In my growing-up years, one of my favorite moments during the Christmas season would happen the night of tree decorating. But it wasn’t the decorating itself as much as what would occur later — after everyone had scattered in another direction, or gone to sleep, when all that remained were me and the newly-lit tree with its sparkly tinsel and ornaments, there in the quiet…
I recall feeling in that bath of stillness as if all my cares had vanished, if only for a short while. Mesmerized by the lights, I’d allow my mind to take me away into another place; a world of hopeful wonder. And if I quieted down long enough, I would hear a small voice whispering. Nothing booming or even explicit. It was just a murmur of something indistinguishable but important all the same.
I can’t help but think how important those listening moments are during this time of year. There’s a strange dichotomy going on, however. We are experiencing one of the most stressful seasons culturally, and yet one of the most significant in terms of our needing to slow down and listen.
I’m trying really hard to listen. And this is no small task for someone prone to interrupting, especially if I’m passionate about something. I get excited and I want to forge ahead. But that’s not always the best course. Sometimes, only listening will do.
As writers, we’re so used to doing. We’ve become accustomed to having a goal — often a deadline — and putting all our energy toward meeting or even exceeding it. We are in motion even if only expending mental energy. The forward push keeps us going, going, going. The output is the goal.
But what about input? How do we fill back up so we’ll have something to give? That’s what I was doing as I sat on the couch in the dark, only Christmas lights shining, all those years ago. I was forcing myself to pause, and I was letting myself fill back up. That’s why it didn’t necessarily matter if the words I heard were completely formed. In the filling-up times, that’s not always the goal. Later, we can discern more clearly what it is we need to do, but in the filling-up phase, that’s not necessarily required.
I think of reading a good book as one way of filling up, of quieting our souls so that we might fill them up again. Praying can be another. Chatting with a friend and really entering into their world is yet another important way of listening during this season. It’s that experience of relationship that is so good for the soul. We don’t always even have to have an answer or come up with a solution. Nor do we have to be moving somewhere specific.
Oh, this is so much harder than it sounds. We are creatures of movement. But practicing the art of listening, or settling in with ourselves, is very important. Whether we’re listening for God’s voice or simply trying to purge our mind of frenzied thoughts, everyone — we writers included — need these pulling-back times.
Q4U: What is your favorite quiet sound? (After you’ve pondered that, see below for winner of the book giveaway mentioned two posts back).
The winner of M.B. Tosi’s book, The Sacred Path of Tears, is Mary Aalgaard! Congratulations Mary! (I think I know where to find you. :))