Last night after eating late, I laid in our hotel bed with the lights out and the fire going. I’d left the windows open so I could hear the waves of Lake Superior crashing against the rocks outside our room. I tried to just be still and listen to the waves.
I learned that I am not much better than a puppy in terms of attention span. I’d take a calming breath and relax. I’d be so focused on the waves I could feel them washing over me, not just hear them. Then I’d start wondering what J was doing in the other room.
“No, listen to the waves,” I’d tell myself. Then, wiggle my arms. “Relax. Be still.” Breathe in, and release the air on a deep sigh. Then, scrunch my toes. Move my arm to the the side. And start over again. Think about the wedding we just came from in Bismarck. Start again. Wonder about what book I’m going to read next. Back to the beginning. Wiggle my toes under the blanket. Try to relax again.
Through all the stops and starts and losing focus, I found I could only hear the waves if they had my complete attention. Otherwise, they became just white noise in the background. The minute I moved or thought of something other than the waves, the sound of them disappeared. Hearing for me is the hardest sense to control; I’m too often busy thinking or absorbed in something to process sounds. They may as well not exist. I can’t decide if this absorption is a gift or curse.
I have no clue how to focus on just one thing. When I am absorbed, I usually have some sort of background noise, a book that I’m reading, and the creative force in me processing that book and turning it into something about me that I can use or learn, the sights outside of the books, and whatever else I may be worrying over. And I can never turn my thoughts completely off. I’m mystified by the idea of not thinking anything; I wish I knew how that could come about, short of dying. I tell myself that I thrive on this over-stimulation. But lately, I’m wondering if that’s a lie.
And I also found it is physically impossible for me to be still. J even laughs because my toes are always wriggling; particuarly when I’m reading or contemplating something. To try and keep from moving my toes is completely uncomfortable for me, bordering on painful even. Even now as I write my toes are wriggling and my ankles twirling. I can’t write apart from this movement.
Lately the phrase ,”Be still and know that I am God,” has popped up again and again like a mole in one of those whack-a-mole arcade games. And I’m hopeless to actually smack the mole, and just be still. Neither my attention span, nor my physicality permits me this opportunity. And that I find simultaneously humbling and sad….and exceedingly frustrating. As I think this verse might actually be key to having a healthy soul.