest this morning. And, as I look back over my writings for the past weeks, I see it. Subtly hidden or staring boldly out at me. I see my desire for it, my need for it, writ plain on my soul.

Rest.

Yes. In 2020, I will re-learn what it means to rest. To seek and find it, to gift it, and to create an atmosphere of it in my small spaces of the world.

That is my intention. That is my goal.

I will rest.

Deep-Snow Silence


My eyes droop, and my body relaxes beneath the weight of weary. Winter is here. Rest is needed. Let’s take it, you and I. Let’s lean into Rest and deep-snow Silence. Let’s pause our compulsion to fill each moment with noise and activity and let ourselves be with the Quiet, even if just for a little while. We need it.

The Work of the Dark


“Winter reminds us that everyone and everything needs some quiet time.” – Katrina Mayer

Tonight will be the longest night of the year. The long dark while the world makes its turn and tilt towards the light again. Winterdark. I always feel as though I want to mark this night, the beginning of Winter but, at the same time, the eventual advent of Spring and green and warmth. I have no Yule log, my greenery isn’t real. How can I mark the beginning of Winterdark? Moreover, some might ask, why would I want to?

I want to because there is work to be done in the dark, in the cold, and in the barrenness that Winter brings. I have been reading a great deal about the work of Winter. The need for the silence, the stillness, and the bleakness of the season. As a woman raised in perpetual light (ie, the Caribbean) for the first half of my life, this weighs heaviest on me about Winter of all its traits: the darkness. Rising in the dark, driving to work in the dark, being inside during whatever wan light comes during the day, and then, if I stay too late, driving home in the darkness once again. It is often very hard to think of that darkness, that silence, that bleakness as necessary, never mind thinking of it as good. But it is good. 

Just like the trees, the grass, and other plants, we need a pause in life. Growth cannot be continuous; rest is needed. Winterdark is a time for slowing, for pausing, for quieting down. Life doesn’t stop, of course, no. Not at all, but the long dark can remind us of our need for slowness, for catching our breath, and letting our pulse relax for a bit. I am not the best at slowing, pausing, and resting. The past few weeks have been a flurry of must-do’s in order to finish the school semester and all that comes with it before I left the building yesterday. And then there was the Christmas and birthday prep and officially moving my daughter into her new room upstairs. No…I don’t do “slowing down” very well. But I want to.

This Winter, I want to re-learn how to rest and how to embrace the slow and the quiet. I want to learn the work of Winter, the work of the dark, and the restorative properties of dormancy. I want to re-learn quiet. I want to re-learn care. I want to re-learn peace. Beginning tonight with Winterdark, I want to reclaim this season.

Tonight, after the bustle of the day, I will sit, bundled and warm, with husband, mother, and daughter. Then, later, with book and journal and pen. I will sit in the glow of my Christmas tree when the house is finally calm and quiet. I will reclaim and embrace silence and stillness, the work of Winter and the long dark as they begin.

Will you join me?


Quiet vs. Silence


I am an introvert. That is how God fashioned me, and I have never minded it. I don’t mind being on my own, reading, watching Netflix, singing, dozing, and writing. It is how I rest, recharge, and recover from the rigors of the day-to-day. I like quiet.

Life is not very quiet.

I teach eighth grade; eighth-graders, and students in general, are not quiet. I also have a rambunctious six-year-old Gryffindor of a child; she is not quiet. Life is very rarely quiet, so I will grab it with both hands whenever I can find it.

For some of my dear ones, this concept is a bit perplexing: my need for quiet, specifically alone quiet. The need to be by myself. Some of them are the opposite: they don’t like to be alone. And I get that; it’s part of their extroverted personalities. It is part of the way God fashioned them, and I have never minded that. Recently, though, I found myself explaining to my husband that quiet and silence are two different things for me. Up until that point, I had not ever thought about it in that way. It boils down to these two realities: Quiet restores me, but silence destroys me.

I have written on silence in friendships/relationships and how it affects me before (https://awriterbecoming.com/2014/11/02/nablopomo-day-2-the-weight-of-silence/), and that is still true. Quiet, however, is different. I have read quite a few writings on the benefits of silence but have never found any that differentiate between silence and quiet in the manner that they do for me. There is much to be and that is said for the meditative benefits of silence, sinking into it in order to still your mind and soul. But that is not what I am talking about here. I am not talking about meditation. I am talking about restoration.

