"...I'm hanging on another day
Just to see what you will throw my way
And I'm hanging on to the words you say
You said that I would...would be ok
I'm falling apart, I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart that's still beating
In the pain there's the healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holdin' on
I'm still holdin' on,
I'm holdin' on
I'm barely holdin' on to you..."
The other day I felt like I was "falling apart," in much the same way that Lifehouse articulates in this lovely, plaintive song of hope, and longing, titled "Broken." But it was also just the reminder I needed. When I heard it, I was feeling particularly lonely in the aloneness of a moment, and it immediately brought me peace.
I love that line, "in your name I find meaning." And the "you" in whose name alone I "find meaning" is the great "I AM" whose presence feels as intimate to me as my own hopes and dreams, sorrows and joys...the very private thoughts I cherish in the dark silence of the night.
When I was still a very young woman, but thought I was all grown up and more than ready to fly solo, my mother and siblings...with whom I had been living since my dad's passing...moved to another state. In some ways one might think I would have been happy and relieved. I'd worked two or more jobs for a few years in order to help pay for our rent, utilities, food and family expenses, and this might mean a bit of a break from those demands. But that wasn't how I was feeling.
Yes, I was excited to be out on my own. I'd found a Manhattan couple who'd purchased a gentleman's farm in our rural community and talked them into letting me renovate the loft of their beautiful barn into a loft apartment in exchange for rent. And I was thrilled by the opportunity to creatively redefine the space, by their trust in my twenty-one year old chutzpah, and for my first real privacy...I'd always lived in other people's spaces and had always dreamed about my own apartment. But there was also a sadness about living away from my mother, sisters, and brothers.
I moved my few belongings into a small storage space in the barn that was heated, had been insulated for winter, and had a tiny bathroom in the corner. I'd cook on a hot plate and use a tiny little dorm-size refrigerator until I'd finished the renovation. I had a twin bed pushed under the barnwood eaves and a little table with two chairs. I'd brought three small paintings I done in high school, ones that the school had had framed for an exhibit at the local library. I used my simple cedar hope chest for storing my clothes and I'd hung my three dresses (and two waitress uniforms I needed for my second job) on a nail at the end of the room. An antique embroidered linen pillowslip folded over a wooden dowel served as a curtain on the one small window framed by rough barnwood. I loved way the sunrise looked through the ripply green-tinted glass each morning and vowed to make that window a centerpiece in the renovation.
That first night after I washed my mug and bowl out in the bathroom sink, dried them with the worn blue and white checked dishtowel I'd begged my mom to let me keep with me, I brushed my teeth and climbed between the soft white sheets and under the colorful quilts that represented the entirety of my dowry. I'd always loved vintage linens and had gathered bits and pieces over the years from my grandmother, a generous neighbor who'd shared her treasures, and a dusty antique shop in the village we'd lived in while I was in high school.
I turned off the small lamp that sat on an upturned fruit crate that served as my first bookcase and lay in the dark. I'd grown up in a family of eight children. I'd shared a bedroom with as many as four of my sisters, depending on the size and number of bedrooms a house had, all my life. We'd always lived in small houses. Houses in which our rooms were so cozy, and close to one another, that I could hear my brothers whispering in their room while I read in my bottom bunk across the hall. I'd never, ever, heard or experienced the kind of visceral silence I was greeted by that night once I'd turned the lamp off. It was as if someone had sucked every bit of sound out of the room. I was aware of my heartbeat, my own thoughts, the sound of my nightgown rustling against the soft cotton of my sheets. I was aware of the unique rhythm of my own breathing, in and out, in and out, in and out.
This was so new to me. New, and lonely. Soon I was aware of more than just my breathing, and my heartbeat. I was aware of the sound of my own crying. I was alone in the dark, I was falling apart, and I was hyper-aware of everything around me. And more importantly, everything within me. I discovered that if you listen closely you really can hear the sound of tears dropping from your eyelashes, rolling along your cheek and falling to the pillowcase under your face. I discovered just how much I really did miss my family. I missed all the sounds I'd complained about throughout high school when I'd thought all I wanted was "a room of my own." I missed my sister purring in her sleep, my mother's tapping of her fingers on the kitchen table as she enjoyed a late night cup of tea in the quiet of her own house long after midnight. I missed the mewing of babies and the turning of more than a half dozen children in their beds while I read.
I missed them. And I was aware of missing them. It was quiet enough that nothing distracted me from the sound of the love that was happening in my heart.
This missing them in the silence of the dark was my first awareness of the deep intimacy we each have with our God. In my aloneness, I discovered that I was really not alone. There were new thoughts coming to me every moment. I was feeling the seeping in of a new awareness of my love for my mother, appreciation for my sisters, I could feel the presence of my dreams for the future, and my hunger for meaningful love and purposeful work. I could actually feel my desire for my sister Nancy's bony spine against mine as we slept back-to-back in the double bed we'd shared at times during childhood.
This awareness of "me", my hopes, my desires, my thoughts, my sadness and longing, was rich with being, was full of the "I AM" of conscious being...God. For me, this is what Mary Baker Eddy is talking about when in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she refers to:
"...the conscious infinitude of existence and of all identity..."
I learned to love the silence of that small bed under the eaves, because it introduced me to myself...the self that had an inner life. The self that was no longer being drowned out by all the hustle and bustle of being one of many voices, movements, breathing in a big family. The self that was conscious of the infinitude of her identity and was discovering that right there, within her own conscious being, lay all the important answers she'd been looking for.
My silent life in a drafty barn didn't last long...but I have never forgotten it in the ensuing years, as the quiet spaces started filling in with husband, children, phone calls, patients, guests, dogs, washing machines, dishwashers, computers and babies.
And to this day, when I am feeling most alone in the world, it is not people I seek to surround myself with...even the people I love the most...it is the silence of a darkened room. My favorite time of day, the time of day - the space - that fills me, and satisfies me most...so that I have something real to give others...are those moments just after waking, when I have not heard a sound, moved even a single finger or probed a toe seeking to feel the sheets or rustle the bedclothes. Those are the moments before I have opened my eyes to see the light of day playing on the pear colored walls of our bedroom. And it is in this timeless time that I am aware, in that profound silence, of the "great I AM" that is me, my conscious being.
In these moments of great intimacy with my God, I am most keenly atune to the "pain" of missing loved ones...a profound love that heals. I am most appreciative of the joys of having thoughts that are beautiful and rich with purpose...even if just to me. I am most conscious of knowing that I am never alone...but always filled with Him...with Her...with the I AM that is the only real oneness that matters...the only I or US that all other relationships spring from.
In the silence of a my first waking thoughts, I find God...the kingdom of heaven within. And this same infinite nearness of the divine is there for each of us...all the time.
Kate Robertson, CS