What Is Within My Silence?

The view from here. November 12, 2015

The view from here. November 12, 2015

I have always lived in chaos. It’s what I was born to, first of all: a dramatic and dynamic mother, a total whirlwind of personality, charm and presence whose mind was a turbulent sea, able to pull her underwater at any moment; and an impatient and rageful father, with an exacting sense of order that he was never, ever going to have satisfied within the bounds of our boisterous family of five.

Chaos has its thrills, for sure. (That would explain how my father fell in love with my mother, not knowing what he was in for.) I can enumerate those thrills with a fervent enough passion to convince even the most risk-averse person in the world that they should maybe toss everything aside and join the circus. I mean, I am myself a three-ring circus: more enthusiasms and ideas and foment than should probably be allowed to exist in a single body. Of course, along with that comes the darkness, but pish-posh. Small price to pay for the peaks.

But I am making a very strange and uncomfortable transition right now. I am learning who I am underneath the adrenalin addict.

It’s terrifying.

The quiet inside me is a much more dangerous villain than the dozens and dozens of storms I have stared down and raged through in my life.

But an interesting thing happened when I got fired from my last job: I realized I was Done.

Done with heroics. Done with impossible tasks and teaching everyone around me how to survive the war zone. Done with the incredible labor of being a triage nurse. Done with proving myself to myself and staring down a wall of doubt and fear again and again and again. Done with seeking out just one more goddamn big, hot mess and putting myself in the middle to solve it.

Done, as I put it to my therapist, “pushing the rock up the hill.”

So it’s been about two months since I stopped working. I had a trip to Morocco, the recovery from the bug I brought home from Morocco, a terrifying experience with my dog becoming totally immobile from the onset of a joint disease and a few other things in the mix. So in some ways I actually feel like it’s only the last two weeks that I have been mentally present in the experience of being…. quiet.

I have been able to do absolutely mundane house tasks. (Ask my son how much I keep talking about the thrill of my spotless windows. I’ve done only 12 out of about — no exaggeration — about 58, but still, I’m preening and prancing about it.) I have organized my office. I have crawled back into bed and napped when I felt like it. I have taken long walks with my dog. I have taken even longer walks by myself.

And I now cook every single meal my son eats, preparing his weeknight dinners for the very first time in his life, ever. (He’s 12. My career is — was — 26.)

So these things I’ve listed above are good.

Less good is what else lies beneath.

Anxiety. Doubt. A lurking miasma of failure. (Always the failure.) And a gripping fear.

That I am wrong. That I am lost. That I am destroying everything I ever could rely on to carry me. That I am slothful, lazy, disgusting.

Because the only thing that carried me through many, many years of my life was working until I was blind to everything else but work. And living out and reliving the chaos of my childhood home in extremely intense jobs where I righted the ship, made the plan forward, put out fires, nurtured my team, wiped tears, held hands—and continued to feed my sense of being superhuman.

Above human. Above pain. Above the darkness.

But no. All that was still within me, waiting until the time I was healed enough to let it flow forth from my brain and into my being. And then integrate it all, absorb it into myself so that it’s just one more part of my story—instead of a sealed trunk of darkness that leaks its poison into mind when I am alone. And quiet.

I’ve learned so much in the twenty years I’ve been in therapy. I consider my therapy assisted growing. I’ll never stop. I don’t think of therapy as something people do when they’re broken. I think of therapy as something people undertake when we want to see how big we really are, to free ourselves from the fears and safety tactics we grow up with as children that keep us small when we become adults.

And so here I am. In my own quiet. In the home I led myself to after I lost all the things that had given my life shape in 2010. This magical place that feeds me in a deeply meaningful way every. single. day.

Monday I spent in bed, in and out of bouts of anxiety and tears. What am I doing? I’m never going to be okay. Not working is not possible! You need money! You need a job! You suck! You are washed up! You are hiding!

But today I am overcome with lightness. Sitting in my conservatory (oh, how I love to call it conservatory, the word’s five syllables expressing the luxury and pleasure of such a room), listening to the fall rain, listing all the things in my life that make me feel full, loved, right. 

I am learning to live in my quiet. It’s a process that is many years in the works and probably has a while to go. But I know when I land there, in the center of my self, in that quiet place, that from it I will draw incredible beauty and bring it forth into the world—in the loudest, most dramatic way possible.

Because that is simply who I am.

I accept my seemingly nonsensical juxtapositions. Have you come to terms with your own? Tell me about them. I’m fascinated by our complexities. For that is what tells our stories.

 

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses: a divorce and house disaster that led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece); a week after the book came out, my parents suddenly fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and, apparently, my career), my son went into crisis, my parents then rapidly died four weeks apart, and my boyfriend (who had moved in with me and my son just weeks before the book came out) began the painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolded on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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23 Responses to What Is Within My Silence?

