As a hyperactive kid, I was often told to be still. I was extra-fidgety and energetic then…And loud, what with the hearing issues. Stillness and quiet were not exactly what I loved. Somehow, I read voraciously and still managed to be non-stop. The worst was “quiet time,” which was what replaced nap time when we got old enough that naps didn’t really happen. My poor mum surely needed the peace…And, even though I was, as noted, a serious reader my whole life, the enforced quiet meant I was dying to go-go-go!
These days, whilst no longer that hyperactive kid, I still tend to be go-go-going. There’s always something I should be doing, and then the list of leisure/social things that I “should” do if not doing one of the “serious” things. (Mind you, I believe that there’s power and good in leisure and in social connections. But that’s not the topic here.) At this particular moment, I am going through one of those extra-busy times. Even if I gave up sleep, it would be hard to take care of all I have committed to (not so much a case of mindlessly over-committing so much as a lot of timelines shifting in an insane way) and all I should do.
But this weekend has found me (and will do so for one more day), not doing any of those things. Doing a lot of sitting where I can’t do the loads of things on my computer, can’t really do any of the non-computer things. And the friend who’s the reason even gave me the option of backing out. But I didn’t.
I had actually gotten through a draft of another entry for this blog (about lessons I learned when I took up a challenge from one of my brothers to try running), and I wasn’t thrilled with it but I was going to post it anyway because it would take the least time to do in this crazy little life of mine…
So, I’ve got this friend who’s a cool artist. Months ago, she asked if I could help her with her booth at a neighbourhood fair. I love to help my friends, and she’s one of those locally I consider family, so of course I was game. That I hate to break commitments, especially to family, would have been reason enough to follow through. But as I sat in the chair, in the quiet of waiting for the next customer, I realised that this was a rare truly still moment for me.
There are other times where I’m still, kind of. But I’m always doing something, aimed toward a goal. I know that I’ll be done with whatever task is at the root of that still-ish moment and moving on in a fairly short time. Or my mind is specifically focused in that time instead of free to wander…It’s still, but it’s not quite the sort of magical still I’ve come to appreciate.
Why do I see stillness as magical?
First, I really do believe that a stillness where you are free (if even for minutes) of other obligations, where your mind can just go wherever and your body is either also pretty still or involved in some sort of truly mindless task, opens you to hear. You can call it whatever you like, but I’ll think of it as hearing my heart or hearing God or hearing the Universe or just hearing (seeing) myself more clearly. Giving my intuition or whatever it may be a more open place to be heard has often led to more clearly seeing a situation or a path I should take, or even just to a more substantial sense of my capability to make it through, of the goodness in my life or the world, or of my own worth.
Second, and equally important, I keep reading essays about the need for stillness or boredom time in order to access your own creativity (whether that’s artistic creativity or your mind’s ability to untangle a problem). As a geek, I always agreed with Buckaroo Banzai that the best insights tend to come in the bed, in the bath, or on the bus. Those times when we are probably as close to still and not actively doing as most of us get.
My problem is that, because there’s so much I need to sort out lately, my brain is constantly processing in a very specific way. I’m beating my head against the same lines of argument or reasoning over and over, because that’s the path I see. It’s so ingrained now that even my non-fantastical dreams appear to have fallen into step. And I never just sit long enough for my brain to just stop with that…
So, I found myself sitting in a chair. All I had was a phone with a low battery, a notebook (the paper kind; not a computer), and bits of conversation with my friend (who was also painting and helping customers). There really was no way I was going to accomplish any of my pending tasks. And it clearly wouldn’t even do any good to stress over that or prep myself to do them, cos I had hours ahead of me. I didn’t get bored (I don’t tend to get bored, really), but my brain suddenly found itself in this very open situation…And I realised that this was finally stillness. Finally that “boredom” time the essays had advocated.
I’d like to say I solved all my problems, wrote our next album, and cured cancer in that time. Really, I’d even be happy to say that I solved just one of my problems and wrote a verse. I didn’t. And, you know, that’s okay.
It was enough for me to have a very pointed and conscious realisation of this thing I already knew, now that I’m no longer a hyperactive kid. Being still is useful and invigorating and crucial for me. (Plus I got a few general ideas for band flyers…Which seems to be one of those things that I is less easy for me than a lot of the rest of the band things I do. So, I’m pretty pleased.)
That was day one. Day two, in spite of the fact that the clock is ticking and running out swiftly on a handful of huge things, I found myself just feeling calm, peaceful. It wasn’t until we were closing the booth that I even started to think of all that I needed to accomplish tonight before I was allowed to sleep. And, let me tell you, my dears, that is odd. Seriously, it’s a struggle not to spend any of my usual “still” time just going over what my task list for the rest the day is.
Maybe tomorrow, day three, I’ll solve my problems, write an album, and cure cancer before we close the booth. Or maybe my brain will just enjoy the stillness. It has plenty of sights and sounds and smells that it doesn’t run into daily to sort of poke it and keep it awake, but it doesn’t have to do or solve or accomplish anything. And maybe, as happens with many things in our lives or our bodies, taking this break will let it do better in the few ridiculous weeks that are ahead of it. And, you know, that’s enough for me.
Be still, lovelies.