Goodness gracious it's hard to write when things are on your mind.
OK, actually the opposite of that is true, too. When you have things on your mind that's generally considered fuel for writing.
But when certain things are on your mind. And that's all I'll say about that...
I can tell you how deliciously and delightfully comfortable my sweatpants are right now. And how deliciously and delightfully wonderful it is to be sitting in them on my patio right now.
Did I mention I love my patio?
Currently it has two faux leather ottomans on it (because the cat was tearing them up, so I brought them outside, but one of them is my footrest right now, so I'm not complaining), along with a rug, a table, 3 planters, 2 candle holders (with candles, but I have no long-stemmed lighter, so they remain unlit), and a chair which my behind is resting comfortably in.
Actually I could afford to shift my weight ever so slightly.
There we go.
And a cup of mint tea. That's also out here with me.
First, more on the sweatpants -- because they merit description at this point in time -- and then I'll get back to the patio, which for sure merits description and general being talked about-edness.
The pants are black, medium to thick weight. My sister-in-law and brother (usually you would put brother first in that statement, but I figure she had more to do with the shopping) got them for me several Christmases ago, because I had made a specific request for more sweatpants, and because I guess we're adults now and so we actually request from and subsequently obediently buy for each other things like sweatpants.
I think it was the Christmas after the sweatpants Christmas that the same brother and I were having highballs together, and I thought of my dad and his siblings and thought, "Wow, we're here now. We're drinking highballs together."
This same brother and his wife and I are very into going to bed before midnight on New Years' Eve as well.
Squares. But squares you want to be friends with, which is the important part.
OK, sweatpants. Sorry.
These pants are warm. I'm not sure why, but they're holding some delicious, glorious heat, and with the help of my socks -- which are a little clammy and chilly, but ultimately a layer on my always cold feet, so thus favorable -- they are giving me some happy, glowy warmth, literally and figuratively, to keep me cozy outside here.
Never mind that it hit 91 degrees today, and is maybe still 84 right now.
I'm a tiny little woman and I don't know why I can enjoy sweatpants and a warm laptop on my legs during desert summer, but I can!
And I'm wearing a unisex-cut yellow t-shirt boasting the Mizzou Cotton Bowl win (holla!), and it's all just cozy and boyish and cozy and mmmmmmmmmm
So OK, back to the patio.
I love my patio.
I gained a very serious, rich, amazing, never-thought-I-might-have-it gift this year, and that is that I learned to sit and do nothing.
I'm not kidding.
I only average about 20 minutes of this activity per every, mmm.....120 hours, I'd say, but that 20 minutes is powerful.
And with the patio, I gain more of this quiet time. Like sometimes 20 minutes a day for 3-5 days a week. Which, given 2014 culture, that's a lot.
You might be thinking, (with your hand raised, in a classroom, because it's funnier that way), "Um, Bailey, aren't you writing right now? Doesn't seem to me you're doing nothing."
And I would say, (as a teacher, because sometimes people say I'd be a good teacher, and I love it when they say that), "You're absolutely right. Right now I am writing. But usually when I sit on my patio, I am doing nothing."
Also, I'm usually in the dark.
Like now, minus the lights from the office building windows across the way and general LA light pollution in the sky. And the glow of this screen.
But generally -- dark...ish.
My patio doesn't have any lights. I have a string of colorful Christmas lights, which I plan to stick out here for festiveness, but I think even with those, if I was going for the quiet time, I'd probably leave them unplugged. And here's why:
The dark, and the (traffic-spackled) silence out here? They calm me. They shut me up. They slow me down.
I honestly just got very excited, like cheerleader excited, to emphasize to you how great sitting and doing nothing is.
I'm not kidding when I say this was a gift to finally discover how to do this, and to discover that I can do this. That I can sit and not have music, and not occupy myself even with clipping my fingernails, or organizing a bookshelf, or just....anything.
And honestly, it's kind of terrifying and disgusting to me when I think about how much I just do and do and do. And I don't even think of myself as a workaholic, or a "do-er." I'm more of a thinker, and a lazer (lazy person).
But even occupying myself with thoughts, and noise, it's a lot.
And it's a little ironic that it was the noise and the sounds that made me scared to stop the noise and the sounds.
Let me explain that: I thought that stopping the noise would make my scary thoughts that much louder.
And boy was I wrong -- and praise the good Lord above that I was wrong -- and so happy, happy, happy to find that just the opposite was true.
When I get quiet, the chaos inside me slows down that much faster, than if I were to try and "get calm" by listening to classical music or flipping through pictures of pastoral watercolor paintings.
Because music and thoughtful images are just another thing added to the thinking agenda. They can calm us, yes, and have their place to do so, but when I dared myself to try and go it without these types of things, I was surprised by peace and calm and joy.
