August 6th, 2018
I’m two days into my social media fast, and one thing is abundantly clear: I have no idea how to be quiet.
I spent the first two hours of my day in bed watching Hulu. As I finally made coffee and breakfast (at lunch time), I put in my earbuds and listened to music as loud as I could. While I ate, I listened to a podcast and texted a friend.
I love a good Hulu drama. I love hiphop and cheesy ballads. And I love podcasts and texting. But the whole reason I decided to cut myself off from my mindless and compulsive use of social media for an extended period of time is because I need some silence. The world itself is loud, and here I am creating so much noise of my own, almost without realizing it. So to be struggling this much only two days into the month seemed a little extra pathetic, so I decided to try something new as the podcast ended and I closed out of the app.
My large cat Oscar was curled up all warm and heavy on my lap. My second cup of coffee sat unfinished next to me on the table. I can stay here, I told myself. I took a deep breath and set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes of stillness, of silence. I could probably do this.
I tried to quiet my mind, to turn the thought part of my brain off. I didn’t need sentences to experience sensory observations. I tried to just be exactly where I was without judgment or commentary. I noticed the sway of my window blinds in the corner of my eye and the soft tap of them bumping together, caught in the steady flow of air from the vent in the far wall of my apartment. I closed my eyes and felt my pulse steady and pronounced in my neck from the caffeine. Oscar twitched softly in his sleep, opening his eyes suddenly at the sound of a particularly loud bird near the window. His eyes closed again, and I focused on the rise and fall of my belly with each breath. Being still is hard.
I had my feet propped on a wooden dining room chair, and they began to look slightly blue due to lack of circulation. My little experiment was starting to seem like an eternity. I checked the timer on my phone. Three and a half minutes remaining. I felt myself starting to panic slightly. Just for a moment, I let my mind drift back to my church camp days.
Once a day during camp, we were encouraged to take our devotionals and Bibles off to a quiet place to study and pray. All across the grounds, students and adults sat down under big trees, lay belly down on porches near the lake, or stretched out on top bunks in cabins. Some of us had eyes closed, heads bowed. Others, like me, took a more open-eyed anxious approach. I remember spending most of that time wondering if I was doing it all right. That feeling came rushing back to me now. If I had nothing to report afterwards, was it really worth it? You don’t have to share any of this, a voice within me seemed to say. Just wait.
I began to accept that the remaining time would pass without any huge revelations. The timer startled me back to my dining room table, and I sat for a few more moments in silence. I laughed softly to myself, feeling crazy because I didn’t know what to do next. And then, just for a moment, I felt like I was about to cry.
In the absence of my go to distractions like music, lengthy facebook status updates, or snap chat videos, I was overcome with my unfamiliarity with true peace and stillness. Two years living alone, and I’d never let myself truly know it. I was overwhelmed by my disconnect from others, my inability to pray for more than a few seconds, and all the traumas I thought I’d processed, but maybe had only watched through the distorted lens of my own writing and social media posts.
In the days to come, I plan to continue this new practice of stillness without expectation. Just to see where it takes me. Maybe there’s no quick way to get everything back together. In fact, I’m sure there’s not. But I think learning to be alone, to shut my mind off long enough to actually feel a true feeling or experience an actual experience is probably a good foundation for all the other work I have before me.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16