Last night after I finished working out, I was walking to my car, and it was "warm" enough that I wasn't walking with my head ducked down as quickly as I could. I found myself looking up at the sky and seeing the stars for the first time, in what feels like months. And I stopped and at the risk of looking silly I stared for several minutes. Doing that tugged on my heart strings and brought back so many memories...memories that I found myself thinking about on and off the past 24 hours and wondering what happened to the way I was?
In high school and college to some extent, I was really good at "taking care of myself". Probably because my household was so crazy and stressful that it was either that or take up some sort of addiction or socially unacceptable behavior. So, being the introvert that I was and am and always have been, I burrowed into myself and came up with ingenious, and purely coincidental, coping techniques that were really self-care in disguise. I used to get up early...much earlier than anyone in my family...in fact when I would leave the house to go to school, chances were no one else was even awake yet. But I used to get up early, when the house was still quiet and dark and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. I would put on a pot of coffee, turn up the heater, and take my shower. Afterwards, cuddled in warm blankets, sitting by a heating vent (my parents kept the house cold) and sipping my coffee, I would read my Bible-no pun intended-religiously. This is the only time in my Christian life of 14 years I have been able to do this on a regular basis. I remember getting so much out of it, and loving my morning routine so much.
When it was warm out, I used to go for walks. And I mean loong walks. Walks that would last an hour. And I would sort things out in my head, or pray or just take in everything that was going on around me in nature. Sometimes I would ride my bike instead. It wasn't unusual at all to ride my bike for 2 hours at a time. Not at all for exercise, because especially in high schools I was naturally thin, but as a way to get out of my house, to escape the confining, consuming craziness that lay inside. I loved those times, not just because they physically took me somewhere else, but because I was able to almost do it meditatively. I never listened to music or the radio, just noise around me and my thoughts. I can't tell you the last time I sat in complete quiet for any length of time...
The last memory that I thought of was when I used to have to take care of the cat litter. How in the world was this self-care? Well because we used to have to do it every night to keep the smell from taking over the house. And to further insure that it wouldn't take over, we had to take the cat litter to the garbage can outside. And the only way to get to the garbage can was to actually walk outside. Again, whenever it was warm enough, I would stare up at the stars. Maybe this is something every teenager does, looking up, realizing how small she is and wondering what else is out there. But I used to stare up at those stars for long minutes at a time. I used to look up at them and remember and realize how big my God was and is. I was reassured that there was a God when I saw those stars and I felt so close to Him. Even when it was bitter cold, I always took at least several seconds to lose myself in the vastness.
Now I'm not in that house anymore. I don't live with my parents. I am in the healthiest and happiest place emotionally and even physically that I have ever been in. I am so content with my life. I am happy most of the time. I love my children, I love my husband, I love my church and my spirituality, I love my hobbies...I am so incredibly fulfilled and yet, last night looking at the stars, it brought me back to that time, more than 10 years ago, where I was so introspective. That sort of thing has been lost for a long time now. I am constantly filling my head with noise: the TV on, Internet, facebook, email, my children, to-do lists, crying baby, vacuum, books on tape, the car radio...I almost never have times of silence. I find it nearly impossible to get any time to think to myself-journaling (which incidentally I used to do several times a week as a teenager) hasn't happened in months-last year I think I journaled exactly twice and that was to write about finding out I was pregnant with Jamie. I, much to my extreme dismay, do not read my Bible, I do not pray except for a 5 second prayer when I think about it or am desperate enough. When I go for walks or runs, headphones and MP3 players are constantly on. Silence just doesn't happen for me. Contemplation doesn't happen for me. And since last night, I have had a longing for it that I can't explain. Perhaps I will be able to find some times of silence soon. I hope so. I love who I have become but I miss the way I was.