Monday, October 15, 2012

Words out of Silence

This morning I had an interesting experience. It is the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, so some of the local Carmelite community met for Mass and a little reception later. There weren't that many of us, and after even a few of the few had to leave, the other few stayed to chat about our lives.

And I faced this scenario that seems to constantly repeat throughout my life.

One woman talked about how at the current stage in life, the Lord is showing her to retreat from a lot of activity and learn to be really, completely quiet inside. Others seemed to nod in sympathy.

And I felt like a salmon swimming upstream.

Silence has been co-natural to me my whole life to the point where it sometimes is my vice. I wrote about this in this post. There is a difference between being externally quiet and having interior silence, and I get that. However, interior silence has come really relatively easily for me because of my externally quiet nature. I'm not a woman who is at all likely to over-extend herself in care giving, or one to whom people flock to get their needs cared for. I don't get emotionally drawn into worrying over how people are faring. At almost any point, I tend to have a very good feel for where I am "at" interiorly (even if I don't understand why I'm there). I spend lots of time, and have for my whole life, in the cavernous regions of my soul, to the point that sometimes I haven't known how to interact socially. I've intuited that I couldn't just pull people in to one of the only things I felt personally well-versed at discussing -- interior life.

I shouldn't be bothered by this because it is simply who I am. And yet frankly sometimes it makes me feel abnormal as a woman.

What today's experience highlighted for me, however, is how God has led me since I was in my young 20s, and that is the fact that He wants my mouth. I have known that for years, and it has been a struggle. My mouth is symbolic, really, of my self-expression. I wonder why He hasn't put it to me that He wants my fingers, because I tend to write more than speak. But then again I needn't wonder that, because my mouth is what makes me feel my vulnerability more.

I knew a woman once who taught me that some people are made to feel extremely vulnerable when they are silent. We were in Japan, and she said she tried to make a one-day silent retreat, and after a few hours of the morning went by she had to walk down to the shopping district and meet someone, anyone, and talk. (I do know the feeling, although it literally took me 2.5 years of living alone in Japan before I started doing that sort of thing. And it lasted only a few weeks until I then left.) It is very difficult for me to grasp that some people are afraid of meeting themselves in silence, as, I suppose it might be hard for others to understand what have been my phobias.

But I get this sense that God's desire is for me to bring forth from my silence words that help bring others to silence. And I get this sense that this entails being able to face scary things with people. That means I probably need to learn a little sensitivity to people's fear of that intimate place of silence, of solitude, of the nakedness that leaves nothing to hide behind.

My song writing mentor friend said to me last year something about how every artist yearns to get to this place of soul-nakedness, to be able to really pour out his heart. I feel like that's what I've practiced in writing since I was 10 years old. And, yeah, I think the difficulty I have face all my life is figuring out how to insert myself in "normal society" when this is my bent. Without pretending to be someone else, without fear of being taken advantage of, and without fear of others' fear.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is what I need to learn right now.

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