Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Deep Reflections from a Shallow Mind

I am sitting on my bed, Indian-style, trying my best to shut my brain up. Fat Chance. I have been toying with the idea of mediation for about a week now…well a few days…okay 2 days. I watched a popular movie about a woman who essentially runs away from her problems and learns how to re-connect with herself through meditation. Now, I have no interest in other religions. My interest is solely in the quietness, the stillness, the peace that people seem to achieve through mediation or “contemplative prayer” as Christians like to call it. I wasn’t even sure at first if something like meditation had a Christian cousin. I had to look it up. That in itself should red-flag a couple problems I need to be working on as well.

A couple of years ago I confided in a friend that I was incapable of being quiet, not just with my mouth, but also in my head. There is a constant string of thoughts that are assaulting me daily. Yes, it feels like assault. Add to that, that there is also a song constantly stuck in my head like a theme song to my thoughts and it’s no wonder why I’m so tired all the time… it probably explains my desire for wine as well. It’s one of the only ways I can shut the noise up. My friend was a little worried about what I was telling her. She said that I should be working on that because apparently she viewed it as not just the inability to endure quiet but also the inability to withstand peace for any length of time. Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about that. I thought about that for a few days and then pushed it aside. I have so many other things to think about, right?

The only problem is that she’s right. I am uncomfortable with quiet…painfully uncomfortable. In fact, those who know me well know that the TV or radio is always going in the background in my house, even when I’m not watching or listening because it soothes me…noise soothes me. In my younger years, teens and twenties, I couldn’t even sleep in the quiet. In my teens the radio played all night and in my twenties I bought a sound machine with little chirping birds, rain patter and ocean waves. I justified the sound machine by saying it was relaxing. My poor husband has just, in the last 5 years, been able to sleep in a soundless room. Another example is a little more extreme and a little embarrassing to me personally. When our pastor prays during our church service he takes a second or two to “quiet” his mind before beginning the prayer. It goes something like this:
“Let’s pray ..............................................................................................................Dear Heavenly Father…”
I wanna scream every time he does it….Every. Time. That’s sick right?? Inside my head I am groaning and shouting silently, “GET ON WITH IT GENE!”.

I know…that’s pretty bad. In an effort to teach myself the joy of quiet and of just “being”, I have taken to turning off the radio when I’m in the car. I try to turn off the TV when I’m home by myself after I realize that I’ve turned it on without thinking. I think I am learning to like the quiet little by little, but my brain is a different story all together. Even when it’s dead quiet in the house or the car, my brain is going 90 miles an hour. It’s exhausting. It doesn’t help that I work in the noisiest and most chaotic environment known to man: the Emergency Room. Bells, alarms, overhead PA, nurses shouting, doctors calling, phone ringing, patients questioning, people talking, families crowding, babies crying…I could go on, but my blood pressure is going up just thinking about work.

I just want quiet…peace and quiet…peace most of all. I have to learn a new way to cope. Coming home from work and drinking is effective at shutting up the brain but only by way of incapacitation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t come home and tie one on…usually. A drink…One Drink… is the norm for me. A glass of wine, a rum and coke, occasionally a beer stolen from my husband, is not unusual. Problem is, I’m not in my 20’s anymore and it seems like even the one drink leaves me with a headache the next day. I gotta find a new trick at taming my thoughts.

So, all of that leads me back to where I am now: sitting on my bed listening to my ceiling fan rotate, trying not to look at my bedside clock, and desperately wishing that my brain would shut up…just this once. I tried to find something to focus on to take my mind off of its mindless rambling. My heartbeat, my breathing, the face of Jesus…I even tried the “Om” thing. Don’t laugh, I told you I was desperate. Finally, I just sat and tried to imagine what I might look like in the future if I achieved what I am chasing (even though I am not totally sure what that is right now). I remembered a conversation that I had with my husband just yesterday about us both being miserable at our current jobs and wondering what God has in store for us. I sent up a silent prayer to God to help me see what it is that he wants me to see about myself, in myself, or what he sees that I don’t see. I don’t know where God is headed with me but I know that at the core of it, where ever God leads me, I want to help people find Him, I want to write and I want to talk or speak to people either in groups or individually. Those three words just hung in the air of my mind for a minute: Help. Write. Speak. They just… hung there, like a wet sweater, dripping on the floor. Looking sad and pitiful. My brain says: 'You are too screwed up to help anybody. You have no talent or education to write anything. What are you going to say to people that is going to help them in any way?? You cannot make a career out of talking incessantly the way you do, Melanie. That is an idiotic idea.'

Help. Write. Speak.

