Quietude: A Relationship Baseline

My story is not everyone’s story, of course, but some will identify with it. My relationship with my children has revolved around quiet times more than any other type of activity. I won’t say that we abhorred noise (got some stories to negate that) but our household was quiet, and I think we came to associate that with comfort, safety, calm, peace, refuge and rest.

When they were small, the girls did a lot of quiet playing. We read a lot. During their school years, they studied at home so the house was quiet during school hours. They liked being in their rooms, having friends over to talk or play games. As music got more prominent in their lives, there were occasional loud moments but there didn’t seem to be a time when they were afraid of silence.

Sunset silence, on a walk.

This is a very loud world and I’m kind of glad that we adopted quietude as a way of life, a baseline. I still see Julie and Esther doing their best to plan quietude into their lives. I have many memories of morning coffee time with one or the other of them, in a quiet coffee shop or outside on the patio. We take quiet walks, just us and nature. We sit around campfires with only the sound of the flames and some nightbirds. We sit in the kitchen late at night talking, but not always talking, sometimes just being. We like quiet sports, bike riding, hiking, kayaking and horseback rides. It’s not just okay to be quiet, it’s actually healthy and healing.

Quietude is also about calming and bringing peace, and often when I’m bothered about the twists and turns of life, I call or text my girls. The relationships we’ve built help settle me, make me feel known, heard and somehow calmer. A quiet talk with someone who loves me, listens to my story, maybe even prays with me is the best medicine ever!

Quietude in our relationships tells us it is okay to retreat to a dark room with a headache if we need to. We understand when one of us needs to leave the crowd, or get away from overstimulation. One on one has always been my preferred way of interacting and definitely preferred in my relationship with my daughters. It allows for being quiet, personal, and more deeply relational.

My daughters don’t live near enough to have regular, in person quiet times with me, but my mom and my youngest brother do. Most every morning I take the short walk over to Mom’s front door and open it, knowing the smell of fresh coffee will be there inside. Mom will wave at me from her recliner and we will just sit for a while before we begin to talk. A few minutes later we will hear the door open again and my brother will come in and sit down with us. We talk about what we’re reading, what’s on our mind, how our families are getting along, what our plans are for the day. But often we are quiet, just sitting, thinking. And that’s okay.

Just thinking, in the woods where it’s quiet.

The Silence Cure (or Go to Your Room!)

like love silence, but especially certain forms of it.  I love it at night, with maybe a few normal background sounds. I love it outside, with just enough bird sounds and leaves rustling to let me know the natural world is intact.  I even like being silent and spending much of the day without talking, or having the TV  or radio on.  But I couldn’t really put words to why I love silence until this morning when someone did it for me.

My present reading project, which I would highly recommend to anyone, has been reading through Dallas Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy”.  I think some who read my blog probably are not having an active interest in pursuing Christianity themselves but maybe would like to be more educated on what’s out there.  And who doesn’t like the thought of a conspiracy to be investigated?

This morning’s reading was about silence and solitude.  If a person were truly interested in being a follower of Jesus, silence and solitude would have to be a part of life, because it was a part of his.  That’s what following means – to do what he did.  But why did he do it, and what can it do for me? The first thing I think of is having to shut myself up, “get thee to a nunnery” style and take some pledge of wordlessness – not going to happen. But here was an interesting thought on the quantity of silence.

By solitude we mean being out of human contact, being alone, and being so for lengthy periods of time.  To get out of human contact is not something that can be done in a short while, for that contact lingers long after it is, in one sense, over.

It lingers. I think I know how he means that. And this,

Silence is a natural part of solitude and is its essential completion. Silence means to escape from sounds, noises, other than the gentle ones of nature.  But it also means not talking, and the effects of not talking on our soul are different from those of simple quietness.  Both dimensions of silence are crucial for the breaking of old habits and the formation of Christ’s character in us.

Ok, I’m to be silent because it helps me break bad habits. How does that work?

“to break the power of our ready responses to do the opposite of what Jesus teaches: for example, scorn, anger, verbal manipulation, payback, silent collusion in the wrongdoing of others around us, and so forth.

Oh yeah, those ready responses. I get it.

There is  more but I will give two more of my many highlighted passages about silence.

The cure for too-much-to-do is solitude and silence, for there you find you are safely more than what you do.  And the cure of loneliness is solitude and silence, for there you discover in how many ways you are never alone.

And yes to this one! Hopefully someday it will be this simple….

One of the greatest of spiritual attainments is the capacity to do nothing. Thus the Christian philosopher Pascal insightfully remarks, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”