I get noticed by people around me, therefore I am. I interact, therefore I am. I am active and reach goals, therefore I am. So what will happen with me when you leave me in nature with only Jandaan (and fish) around me? It sounds like an interesting social experiment and this is what is happening now for real. This blog is about the challenge I face when silence and ‘nothing’ dominate – I call it the challenge of silence – and how I deal with myself. It gives an intimate insight in my personal development and struggle.
The setting makes me restless and I become insecure about what I am doing. “What am I doing?!” Calling into question the ingredients of the life I am living now. Completely opposite from my feelings of euphoria on other moments, when I feel that nothing can stop us and we are living the perfect lives.
From a social 2-week tour ..
Past two weeks were insanely busy and social. Sunday evening; having dinner with homeowners Auke and Lotte after having taken care of their cats for five weeks in Hamburg. Monday; hitchhiking all the way back from Hamburg to Utrecht in four different cars and chatting all the time. Staying with friends. Being interviewed about our house sitting lifestyle, new born baby congratulations visit, staying with other friends. Visiting my parents, more hitchhiking, JD’s family, hitchhiking to Antwerp, staying with friend Stefaan for five nights, flying to Lisbon, Couch Surfing with a Lisbon couple that soon will leave for their world trip, exploring Lisbon.
I am not complaining, it was great to see everyone and to be welcomed so warmly. But I like to give you an impression of the amount of social interaction and the size of the contrast with ‘now’.
To complete silence and nothing
And then .. there was nothing. Just buzzing bees in the tree. Chickens that have to be fed one time a day. Silence, nature. Me sitting on a hilltop. A gorgeous view. Just JD and me and the knowledge I am going to stay here for more than nine weeks. Cold in the evening since we can’t make a nice fire because of the potential forest fire danger. A blue sky and a bright sun every day. No distraction. So it is me & me. This is a true challenge of silence. Plenty of room to observe my thoughts and feel my feelings. I don’t like them. I want them to go away and to feel cheerful.
It is beautiful and quiet. I never lived before at such a beautiful place. What a gift and honor! I know it but I don’t feel it. I feel uneasy, numb and have a chaotic mind.
Thinking and doubting
So let me give you some insight in my uncomfortable thoughts. I feel insecure about being far away from my friends. I question whether I still matter now. Is my social place still going to be there in the future or will I slowly disappear from the lives of some? And if so, does that matter? Should I be back in the Netherlands to feed my relations?
I feel afraid that my whole life is limited to being and staying at the estate we are sitting now. Abandoned from the world. I want to make as many excursions as possible. And I have the irrational fear Jandaan doesn’t want to go out exploring with me the coming months, and just wants to stay here, where we are.
When I feel like I feel at this moment, I have the thought it would be easy to confirm to the ‘normal’. Work hard in a career, buy a house, make babies. There will be no time left to think and feel and to reconsider choices. To live life how I lived my life 3 years ago. No questions asked, no eyebrows raised.
My flight reflexes
Being here in silence and with nothing around me is like a cold turkey rehab after a lot of social interaction and affirmation. It is difficult for me to just enjoy silence and rest after those crazy busy weeks. It is not the comfort of silence but the challenge of silence.
I like to be busy, to have a schedule, to go after goals. It is a kind of addiction. It gives me adrenaline, satisfaction and a feeling of purpose. My first response to my current feelings is to go out with JD as often as possible, be busy, call friends, send text messages, be productive, show myself on social media. “Hello out there, I still exist! Having a nice active live”! “I interact, therefore I am.”
‘My life sucks, I am being boring and even not useful!’ (My Challenge of Silence judgements)
In the second place I realize this behaviour is not the answer or cure for my restlessness. It is a way to make it go away on the short term. Being busy, being social and getting results are means I use to avoid getting feelings that are uncomfortable and unpleasant, and to make them go away once I feel them nevertheless.
I am obviously judging myself living here and being here. It is not spectacular, not social and I don’t achieve results. I realize I shouldn’t dependent on and require attention from the outside world. But instead give myself the attention that is good for me and hereby mentally feed myself.
And I know, it is all about how I frame my being here. Because what is dull about learning more about myself (my run away behaviour and what makes me uncomfortable), getting into touch with my deeper feelings and thoughts, and in the end reach a state of flow and satisfaction (by facing my fears and in the end adopt new convictions).
My stubborn mind
I always wonder, why is it so difficult to stick to the routines that serve me well? Like for me practicing yoga every day. I know starting my day with some exercise is an essential part of my well-being, and still I somehow refuse to do it. I have all the time in the world and no excuses.
Why do I dive into behaviour that I know increases my restlessness and uneasy feeling? Like checking my facebook and directly act on the notifications after posting a message in several groups (‘challenge of silence’ reflex #2). I don’t feel well so I search for easy acknowledgement. Hollow acknowledgement in the form of likes and remarks of people I don’t know.
I am used to train myself to get rid of light compulsive behaviors that in the end don’t make me happy. Like I stopped reading women’s magazines and comparing myself to the (fake) beauty in there when I was 14 years old. But getting rid of my social media addiction when I don’t feel well is a challenge of a different order.
Halting the negative spiral
Silence and ‘nothing’ reveal what is inside you. My challenge is not to daze it but embrace it. No more fleeing but accepting and facing. Writing this down helps. Acknowledging how I feel and what I think, helps. Observing my cravings for action, results and attention and realizing their effect on me, helps. Accepting I don’t have to be on the top of the world helps. And saying to myself it is OK to feel like this.
I breathe in. Look around. And feel my sore muscles of my yoga practice of this morning.
Question to you
Did you ever surround yourself with silence and nothing? What happened?
And if no, would you be interested to try and find out?
Challenge of Silence – not running away but observing what is there
There are a few more blogs I would like to recommend if you are interested in this topic. They are about not running away from what is inside you but lovingly facing what is there. In the end those feelings, chaos and restlessness are not scary anymore, they are just there! Sometimes they are, and sometimes not.
Rushing through life? Try Mindfulness
2 Personal struggles and my serum called Mindfulness; 2 benefits of Mindfulness
And about the benefits of focused attention: ‘What do I do with my life when there is no wifi?!’ – advantages of having no wifi