It was snowing here in Pennsylvania. It was not predicted to be a huge snowfall. But it was enough to slow things down. Less traffic on the roads. Events postponed or cancelled. It was a Saturday and many people were staying inside if they could.
An excuse to take it a little easier for a change.
A snow day.
In its pristine and white condition, undisturbed and unsoiled, it was beautiful outside. The pristine part didn’t last long enough. But it was refreshing while it did.
Snow days give us the opportunity to catch up on some of the things on our to-do or wish lists, some that we’ve been too busy to experience – Netflix, cleaning, reading, enough sleep, simply hanging out, organizing, nothing. All are important. All are necessary.
The world here was just a little quieter that day. And, it was just what we needed.
2019 for us was a whirlwind. Even on some snow days we had to work extra hard, we couldn’t slow down. There wasn’t much time to sit back, to organize, to do nothing. Not nearly enough time to recharge, to refresh, to re-examine. Some of it, the good parts, especially, were because Someone To Tell It To is growing. We were asked to speak to groups, train others in listening, and were listening to others more than ever before. All of which is great and exciting. We received an international listening award. We started a new podcast series which we absolutely love hosting. The stories we’ve been told and the people we’ve been able to meet and know through the conversations we have with them have been a joy. So much was and is good.
But 2019 was also bad. It was never quiet. There were many disappointments and struggles, all of which are not uncommon to non-profits and human service missions as they expand and evolve. At times we felt debilitated and nearly defeated. And we questioned, “Can we keep this up? Can we go on?”
So a snow day was a welcome and vital treat for us.
It gave us more time to think, more time to slow down, simply more time to be. It wasn’t enough. But it helps.
We receive a daily meditation in our email inbox every morning from popular American author, spiritual writer, speaker, and Franciscan Richard Rohr. As the new year began, he shared a series of daily messages about “silence”. The theme immediately caught our attention. After the year we had just finished, silence was an acutely attractive need. There wasn’t much silence in our work and lives. There was too much to do, too much to manage, too much noise inside our heads keeping us awake far too many nights. 2019 was simply, overall, too much.
Cessation of so much of the noise was what we needed. More silence was what we craved.
When we recognize something as beautiful, that knowledge partly emerges from the silence around it. It may be why we are quiet in art galleries and symphony halls. If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it as singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its particularity does not stand out.
He is on to something.
He went on to write, inspired by another author who likened silence to the net below a tightrope walker,
Silence is that safety net that allows us to fall; it admits, as poets often do, that no words or deeds will ever be perfectly right or sufficient. So the poet keeps trying, for which we are grateful! The great spaciousness and safety net beneath a tightrope walker is silence; it offers freedom from self-preoccupation and the fear of making a mistake. A regular practice of contemplation helps us trust that silence will uphold us, receive our mistakes, and give us the courage to learn and grow.
We’ve been longing for that safety net for a year now. For nearly all of 2019 we felt as if we were walking the tightrope without one, a frighteningly anxious balancing act. We were ripe for a change.
We have a tradition among our team members. We each pick a word to live by for the coming year in the weeks before each new year begins. Our choices are made independently, without consolation between one another. When everyone weighed in during December, and we came together to share and explain each of our words, so many of our choices were astonishingly similar – “solitude”, “sabbath”, “slow”, “breathe” (more than one person chose this) – for example. They are all related, variations of the same need for silence, stillness, space – a safety net.
Our chosen words were a bright light shone onto how all of us we were feeling as last year ended and this new year was about to begin. Their relatedness and similarities were stark insights that require our attention.
Our guess is that so many of you need this safety net, too, of solitude, sabbath, slowness, the ability to breathe and not be hyperventilating as often as we do. Our guess is that so many of you need silence in your lives. The safety to try, to learn, to grow, and for it to be okay to fall, knowing you’ll be caught and be given the ability to get back up to try again. To think, to contemplate, to discern without so much noise bombarding us – and distracting us – along the way. To recognize the beauty that is all around us, if only we had the space and silence to see and hear and feel it.
Ah, a snow day!
It gives us a little of the silence we need to remember what goodness and grace there is when the noise – whatever it is – is quieted for even simply a little while.
A snow day.
A chance to get back up and to try to regain our balance a little bit better again.