Digging into the quiet, into the rumble
So. I’ve been trying to write this blog. I have five false starts of about 500 words and two whining journal entries. It’s not writer’s block. It’s just not working. After several days of pondering the profound, noodling nonsense and considering my confoundment, I have come to the realization that I was struggling because I expected something else. Something else entirely.
And it was a Facebook post from Pema Chodron that brought it home for me.
Don’t you hate it when Facebook is where you find wisdom, not just cute sloth videos?
If you’ve followed any of my last few blogs, you know I’ve been focused on digging deep in my journey. And last year, twists in my path included a lot of loss and pain. My landscape changed significantly both internally and externally (yes, I moved… twice now). And for a while, I was really deep in the muck of it – emotions fighting with logic, anger battling compassion, fear pushing hard against trust. I’ve been crispy. I’ve been impatient. I’ve been grieving.
I ground through difficult moments with my friends. With my family. I pushed through my daily life, just trying to keep “it” together for my son. My mind swamped with random thoughts, conversations both real and imagined. My emotions on a ragged edge, never sure when the next burst of tears or rage might come. My spirit just… flagging. Tired. Beaten. Not wanting to participate. Through all this, I reminded myself that I’m in a process, that I will get through this, and that I am, in fact, in control. Sort of.
Slowly, I started feeling a little lighter. Like I could breathe again. Like maybe, just maybe, I was starting to make sense of my world.
And I realized, what’s been hard to write out, to blog about, is that THAT wasn’t the real work. I expected that it was, that it was the worst of it. But the emotional fallout of the past several months was just the prologue.
THE PROLOGUE. (Insert eyeroll emoji here).
The real work happens in the quiet, after the emotions settle a bit. In the moments when you have some clarity of thought back. When not every breath is a conscious effort. When you can spend more than fifteen minutes focused on something other than your mass of tangled emotions and disjointed inner dialogue.
Just when you feel like you’re getting “normal” back, the rumble really begins.
If you’ve read Brene Brown’s Rising Strong (her best book, please read it), you’re familiar with the concept of the “rumble”. If you haven’t read it, know this: along with being a great storyteller and researcher, Brene Brown digs into the concept that to truly deal with strong emotions and difficult situations, in order to process them, you have to “rumble” with what can be some difficult truths. You have to face not just what happened, but why it happened. And not just why it happened from your perspective, but also, what was the role and perspective of the other players. What was really going on and why did you react the way that you did? And then, what are you going to do about it?
In the rumble, we hold ourselves accountable. We have to be honest. With ourselves.
In the midst of high emotions and volatile situations, this is hard to do. Our energy is caught up in surviving the swirl around us. We fall back into our stress patterns. Some of us become victims, cowering under a blanket wondering why the world is out to get us. Some of us become bullies, pushing through no matter what the collateral damage, determined to get through this mess that other people foisted upon us. Some of us put all our energy into keeping the peace – minimizing the swirl as quickly as possible at any cost. In these moments, you can’t consider the situation. You’re too busy reacting. And trying to control the impact on you.
But when the quiet comes, when it’s just you and a little space in your head, you and a small bit of openness in your chest that allows you to breathe, when it’s you and a sudden moment of peace… that’s when the real rumble begins.
The rumble is quiet. But make no mistake: the quiet is powerful. It’s intense. If you’re truly engaged in the rumble, it can even be silently earth-shattering.
Because when you have finally purged the outer layer of emotions, the reactivity, and when you’ve finally processed the actual events, you end up in a place where you can hear again. You are no longer just externally expressing your sadness or anger or confusion. You aren’t giving in so often to waves of emotion and you aren’t so easily triggered into anger or depression. When you listen in the quiet, you can finally hear your voice.
That’s your soul talking to you.
Some of us get to the quiet and it frightens us. So, we put in our headphones with Kendrick Lamar or Lady Gaga, we binge watch Game of Thrones, we play level 1021 of Candy Crush. Some of us fill our lives loudly with friends and parties and endless social engagements. We make no room for the quiet and what we might find there.
Because if you’re quiet, the rumble won’t leave you alone. Your soul knows what it has to say to you, and while it’s compassionate, it’s also merciless. It holds all your guilt and fear. It holds all your mistakes. It holds you accountable.
And if you let it, your soul also holds endless compassion and kindness.
Your soul reminds you, gently but insistently, of who you are. It reminds you of what you offer to the world. It reminds you that your life is of your own making, your values are of your own choosing, and rather than beat yourself up because it doesn’t match what you think it should – what, let’s be honest, friends, family or society believe it should – you should love and accept what is true to you.
When you are in the rumble, your soul is on your side, though it may not feel like it. Your soul doesn’t care whose fault it is that you were in that mess or experienced that sadness. Your soul is only concerned about you. It points out where you betrayed yourself and in doing that, inadvertently betrayed others. It shows you what it takes to come back into alignment – to be who you are, who you want to be.
This time in the quiet place is consuming. For a while, the outside world is hazy even though you’re moving through it. You may feel disconnected from your friends. You will feel very much in your head. But you will start to connect with what’s in your heart. And when that happens, the haze will clear a little, you will look around, and see the brightness that has be waiting for you.
It doesn’t mean you won’t still experience the emotions of whatever sent you into the quiet in the first place, but it does mean that you’re feeling them with a new perspective.
If you choose to engage in the rumble, be ready. It’s hard. It’s brave. It’s distracting and sometimes feels dis-empowering. And it takes time. It isn’t a sudden flash of enlightenment. But it is this gorgeous moment when you are getting to know yourself. You’re taking care of yourself. You are learning to accept yourself, in all your impatience or perfectionism or meekness or aggressiveness or gullibility or greed or codependency or fear… whatever attribute you believe limits you.
It doesn’t. But it takes time in the quiet to rumble with that and accept it. And when you can accept yourself, it is so much easier to share that compassion with the world around you and accept others for who they are, too. Whether they’ve rumbled or not.
And know this… once you open yourself to the quiet, there is no going back. We don’t rumble one time and life is then beautifully sensical and calm. Life is life. And there will be future challenges that create emotional chaos, that push us to our mental and emotional limits. But having been through the quiet once, having braved the rumble with our soul, we are ready to go at it again.
And maybe the next time around, with a little more grace.