I was quite wrong last night. I thought that I’d find it difficult to keep myself busy, but instead I haven’t really stopped. But, when I do, I hear the silence, and through it myself.
I’ve always been afraid of silence. That’s when my thoughts start up, often negative, the constant fight to make me afraid or bring me down. It can seem impossible to calm myself down in those moments. Yet somehow, in the past 24 hours, in the peace, quiet and overall friendliness of where I am, I seem to have somewhat succeeded.
Firstly, last night, I decided I’d go down to the reading room to read. Well, that didn’t happen. Some of the other guests were there, drinking beer. I then decided to give up my reading venture and join them. Drinking the local beer, whilst talking about nothing in particular, it hasn’t felt that good for a long time. I was relaxed, relaxed enough to sing along with the small, impromptu group from a random book of folk songs found on the shelf.
And this morning, I somehow managed to get up on time. Just. I slept fitfully and when I heard the bells ringing at quarter past six this morning, I was still dreaming and I wasn’t sure if they were real or not. I had a moment of not being sure if I was awake or asleep, then when I did wake up, I was even less sure! But I got up, got into the church, and was just fumbling around getting my book ready as the brothers walked in.
This afternoon I went for a long walk around the local area and had to go and buy myself a new hairbrush, as I’d left my old one at home. It’s past it, anyway, so it’s a good excuse, really. I ended up walking around for two hours, and I ache far more than I should simply because I don’t do it often enough anymore, but I also feel better for it.
So, with walking, taking part in the daily singing prayers, semi-socialising with the other guests, I haven’t had that much time to actually just sit on my own and think. Yet, in those moments when I do, some surprising things come out of the silence.
It is an uneasy sort of peace at the moment. I still feel pain, in my heart and in my stomach, and I know that there are some big decisions ahead. But sitting alone, just listening to myself instead of fighting myself, has certainly brought some light to what decisions I need to make.
It has been surprising, also, how much sitting in on the services has helped, even though I am an unbeliever. It’s not just the routine, the ceremony, but the reflection. Even this evening, at my second evening prayers, I felt nervous, small, humble. I was able to follow the order of the songs with more confidence, yet I still felt intimidated by this great presence, the working abbey and the combined power of its believers. To hear, feel and see that, you can understand in a way why people would give up a complicated life for the simple one of service.
And, in that, I have come to where I am. I can only progress further if I give in, if I give over to the thoughts, the pains, the promises, give over to instead of fighting myself all the time.
The path I am on right now started some time ago now, but started properly a year ago. It is not necessarily taking me where I want to go, but it is taking me where I need to be. Being here at the abbey was an important next step. I just hope I can remember the lessons I’ve learnt once I’ve returned home.