silence … and nothing like it

The last time I posted I was (somewhat nervously) preparing to go on my first silent retreat. And I know you are all on the edge of your seats wanting to find out how it went. “Did she manage it? The no-talking bit?”

Yes, I most certainly did. Relished it in fact. I loved the lack of noise directed at me. I loved the fact that I was in charge of my own agenda for a weekend. I loved the time to eat, pray and sleep (yes in that order!). I even loved the harsh beauty of the Australian countryside in November (though not the flies!)

It was a time of great refreshing, a time of renewal and rest. And then I came home.

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Now I reckon the peace, the serenity, the sense of complete inner calm lasted about 24 hours, before I got cranky at one of the girls. 24 hours and I was so disappointed with myself, but the fact is life was going to get harder.

Mr left on a work trip the next day and has only just returned this morning. In that time I have had two sick children, taking turns (thankfully), high fevers, very interrupted sleep, no alone time for mummy. And to top it off, a little girl who may or may not have swallowed a glass bead (turns out not – thank God for X-Rays!)

And my question through all of this has been, “how do you keep it? The silence, the peace, the serenity”. Granted I had lost it on a trivial matter before these more trying circumstances. But how do you keep an emotional even keel, when you are being swamped from all sides?

I don’t know that I have the answers, but I do know that I have managed a very hard time surprisingly well. I think the time of rest preceding did actually give me some emotional reserves. I had the presence of mind to ask for and accept help. I had the presence of mind to text prayer points on really hard days. I let the kids watch a lot more TV than usual. I cooked what I knew they would eat (nuggets anyone?) rather than a nutritious meal that would cause arguments. One day I even got in the car and drove to Rockingham because we all just needed to be out of the house.

I have a phrase I think about often in parenting “surviving or thriving?”. And it is true that some days are pure survival, head down bum up get to the end of the day and then collapse in a heap. But a friend of mine texted me that question in the middle of this time and for the first time in a longtime I was able to tell her I was “thriving”. I have a feeling if I hadn’t taken that time away, it may have been a very different answer.

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