Saturday, March 2, 2013

Embracing the Quiet

I woke up late Thursday morning, after my last hospice shift, and I was exhausted. It was not the exhaustion one feels after a restless night of sleep, though it was one of those nights. It is the exhaustion one feels after 2 years of restless nights. After being stretched thin, poured out, laid bare. I am exhausted, and admittedly, a little depressed. I am leaving a lot behind, and I am feeling the fatigue of carrying those weights around for so long. Sometimes I feel like I have absorbed the pain of all the grieving people I have been with.

Depression often shows up in times of life transition, indicating that you have lost something significant. In William Bridges' amazing book Transitions, he explains that a transition does not begin with a beginning but with an ending. The reason why many people do not transition well is because they leap to the next thing too quickly without taking seriously what has been lost and left behind.

On the horizon I see a future of writing and wine, and in early April I will be speaking at a seminar hosted by Image Journal called Ferment: Winemaking and the Creative Process. In my mind, this will be the beginning of a new season of life for me, when wine, embodied spirituality, and the intersections of wine and church history will become my central pursuits. I will focus on training as a wine sommelier and educator, and hopefully one day you'll eat at a great restaurant and I will serve you your wine while wearing a three-piece suit and a pocket square. If it's my first day on the job, I apologize in advance for the black eye the Champagne cork may inflict on you.

But I know that if I want to transition well I must spend time in this in-between stage, often called the liminal zone, walking the tightrope between the cliff I have left and the one ahead of me. I have been in that place for a while now, but I know that I must finish my inner work of transition before I can embrace the outer change that is coming.

Transition is a sort of grieving process, in which we mourn and mark the end of what we have lost. I find myself these days frequently practicing the discipline of the long stare, not necessarily thinking about anything specific, but letting my mind disengage and my eyes lose their focus. I believe that each time I do that I let something go. I make room in my soul for something else to take its place.

Transition is a quiet place. I am trying to embrace the quiet. You would think that as an introvert I embrace quiet easily. That is not always the case. After 15 years of ministry I have learned that there are different qualities of quiet. Quiet may sound the same but it does not feel the same. There is an anxious quiet and there is a peaceful quiet. I had experiences of both in the last week, and your feelings in the quiet immediately reveal what sort it is: anxious quiet feels like hell and peaceful quiet feels like heaven. We rush to fill anxious quiet with words - even excessive, controlling words - but we slow to luxuriate in peaceful quiet, and once we have experienced it, we crave it.  

I am setting aside the month of March for embracing the quiet, and I am hoping for more peaceful quiet than anxious quiet. I have 3 chapters to write in my listening book, which is a perfect way of reflecting on the ministry and relationships I have experienced, acknowledging the end of a life I have known. I will be in Seattle, typing to the sound of the rain on the roof.

This will be my last post for a few weeks, and I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I finish my book and work through this inner transition. I will be back in mid-April, and I sincerely hope you will come back after the quiet too.