I'm not kidding when I say that I've worried about developing schizophrenia. I'm neurotic, have a very hyperactive brain, and as a holder of a psychology bachelor's degree, I know full well (kidding, here, people, to make the point once again that self diagnosis is bad, bad, bad) that schizophrenia can come on without warning*.
*I think it can, sort of, but double check with a psychologist/psychiatrist instead of quoting me on this.
Soooooo, I think I had legitimate reason to worry.
My friend Mary, when I told her this, asked me if I hear voices. I told her no and she told me it's not God's will for me to worry about it, then.
That was comforting, but didn't fully shake the fear.
Some things that have since helped shake it are continued therapy, meds to keep my anxiety at bay, and, truly, the silence.
See, when you have these weird thoughts swirling through your brain, you find yourself wanting to push away the weird ones, the scary ones.
And let me just pause here to say that if you have enough disturbing, frightening thoughts running through it regularly, please go see a professional; it could be that you're just an over-worrier like myself, but really, let a professional decide that for you. Don't let it swirl around and make you feel worse and maybe cause you to be worse. (Take it from someone who's been there. This isn't a textbook talking. This is the case study).
Some of your thoughts are rational; you remember a fight with a sibling, it makes you upset, you want to enjoy your latte in the moment, so you try and move on. Drown it out with music, call a friend, watch something funny online.
Some of your thoughts are less rational. These, depending, can be known as intrusive thoughts, which I was unwilling to buy into for a while and still worry about sometimes, but as I talk and read more I realize I'm not alone in these intrusive thoughts. (Again -- see a professional. He/she can ease your mind and really separate the rational from the irrational, the real from the fake, what needs to be worried about and what may pass when your youthful stress passes, or -- more likely -- matures and strengthens you).
And these are some of the things -- if I were to bet -- that keep a lot of us from turning the stereo off, keep us adding hobbies instead of curbing them, keep us going instead of slowing.
So I guess, since this is a long post, as a lot of my posts are, I'll get to a "takeaway" here, and that would be to try and be quiet.
I know you've read it in Woman's Day, or heard it at church, or seen it preached in a TED Talk, but again, this is the case study talking, not the text book. So maybe give it a try, based on my advice in addition to theirs (I hope that didn't sound arrogant).
I told a friend of mine about this new found gift of mine, and this friend is just like me, and he said in response to the idea of silence: "That scares the hell out of me."
I want him to know the silence.
When I got out here on my patio tonight, I had country music playing, and the rare cloud cover of LA was reflecting off the office building windows at dusk. Now it's back to its usual view, dark outside with certain windows lit up across the street. I used to search for a very specific light blinking on a desktop hard drive in one of the offices on an upper floor of the building.
Nowadays I tend to lean back -- rule #1 of the patio, posture is not judged -- and breathe. My breathing slows automatically. If I'm a little more keyed up, it takes a little while. Sometimes I close my eyes. Other times I let my eyes focus on the window lights, then fuzz out to the darker portions of the air in front of me.
There's really no agenda. It's just to sit.
When I feel myself getting extra squirrely, or even if I'm "fine," I tell myself to go outside to sit in the dark. Because I know I need it. And sometimes I get giddy thinking about it.
Which might sound creepy to you, because telling yourself to go sit in the dark might sound like a very sadistic version of "time out."
But it's great. Sometimes I come inside after being on the patio with this whoooooooooosh feeling of wobbly calm, like getting out of the pool as a kid after you'd been splashing and cannonballing with all your little strength and your body just wept with gratified release.
Other times I come inside and still feel uptight, but less so than when I first went to the patio. And that's better than stewing in the uptightness.
I mentioned earlier that my thoughts slow down so much faster when smothered in silence than when blocked with noise and image.
It's so true, and I never would have believed it had I not experienced it.
It's like physics in a fun house mirror -- totally makes no sense when aligned with the textbook of acceleration and the equation for velocity and all these things you have experienced to be true. But once you experience it, you see it from the view of the case study instead of the text book.
This backwards physics that doesn't match textbook physics is a lot how I experience my relationship with God, and faith, and the Bible, too, by the way. I'll be reading some passage in Isaiah that, honestly, kind of makes zero sense to me, but I weep. And in not making sense, it makes sense. And this is not the result of recreational drug use, either. Which is probably why I keep coming back for more, schlepping through my crankiness on Sunday mornings at crowded church, feeling the bad moments of doubt and fear and wondering why life can feel so cruel yet not concluding with a walk away from Him.
And it's another reason why I come to the patio. Because while mostly I feel the breathing and the quiet and the soft silence, I also sometimes find myself maybe talking (I say "maybe" because I'm not always sure that's what I'm doing, exactly), or even listening?, to Him.