“True inward quietness…is not vacancy, but stability—the steadfastness of a single purpose.”
Last night I felt drawn to go back and read some journals from years past. I happened to pull out the one from my first semester in graduate school, the fall I met my husband, Brian. In reading some of my entries, I was struck by something: what I sensed in him and between us then is what I still sense today. And I needed the reminder.
“Sept. 29: Brian came over and we made dinner. Oh how it seems to just flow between us…He has a beautiful, kind presence… I find myself thinking of him as I meditate and pray, feeling a soft smile emerging from a deep space within me. I pray that God will direct my head and heart to what’s really at my core. Whatever God is up to – let God be up to it.”
“Oct 1: I have fallen for Brian. ‘Ahhhh!’ is all I can say. My heart is exhaling. There is a gentleness about him, a profound peacefulness…how can I be taken by someone from such a deep, soothing, peaceful place in me…Tonight he laid his head down on my lap and I just sat there petting his head. We sat like that in silence for an hour, our hands softly touching. No words…just ‘being.’ This is true grace. I am at peace, wrapped in peace, melting into Brian.”
I knew at the end of that first semester that we would be in each other’s lives. I saw within Brian a profound peace, a gentle and powerful stillness that made every cell in me exhale.
A decade later, life looks completely different than it did that first semester. A new town, tough pregnancies, two kiddos who are our greatest teachers, loneliness, sleepless nights, a mortgage, forgetting it’s recycling day, budgeting, births, deaths, and everything in between.
As I sat there reading these entries, I was struck by how, over the last few years, I have often been frustrated with Brian’s quietness. I’m not talking about the typical “wife wants to talk, husband is talked out” kind of frustration. For an introvert, Brian is actually really awesome about engaging me in conversation.
But rather this: I can get so frustrated thinking that Brian is not “in it with me” because he doesn’t “match” my inner emotional state – when I am stressed about getting out the door in the morning, worried about registering for preschool, packing for a family trip, or figuring out the grocery list.
Sometimes I have pulled back over the years, mistakenly thinking that I am “in it alone” when Brian is calm and quiet. And when we feel alone many of us protect ourselves, often retreating inward, withholding, cowering back, blaming, lashing out. And if you are anything like me, we push away the very thing we need.
But what I am coming to know and heal – through a lot of meditation! – is that my frustration and anger have nothing to do with Brian’s quiet. Just as Eckhart Tolle says, “You are never angry for the reason you think you are,” I am angry because I am filled with fear. Feeding that fear are old hurts, old patterns being relived, hijacking me while I stand in our kitchen, holding C., getting A. ready for school, searching for my keys, and talking harshly to Brian. It is the fear that “I am alone in this.” As I let that fear hijack me, it grows, I push Brian away, and I feel even more alone.
But the times when I acknowledge that I am starting to feel alone, breathe with it, and choose to connect to Brian, I receive the very thing I need: to be alongside a kind, stable, steadfast soul drawing me into a vast landscape of peace and tender love. Brian’s quietness is that peaceful landscape that holds and heals my fear of “being in it all alone.” In ways I never imagined that first New England fall when I fell in love with Brain, his quiet, gentle presence is actually my healing balm, a soothing salve that nourishes and strengthens me.
I once asked Brian when we first started dating what he believed his purpose was on this earth. He said, “To love.” I have written about how I have three (not one!) words for this year: soften, strengthen, and forgive. When I choose to turn toward those sweet blue eyes, Brian’s peaceful presence softens my worries, strengthens my light, and draws me into a sense of “home” within my own soul. THAT is Love. And I am grateful that Love forgives and embraces again and again.
Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet love.