I think hard. When I’m thinking hard I can feel it in a very real way right at the front of my head – just above where I’m frowning. I work away at things a lot. I puzzle. I angst. I frown. Because of all the thinking. To the point that my brain feels kind of strained by it all.
And here’s the thing: I never find answers when I’m thinking like this.
In the same way I never find the missing remote control/ when I am looking hard for it – when I’m turning over the sofa cushions and shuddering at what lies beneath them (which is another blog post for another day), and getting frustrated, and looking around wildly and pointlessly for the device that stands between me and televisual numbing. And all my energies go into the looking. But not a lot of finding goes on. Not when I’ve gone to this slightly deranged place.
And every time. Every blooming time – it’s when I stop looking. When I’m at peace. When I’m calmly pootling around the house that the missing item appears, as if by magic, in a place I am 100 percent sure I’ve already looked. And I start looking with narrowed eyes at the kids, convinced that they’re playing some kind of mind games with me (which they very well might be) but actually, I think there’s just something in the letting go.
In a similar vein, my husband has an uncanny ability to cause computers and printers to malfunction when he’s under stress or facing a deadline. The minute his adrenaline kicks in, the computer responds in kind – by freezing, or refusing to do whatever essential thing it is he needs it to do NOW. When he’s just doing his thing, the computer just does its thing. The work gets done.
Right now I’m listening to, watching and reading all sorts. I’m drinking in inspiration from all over the shop. I’m enjoying it hugely. There’s input everywhere, and I’m noting down the words and the phrases that speak to me. There are notes everywhere. In my pockets, on the fridge, stuck next to my bed. And when I stop and look at them all together, they’re all variations on a theme. They’re all telling me the truth I need to hear: That the answers to living the full colour, full contact, meaningful, you-only-live-once life I want lie within me. That I can read and watch and listen endlessly. But ultimately, only I can do the processing, the making sense and the meaning-finding. And that this has to happen quietly. And I have to be willing to listen. And to let go.
Which is harder than I’d like it to be. Because it’s so much easier to believe that someone else holds all the answers. Be it a wise friend, a parenting ‘expert’, a tv guru, or a favourite author. Its so much more comfortable to think the answer is “out there” for us to find, if we just work hard enough to find it. My early parenting years were defined by this belief, and I spent too much of my precious time trawling the internet for ‘answers’ that would solve this sleeping problem or that behavioural issue. I never found them. Not in one tidy piece. Answers only came when I let go, got quiet and allowed the magic to happen.
I’ve been trying out getting quiet of late. My first attempt was homework from an art journaling course I’ve taken (and am retaking I loved it so much). The homework was to spend an hour doing nothing more than being quiet with yourself. Initially, I rejected the idea. Decided it wasn’t for me. And then I got interested, and curious, and wondered if I could, or what would happen if I did. And I loved it. Because I could hear myself in the silence. In the absence of thinking hard there was a space where I could listen.
And then the other night, when my head was buzzing from the effort of being alive. And the tv held no appeal. And the internet felt like an empty place to be, I took to getting quiet again. I sat really still. I looked at a candle till the image of the flame burned itself onto my retina. I got quiet and peaceful. I listened to my thoughts. It was a sweet, peaceful and quietly joyful feeling.
Yesterday, I listened to the Reverend Edwin Bacon tell Oprah how getting quiet is like letting the silt settle in murky water. How only if you take the time to let the silt settle at the bottom, can you hear the truths held in the clear water. I love this analogy. I love what happens when the silt settles. The remote control emerges from its hiding place. My husband’s computer comes back to life. And I start finding some answers.