I apologize for my sporadic behavior towards writing this blog. When I first decided to write on a supposedly regular basis, I promised myself not to write about the trivial. I don’t have dogs or cats or fish, so I can’t muse about what they’re doing or thinking. That makes me uncompetitive in the blogging world, but I had hoped rather to write about things significant to the readers of my website: thinking, writing, editing, and publishing, as well as the craft, practice, process, roles and relationships, incidents along the way, and the emotions involved.
Now, at the end of this year, I’m thinking about something that I want to write about and it doesn’t have much to do with writing. However, it is not only significant but critical to the process that is me, so that makes it relevant.
In May of this year, I became sick (acute necrotic pancreatitis). Seriously sick. Serious enough that the emergency room doctor put me into critical care overnight to see if I’d live or die. When they found me still alive the next morning, I was sent to a different hospital for treatment. Not counting December, it’s taken seven months to recuperate and heal. I am about back to where I was, minus a gall bladder and about thirty pounds.
Around the first of June, when I got back home, I couldn’t lay flat or on my side because of the damage to my abdominal organs and tissues, so the best I could do was lay in my recliner for 24 hours a day. I couldn’t read or watch TV for various reasons having to do with concentration and focus and a heightened resentment of commercials, so I either lay still in silence or would occasionally listen to music.
I learned to be still. Yeah, okay, it’s not like I could do anything else, but it’s a mental struggle to do it without guilt or regret or sadness. I had my moments of despair, but, on a repeatable basis, I learned to do nothing but lay in my recliner and be accepting of it. Without sleeping. I listened to myself breathe while I tolerated pain that would not go away. I had narcotics but was off everything by early July.
Jump to the end of the story. I’m now fine. I did have my gall bladder removed in August, with some complications, and I had pain meds and sleeping aids along the way, and now I’m fine. I began sleeping somewhat in a bed in August, walking in September, and was driving somewhat and gaining weight in October. I was pretty much normal by November, though still physically slow and I couldn’t pick up things of much weight. On November 27th, my doctor declared me recovered; my next appointment isn’t until May.
Learning to be still has stuck with me. I can and still do it on a regular basis. I learned that when I am lying still in a recliner, in a house that is empty except for me, and in which there are no activities and little outside noise, I hear a rushing sound. You know when you’re in an empty house and you can hear a faucet that’s been left on upstairs, or a water leak in the basement, or you hear a fluttering from a bird on the outside of the house, or even the scratching of a mouse somewhere in a wall around you? You hear a sound when you’re not sure you’re hearing anything, when all things are supposed to be quiet?
I hear a quiet rushing sound and I’ve decided that it’s the overflowing of joy. For me, maybe not for you. Try almost dying sometime and then see what you hear when you think there’s nothing to hear. I hear the overflowing of joy because I got to live and that sound is my reward for learning to be still and accepting God’s grace when I cannot possibly have done anything to warrant it.
I’ve talked with others about learning to be still and the response is usually “Oh, I can’t do that. I have to be up and moving. I’d die if I couldn’t do anything but lay there.” We are apprehensive that we mortals are expected to be productive and that we won’t be able to stand the guilt if we are not always doing something, as if our products are our worthiness. Instructors who teach meditation probably have the same problem with convincing people that it’s okay to be still and “do” nothing. My being still is probably meditation, in a way, but without the conscious effort to direct my brain. Either way, it’s significant.
Being alive is a considerable accomplishment; it’s a gift we shouldn’t downplay. We should always have moments of stillness in which we hear the rushing sound of joy overflowing. If we also have products, then those are but icing on the cake.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.