  1. Dense says:

    You. Are. Awesome.

  2. Brent Almond says:

    I read this too early in the morning in bed (when I should have been sleeping). I was awake stressing over my son’s 6th birthday party tomorrow that I’m trying my darndest this time to enjoy. I’ve spent too many parties and outings and family gatherings stressed and bitchy because I tried too hard to bring my A game, when my B game would have sufficed.

    I can relate to much of what you’re saying — if not the events themselves, certainly the feelings. And good grief, I’m again amazed at how beautifully you write.

    I’ve also been stressing about an upcoming conference, not yet informed if I’ll be speaking or not, and wondering what that would be like — to attend a conference as an actual attendee. Honestly, it’s a bit frightening. I worry that I won’t feel important enough — to me, to others — to warrant being there at all.

    But then I think of you, and when we met in New Orleans. I can’t recall if you spoke at the conference or not, but we hung out that last night and drank and talked and bonded as only dorky bloggers at conferences can. And those are the best parts — having the time to meet new people and make connections. Things that don’t happen as much when you’re Important or In Charge of Something. And it made me a little okay with the idea of not speaking at this conference, if that ends up being the case. And I hope that it makes you a little more okay with not being In Charge of Something right now. Or even Employed. That you can enjoy those wonderful things you mention that I don’t do, like actually cook meals for my son or clean my house or organize my office. That you can enjoy spending time with friends as you wait for your next career or life thing. And that if you come to this conference I’m going to be at, and neither of us is speaking or in charge, we can hang out again.

    Either way, thanks for the inspiring, challenging words. I look forward to what’s next, even if it is “just” getting all those freaking windows clean.

    • stacy says:

      Brent, thank you for this. I met you at such an important time in my life — when I was weak and on my knees and unsure still if I would make it through the Years of Losses. And in you I found such an instant companion. It just reminded me that truly, the people you meet and know and love and share pieces of yourself with, as if you are sharing a stolen extra piece of birthday cake, are what make it alllll worth it. I loved being a bold name, don’t get me wrong. But what I love more is being a person people like you like. : ) I don’t yet know if I’m going to that conference, but I so want to. As I wrote here on this blog, you guys are my tribe. xoxo and happiest of birthdays to your little boy!

  3. Diane says:

    i am glad to have come upon this for myself.
    it’s validating.

    • stacy says:

      Diane, so glad you found me, then, however you found me. Sometimes I like to think of myself as a lighthouse: that people find me when they think they are going to crash ashore or that they are lost at sea when, really, what they are doing is learning how to become themselves. The hardest work and the best work of life. xo

  4. Kim Court says:

    There is so much more I want to say, but time is my enemy this morning. Suffice to say, I think you’re writing is absolutely exquisite. You are the person I think of when I try to improve my writing. I adore your work so very much.

    Thank you for offering a window to your thoughts.

    Best,
    Kim Court

    • stacy says:

      Kim, thank you so much. I feel so close and familiar to and with you. I love social media! The critic always lives within, so I thank you for taking the time to share your compliment. xo

  5. Rita Arens says:

    This is just gorgeous.

    Just now I was frustrated with Kizzy, who is constantly knocking shit off tables and demanding attention and tearing around the house, and not like Sybil, Bella, Petunia or Sir Charles Buttonsworth, who just sat around the house, slept a lot and puked a lot.

    It is occurring to me that the other cats were sick when I adopted them (well not Sybil, but she was eighteen and had thyroid disease) and thus sick pretty much the whole time I knew them, and that’s why they weren’t up to mischief. I never understood a lot of the cat videos I’d seen because my cats never did anything crazy. They just sat there.

    I literally realized this about ten minutes ago.

    What I took away from this all is that a life that is a little too easy might be a life devoid of fun and laughter and cats hanging from the top shelf of the bookshelf instead of peacefully resting in a sunbeam.

    This is an extremely long prologue to what I work on about myself: the need to measure myself against everyone else. The need to be my goals instead of myself. Similar to what you are saying, only I really don’t like chaos. I prefer a methodical and always forward-moving progression to a Big Goal, followed by a few days of celebration and the choosing of the next Big Goal. Cats hanging off bookshelves and the act of being a parent and family deaths and diseases and holidays and lay-offs interrupt the steady forward movement, and those times are always when I start to lose it.

    I’m really trying to embrace chaos a little more. I’m really not very good at it.

