In my 10th grade English class, there hung a poster that said you could always go to that still place inside yourself. Something like that, anyway; 10th grade was a very long time ago.
One thing I’ve learned since those days is that sometimes it’s harder to find that still place than it is other times. The days when that stillness radiates out into my actions and words, those days when I am assured of who I am and what I am meant to be doing, those are the best days. (Incidentally, they’re also my best writing days.) But there are the other days, the days when my thoughts are so crowded with plans to be made and inquiries to respond to that I forget that there is even a still space to which I can go. Those are also the days, ironically, that I feel my voice go quietest. No, not my physical voice: it’s the voice I think we all hear–or is it just me?–narrating our inner lives.
In any case, I’ve had a lot of these later types of days lately: the chatter in my head about things to do has concealed the fact that the stillness, the purpose I crave have been absent. This might seem strange, given our current life in sunny Queensland, but the truth that’s been dawning on me the past couple of months is that mindset matters. When I can stay focused on what’s most important in life–how I dislike that cliche–and what I most need to prioritize, viola! I’m at peace, and my days are more fruitful. But, let my mind or my hands get distracted, as they too easily do? That inner voice goes silent, and at the end of the day, I feel like a hamster that’s spun a wheel all day but not actually gotten anywhere.
And the thing is, it matters less than I would have guessed what the external circumstances are. There are many things that compete for our attention/effort/time as adults living in 2015. We can be anywhere on the spectrum between juggling multiple responsibilities/roles and living with high stress and a high-speed daily pace, to having the good fortune and time to pursue interests that are not, strictly speaking, necessary. In the past year, I’ve been at multiple points along this spectrum. I feel myself pulled in different directions no matter how “stressed” or “busy” I am or am not. The substance of the distractions may be different, but their effect is the same: loss of focus. Now, whether it’s cosmic forces that conspire to crowd our minds, or whether our tendency to even allow these distracters into our minds is a failing of humankind, I’ll let you decide.
We are now just past the midpoint of our soujourn in Australia. The other day, we were driving past a place in town when Emile and I started reminiscing about something that had happened the first time we were there: it had been in perhaps our first month in Hervey Bay. I think about what has changed since then and can only wonder what this second half of our stay will bring. This is a time of being settled, I’m finding. Our community here no longer treat us like the newcomers to be welcomed with an effortful hospitality, but rather as friends. Likewise, we don’t feel the need to crowd every free moment with tourist-like photo opportunities. Just every other moment.
This midpoint, as all the stages thus far have been, is a priceless stage, filled with its own unique gifts and enlightenment. We can look back at what has happened and changed over the past months, but we don’t yet have to make decisions about what is to come after this time is over. So I can only hope that, while we are here and I can put some dedicated effort into such things, practicing increased focus can be one of them. The idealistic 10th grader in me is counting on it.