They still hung there. I tried to imagine what that life would look like. I didn’t see a location, a home, a position in life or a lifestyle. I just saw my own face. It was smiling. Happiness. Confidence. Joy. Peace. Love. Things that I attempt to have now but which I fail at pretty miserably. Even when I am projecting these things now it’s a lie. Just beneath the surface, were anyone to scratch at it, lies doubt, worry, regret, insecurity, apathy and fear. Fear most of all. And the fear is mounting. My oldest son turns 16 this year. I should be joyous but I’m not. I am deeply sorrowful and angry. Angry at myself for letting so much of his childhood pass without being present in it. Sorrowful that I missed so much of it working or being too tangled up in my own junk and problems to enjoy it. Being the oldest son, he has lived most of my junk out with me.

I was 15 when I gave birth to him. The year before he was born I was: raped, became heavily involved in drugs and alcohol, tried to commit suicide twice, was ostracized at school, beaten by my father, thrown out of my home by my mother, moved into my boyfriend’s house, had gotten pregnant, went my entire sophomore year in maternity clothes and ended up moving back into my parent’s home with my boyfriend. To say it was rough would be a gross misunderstanding. It took me at least 15 years to recover from that one year…his entire life up to this point. I had used this child’s entire life, entire childhood, on MY recovery, instead of on him. Yes, I have loved him and cared for him and provided for him, but I could never see past my own pain enough to fully be the mother he needed. In fact, there were times that he went to live with my parents (voluntarily) so that I could try to function. Function is all I ever learned to do. I still don’t think that I’ve ever learned to live. So, now at the age of 31, I am facing my failure to be fully present and my anger and sorrow at missing so much and I have had enough. I am done with “functioning”. I want to live.


I don’t know where I am headed. I don’t know how long it will take. I have no idea if the path includes the education I am trying so very hard to achieve right now. I have no idea how it will happen.

All I know is that it has to. It has to happen and preferable soon or I may not be able to withstand it anymore. I am exhausted, I am depleted, I am used up, I am …tired of waiting for what is coming. My whole existence right now is in waiting for what’s to come. There is a scene from that movie where the woman’s boyfriend looks down on her while she is face down on the floor in misery at her life and he says, “Stop constantly waiting for something to happen!” I think that might be the wisest thing I’ve ever heard.

I can’t spend my life waiting. What am I waiting for? The life I am living right now, the life with a messy house, a dog who scratches the floor and isn’t fully potty trained, boisterous boys who don’t clean their rooms correctly, a husband who forgets I exist periodically, a job that forces me to pray everyday just to get through it and laundry baskets that are possessed by the Devil…this life…this is the life God has given me. And I am wasting it. I am pushing every single day aside to get ready for the next one, and the next one and so on until one day I’m going to run out of “next one’s”. My mind is ever on “what’s next?” instead of “right now”. Life is lived in the “right now”.. not in the future. I can’t live a life that doesn’t exist simply because it hasn’t happened yet! So, this is what I learned from my attempt at meditation this morning… “Get off the bed”. Sitting on my bed, imagining a life that could be, is keeping me from living that life the already is. Okay, so I don’t know where God is taking me. So what? No one does. Not one of us have any clue what the future holds. The need to control even the parts of my life that haven’t happened yet is keeping me crippled to the life that I can have right now. Everyday.


Anonymous said...

I am so very proud of you! This was an awesome post! No matter if we see it or not, God has a purpose for all of us. You are amazing and I can't stress that enough!

Shepherd K said...

Mel, I don't know where to begin. This post is so densely packed with some good thought provoking stuff for all of us. So, how about I start with: "great post"?

Having tried "real" meditation myself years ago, I think I can honestly say that sitting somewhere, focusing on your breathing and "emptying your mind" is overrated. For me, the best meditation comes when I am folding laundry. I focus on the task at hand, doing it methodically and precisely so that there will be no wrinkles, and I listen to God...what He has been telling me through the Bible, through life, through church, through my own stupidity, etc. Whatever meditation activity you choose (folding clothes, gardening, walking around in circles, etc), it helps if your family knows to leave you alone during that private time.

There are other comments that I would like to make in the form of some questions for you to think about; but, since we only know each other through our blogs, I will leave that for you to decide if you want to ponder unsolicited soul searchers and whether you want them via IRL email or blog comments.

Melanie said...

Acekotasmomma- Thank you. I really appreciate the faith you have in me sometimes! :)

Shepherd- I would welcome comments and/or questions, certainly. I know there was a lot in this post...I toyed with breaking into two but I just didn't see how. I know I'm not the only one that struggles with balance in life and thats why I decided to share. I don't mind either way of contact though, my email is on my profile. If you think that it could turn into a lenthy discussion, email would work best :)

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