    • stacy says:

      But Rita, what you are good at? Is living out loud in that big, beautiful beating heart of yours. I know you don’t like chaos — I truly do not comprehend how you can stand having me as a friend because of that. Ha! But your ability to share your anxiety and struggles to be a light to others is a very, very special thing about you. Thank you for still reading me, after all these years! xo

  6. Cori Howard says:

    I am glad you found your quiet and glad you shared such a beautiful story with the world. I’m only now, 14 years into parenting, discovering the joys of long walks alone. I’ve never been one to survive long in chaos, but it’s pretty inevitable when you have young kids. Harder still to fight the pressure to succeed, to earn, to perform in our culture. I fight and battle with that every day. Quiet helps. So do long walks and yoga and stories like these 🙂 So thank you…

    • stacy says:

      Is it really 14 years of parenting for you already? Wow, time flies. I remember meeting you when you were first being a stepmom, and then a mother to your own child….. Amazing. Thank you for being here and leaving a comment. I love seeing you. xo

  7. Joanna King says:

    I have a trusted friend who has told me, “Don’t just DO something–sit there!” It is only the most difficult thing I know. I think I have always defined myself by what I accomplish — as if I have to earn my keep on the planet. This would be simply swell if it was ever enough (it never was) because I was operating from a primary misunderstanding about the nature of life.

    I have come to believe I am intentional. I am on-purpose. The more I embrace simple honesty about what I am (and what I am not,) the easier it is to BE because it is (finally) enough.

    I think I ran from things I feared (Oh and I feared everydamnedthing) but today I walk toward what brings me joy. WAY better.

    • stacy says:

      “As if I have to earn my keep on this planet.” Yep. I got those instructions, too. And I love the idea of being on-purpose. I’m going to think about that for a little bit. Lots to mull and ponder in that. Thank you. xo

  8. Mary Edwards says:

    Stacy, there are people who come into ones life for 10 days and their words, humor, and kindness forever touch and and inspire. Your book was beautiful. Your writing and thoughts demonstrate your optimism and engaging personality. I will always remember the moment we saw the Taj Mahal together and I turned to you and saw the same emotions I felt. You are such an inspiration to those around you. Thanks for this post.

    • stacy says:

      Mary, you are so incredibly kind. And I am so happy we were on that amazing journey together. What a privilege it was to meet you and share the experiences of being so nakedly human and small. I’ll remember it forever. And you! xo

  9. alexandra says:

    My eyes are burning with tears, because if I could just have you see how much light you are to me. I think of you, and it feels me with gratitude of how amazing, astounding, incredible life is that I know you. When you type the words “lazy disgusting slothful” my heart breaks–I see a woman, you, tireless in encouraging others and led only by your sincere, honest, vulnerable heart. Everything you say here is exactly why I fell in love with the author when I picked up, by life’s serendipity, the blue covered book with the dandelion half blown away by life, by wind, by a faint but steady uplift of a breeze? Falling Apart in One Piece. That day, I skimmed through the book, brought it home, finished it in 24 hrs and thought about the honesty of the writer, her motive never being one of making herself look good or without error. And now I know you, If that isn’t a testament to life bringing us splendid surprises. You’ve got some wonderful exciting evolving selves up ahead. I feel it. Everything is there for you, Stacy… your life can’t ever not be found.

    • stacy says:

      Alexandra! How am I just now seeing this incredibly generous and beautiful note! Oh, silly WordPress, how you frustrate me so by denying me my notifications. : ( I am going to bookmark this dear note. No, I’m going to print it out in fancy script and put it on my desk in the small pile of things that inspire me and remind me what I’m doing, why I’m doing…. You must know you are such a gift to me as well. Not the least of which is I still can’t believe people who didn’t know me bought my book. : ) And this is so, so beautiful: “a woman led only by your sincere, honest, vulnerable heart.” Please may I ever keep trying to live up to that. It’s my honor, truly. xoxo

  10. Sarah Piazza says:

    I love the concept of therapy as assisted growing. Boy do I ever need some assisted growing these days.

    • stacy says:

      I think we all do, Sarah. We just have created a funny little culture where we think being wounded means being broken. I now know that the ways in which I am broken are my most special gifts. Took me twenty years, but boy, it was worth the work and the wait. xo

  11. Wow, Stacy, wow! Thank you for this and all the honesty and authenticity within. Each and every day, I struggle to settle. I find myself popping up like a whack-a-mole hellbent on winning the game. Laundry! Pets! The kids! Homework! Cooking! Volunteering! The yard! It’s exhausting but comes from such a deeply ingrained and practiced habit of productivity and output; it’s hard to jump off that wheel.
    I’m grateful for your conservatory, for the space and loveliness there. Stay in it!
    All my best,
    Emily

    • stacy says:

      Emily! Thank you for your comment. WordPress did not let me know it was sitting there. I apologize for not having seen and published it sooner. It’s always good to sit in one’s silence and get uncomfortable. Can’t say it’s my favorite thing, but I always learn something I’ve been trying not to know. xo

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