In 2016 I launched my podcast, Positive Productivity, now The Work Smarter, Not Harder Podcast with Kim Sutton. In my first round of guest interviews, I spoke with someone who practiced meditation and mindfulness on a daily basis.
I didn’t get it.
Silence, whether in my home or in my brain was a mystical phenomenon and I couldn’t comprehend how anybody could actually experience it. Navigating silence, to me, must have been reserved for people who had a thinking on/off switch hidden behind their ear, and I failed to receive that upgrade during the creation process.
In 2008, I told somebody that my brain felt like the New York City Subway System with trains of thought running in a gazillion directions and no way to make the trains stop. I later found out that person believed I should probably visit a psychologist and psychiatrist to make sure I wasn’t crazy. That felt awesome…
Anyway… On the recommendation of my podcast guest, I tried meditation.
To be blunt, my first attempts at meditation pissed me off. I sat at my desk with my hands in my lap and my feet on the floor exactly as the instructor told me to position myself. As I breathed in and out, my thoughts took over. I later learned I was meditating from my head rather than my heart.
“Kim!” My head shouted. “Pay attention to me! Don’t you know you have 10,001+ tasks you should be working on? You’re a damn fool to take time to try this nonsense. Get back to work and stop being ridiculous.”
Okay, it may not have been exactly those words, but the sentiment was similar. I didn’t have any reservations about shaming myself on my quest of navigating silence.
Four months ago I asked a friend if they had any resources for dealing with anxiety. Although my divorce was final and I had moved on, events had transpired which led me into a pit of shitty thinking. While my doctor had prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication, I found it made me more anxious because it made me extremely tired and nearly impossible to work. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the medication which was supposed to support my journey navigating silence made it even harder to do so?
My friend recommended mindfulness and books by Thich Nhat Hanh. In the months which have passed, I have worked my way through a few of Hanh’s books, as well as others focusing on the topics of overthinking, mindfulness and Taoism. While Hanh’s Silence and Benjamin Hoff’sThe Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet have been immensely helpful, navigating silence continues to be a cumbersome journey.
NOTE: I am not converting from Christianity, however I am in a spiritual battle as well as in a period of discovering myself as I have never before, and I seek… No, I NEED… To find peace.
As I work to heal from trauma from my past, I realize I must find a way to think safe thoughts based on the present moment rather than be bombarded by thoughts biased by hurts of the past. At the same time, I find myself struggling to enjoy the present moment while teetering on a beam of cautiousness.
I have found that exhaustion, both emotional and physical, amplifies my fears, insecurities and loneliness. Silence is, at times, impossible to find late in the day. And, yes, I admit it… Even with five kids in the house I get lonely.
For 44 years my happiness was based on validation from external sources. Now, in working to find happiness within and focus on the here and now, I am challenged. While perilously navigating silence, I am challenged to NOT pick up my phone to message others whenever I think something, an act which I realize seeks to replenish my supply of dopamine (compliments and attention) and oxytocin (intimacy and bonding). I have discovered that I have become, without any doubt, codependent.
I would have to imagine that my introduction at a meeting of Codependents Anonymous would go something like this… “Hello, my name is Kim. I am 521 days sober but struggle to free myself from an addiction to dopamine and oxytocin. I seek to release myself from my personal need and desire for external validation.”
I find myself gamifying silence for and with myself as well as where others are concerned, but, in full honesty, the gamification of navigating silence sometimes feels like self-imposed torture.
When I think of somebody or have an idea for them, I have the immediate urge to reach out and let them know. I feel as though NOT letting them know is dishonoring my nature as a carer and nurturer, and is also a disservice to my desire to serve and support. At the same, however, I have come to recognize the hurt I feel when I reach out and receive no response or one which indicates the person is too busy to talk to me. Unfortunately, this hurt infiltrates my thoughts with messages like, “Why send that? They don’t want to hear from you. If they did, they would contact you. You’re pitiful. But, send your stupid message. Appear desperate. Keep chasing. That’s the only way you will get attention anyway.”
So, I don’t send the message because I don’t want to be hurt by no response.
Or, I send the message and pray my thoughts will be wrong.
I want to feel comfortable sending a message while releasing the outcome.
I want to not care whether or not I receive a response because I will know I honored myself in the process.
I’m not there yet, though, so I find temporary relief in the library of messages I’ve created by not sending them. Yes, it’s a thing. Rather than send the message, I cut it from messages and paste it into Notes. Navigating silence, for me, apparently involves tricking my head into thinking I send messages. Sigh. I don’t think genuine silence is supposed to involve trickery.
I will continue working on myself until I find my way to a peaceful silence, one which is confident in being here, now, and one which never, ever, doubts whether I am worthy or enough.
I will keep breathing, in and out, allowing the fresh air I inhale to release the toxicity of stinking thinking.
I will find activities, preferably NOT work, to keep my mind occupied.
And I will continue to fill journal pages with my thoughts in effort to release them.
In the meantime, I have an excruciating fear of being…
- used or manipulated
- lied to
These fears aren’t limited to romantic interests but sadly expand to EVERYBODY in my life. I don’t need more than one finger to count how many people I feel absolutely safe with, and unless you’re her, I fear being hurt by everyone else. Yes, EVERYONE.
I cry as I write this, but to my friends and family, thank you for your continued support. My recent journey has been anything but easy, and even with all I’ve shared, I continue to deal with trauma from details not shared. Navigating silence means I also need to figure out what to open up about, with whom, and when.
I pray you know that my increased silence does not mean that I don’t care for or about you, and that you understand I can’t continue to seek validation from you. I must find validation within ME.
And I must find a way to relate with you in a way in which I don’t constantly fear being hurt.
This fear of being hurt is what prevents my silence, and I look forward to the day when that fear is gone. But until then, I must continue my search for silence as well as my healing journey so that I never hit rock bottom again.
To wrap this up, I want to share an excerpt of an interview I was listening to between Matthew Hussey and Justin Baldoni. When I heard it, I immediately resonated. I am very aware that much of my struggle for silence comes from my deep, intense fear, of having my heart played with again.
⬇️ WATCH A BIT OF THE INTERVIEW, BUT READ THE PART I RESONATED WITH BELOW (IT’S NOT IN VIDEO) ⬇️
⬇️ INTERVIEW EXCERPT ⬇️
“So we’re combining technology and all these things and at the end of the day you’re playing games with hearts.
What we’re truly trying to find is our partner, a soul mate; a friend; and you have all of this shit just in the way.
There’s also, I believe, hope.
It would be easy to throw in the towel and ask yourselves, “How am I going to find anybody in this swamp of superficiality?” And the hope is that even I believe that even the feminist fuckboys, even these men who are abusing their power – the ways that their look, their personalities, vulnerability – are good.
I think we are good.
And sure, it may be naive or optimistic but we’re all products of our environment, of our families. Nobody has not had any trauma. And we’re all just trying to find ourselves.
It’s the core of addiction.
We just want to connect.
We just want to be connected to another soul.
That’s what we have built the world around.
All technology is doing is getting in the way of connection.
You think it’s making you more connected.
We’re more connected than we’ve ever been, literally. Yet at the same time, depression is higher than it’s ever been. Isolation is higher than it’s ever been. Loneliness is higher than it’s ever been.
Because we’re not actually connecting in the way that we need to.“
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