For me, quiet is restorative. Quiet often includes comforting ambient noise, providing a baseline to my heartbeat. The hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen or the air conditioning in the bedroom, even the trill of birdsong in a forest doesn’t bother me. Those things are part of the quiet, of the space in which I can recover. Quiet can be my choosing to spend the day without talking, thus letting my mind roam. Quiet can also be having the space and freedom to sing at the top of my lungs all day if I want, refilling the creativity of my soul. Just the other day, I managed to get home a few hours before my husband and daughter, and I indulged in a long hot shower, a fried chicken dinner, and an episode of Gentleman Jack. Yes, it was super indulgent and restorative in the middle of quite a crazy, stressful week.

Quietness feels natural to me. Quiet is stillness. It glides across the floor and invites me to sit and rest. For me, quiet must often be sought out. I need to specifically carve out time to be quiet and to slow down. Sometimes this is by myself; sometimes it is with very select company. Rarely does this happen in large groups, however. Fun can happen there, but quiet does not. Quiet helps to restore me, helps me recover.

Silence, on the other hand, is a completely different thing  for me. Silence, particularly in friendships/relationships, feels sullen and heavy. It strides across the floor, takes up space and air, and my stomach drops when its weight settles in the room. Whereas quiet is a natural state for me, silence feels deliberate, pointed. Silence feels like withholding, whether that is a withholding of communication, honesty, warmth, connection, or all of the above. It is, as a friend put it, “the absence of an outside world, the world that quiet gives us leave from. Silence is isolation.” Isolation. That is exactly what it feels like! When I encounter silence, that profound ‘nothing’, I feel like I am isolated from that person or situation. It hurts.  Just as when a fridge or a fan suddenly turns off and the stillness that comes is so disturbingly complete as to be startling, so silence can trigger a constant alarm in my soul. Alert! Alert! Something is wrong! And that constant tension shakes me apart. I cannot sleep when silence comes to stay. It is too heavy; it makes breathing feel like an Olympic feat. As I told my husband, silence destroys me.

Yes, quiet and silence are very different for me. In the midst of quiet, I can begin to calm. Silence puts me on pins and needles. Understanding that has brought me a measure of peace. Realizing that there is indeed a marked difference between the two for me has helped me put quite a few things into perspective, even if my view of silence and quiet differs from that of others. I am an introvert. I like quiet. That is how God fashioned me, and I have never minded it.

Letting Go of “Lots” for Christmas


Throughout life, but especially right now in the Holiday Season, I am finding more and more each year, that I am having to let go. Not of people necessarily (though that does happen) but definitely let go. I am having to let go of plans and expectations, of details and striving.

I really wanted this year to be different, simpler. Doesn’t that sound odd, though? Striving for simplicity? I tried to lower the number of gifts bought (losing battle, usually, but maybe I’ll try something different next year). I have tried to embrace the quiet moments (difficult with a rambunctious five-year-old and the never-ending work of teaching). I tried to get everything done early (yeah…was still ordering gifts as recently as Saturday morning). I feel like I’m constantly striving for a goal but missing it somehow and then having to let go of what I thought were pretty good plans. Even worse, I’m having to let go of expectations that I somehow managed to place upon myself without even realizing the weight that was settling on my shoulders. You, too? Well, welcome to the club. More and more I am feeling like Cindy Lu Who, wondering what happened to my joy in Christmas, while, all the while, I’m rushing around like mad, the same as every other Who in Whoville. After all, there are still Christmas programs to attend and participate in, pitch-ins to cook for, papers to grade, and presents to wrap.

Every year, I say the same thing and I feel like I fail at that one thing: a simpler, more meaningful Christmas. I feel as though I lose myself in the attempt to make sure that it’s special for my dear ones–which is, of course, important–and I forget to enjoy it myself. Then I blink and…Christmas is gone.  The season is over and the softness of the lights becomes glaring, a reminder that it’s slipped through my fingers again.

Is this you, too, by any chance? Well, then. Trust me, dear one, you are in excellent company. The rush of the world is hard to resist and sometimes we just end up striving anyway and feeling like we never get much of anywhere. But there is good news! Christmas hasn’t passed us by yet. Like Scrooge, we still have a chance. We still have a chance for a glass of wine/hot chocolate/egg nog/cider before the silent glow of the Christmas tree. We have a chance to find those little moments of peace and quiet. We still have a chance to let go of some “lots” for a bit more of “best”.

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