Tuesday’s chill pill: the power of silence

Yesterday I had the opportunity to drive the 2.5 hours between my home in suburban New York and Philadelphia. All alone. Twice.

It’s amazing what a gift a bit of protracted silence can be.

I drove without turning on the radio. I just zoned a bit and let my thoughts drift by.

For three-quarters of the first leg, my mind raced. It turned over and over and over…re-counting, numbering, sizing-up the myriad things on my to-do list. I said hello to the familiar tightness in my chest and acknowledged the numbness in my right shoulder – the direct result of a tension knot. My mind seemed to zero in on my apparent lack of time.

How am I going to get it all done? I don’t have enough time. How am I going to get it all done? I don’t have enough time. How am I going to get it all done? I don’t have enough time.

It was like a mantra.

Wait a minute… My conscious brain kicked in.

“It’s like a mantra,” I said to myself. “I’m constantly repeating all day, every day – without even realizing it – that I don’t have enough time. My entire subconscious mind is focused on not. having. enough. time.

Lightbulb.

The last quarter of the first leg I ruminated on that insight.

On the first half of the drive back home I asked myself if my “mantra” was true. Or useful. I came up short on both accounts. I do have enough time to do what truly matters. Now, I don’t always choose to do what truly matters, but that is another issue entirely. The truth is, I have all the time I have. No amount of wishing is going to magically make more hours appear in the day. And focusing constantly on some apparent shortage of time was simply making my world feel smaller, darker, more tense.

I ruminated on how, if I continued to focus on that falsehood, I, and the people I love most, would be cheated. Of unmeasurable amounts of joy, big dreams, and so much everyday beauty. Because that’s what stress steals from you. Instead of throwing the door open with arms wide and a big “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” at the end of the day, this ball of stress races immediately to the kitchen, anxious to cross the next chore off her list. I wondered how many hundreds of opportunities at joy I casually tossed aside last year…

My stomach grew queasy at the thought. Too depressing. Nothing I can do to get those back. Third quarter of the drive home wasted ruminating on the loss.

On the final quarter of the leg home, I changed my tack. No more mourning what could have been.

Time to focus on change. How could I pick up a new mantra, or at least scratch the current record looping in my head beyond recognition?

Crickets.

Seriously! No blinding flash of insight answering my prayers…

But by the time I got home, I felt the wispy fingers of gratitude tugging at my heart. I ran up the walk, threw open the door, opened my arms wide and squealed, “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” as my two little guys knocked me over with their hugs.

As I shut my computer at the end of the evening, I vowed to continue my search for the answer. I know it’s out there waiting for me. All I need to find it is more silence.

Do you have a less-than-helpful mantra you repeat to yourself all day, every day? If so, what is it? Were you able to swap it out for a more useful one? I’d love to hear about it.

{Feature Photo Credit}