In last week’s post I talked about the idea of using a single word as a guide or focus for your life during the course of the year, a practice I’ve done since 2014.
The words I’ve received aren’t exotic, complicated Scripps National Spelling Bee words I cannot pronounce, define, or spell. They are common, everyday words. But every year, even though I *think* I know exactly what my word means, when I look up its definitions and usage, when I spend time with it, I find nuances and shades of meaning I hadn’t considered before. Like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, about whom Inigo Montoya observed, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” I always find there is way more to my word than what I *thought* I knew.
My word for this year, “quiet”, is no different.
“Quiet” is the word we often choose to indicate the absence of sound, and that was the first thing I thought of. Silence. Silent. Stillness. Still. Hushed. Noiseless. Soundless.
But when I started exploring the ways it is defined and used and read through the list of synonyms, I noticed that “quiet” does not always or automatically mean “silent” or “silence”.
It can mean peaceful. Tranquil. Calm. Undisturbed. Untroubled. Restful.
It can also refer to that which is private. Confidential. Unofficial. “Discreetly, secretly, or with moderation”, or it can mean restrained, as in “unobtrusive, not bright or showy.”
I’ve heard thunder described as a “quiet rumbling.”
There are quiet breezes; quiet waters. Quiet music. Quiet voices.
In I Kings 19 the Holy One speaks to Elijah not in the howling wind that shattered the rocks, not in the earthquake that followed, not in the fire that ensued, but in a “still, small voice;” a “gentle whisper.”
When I got a sense of the width and depth and breadth of that one small word and how narrowly I categorize and use it, it made me wonder: how many other things do I *think* I know, but don’t, really (or don’t fully comprehend)? To take that question even further, what might I have missed because I *thought* I knew the story, the answer, the situation, the whatever and didn’t bother to look any further or consider another point of view?
The act of taking a closer look at that everyday, unassuming word “quiet” (which I *thought* I already knew the meaning of) turned into a powerful reminder of how important it is to live with intention. To pay attention to what is happening both within and around me. To be mindful of who and what is there and how I feel about it. To be present and engaged, not paying lip-service and mailing it in. To seek the Holy in every circumstance.
Maybe that’s the most important piece of the Star Word practice – at least for me, at least for now: the fact that it prompts me to stop and notice–even those small things I *thought* I already knew.
I needed the reminder. I don’t always stop and notice. At times (especially after Bill’s death) I’ve worked really hard at not noticing. I’ve actively avoided; put on emotional blinders. Ignored. Dismissed. Run screaming in the opposite direction. Tried to pretend it didn’t exist or didn’t matter. None of that got me anywhere except more miserable. Noticing, paying attention to, facing what was there – looking it in the eye and calling it by its real name, intentionally acknowledging and owning it - was my first step on the path toward healing.
Are there things you *thought* you knew that you’ve found new twists on recently? What was that like for you?
Has that led you to regard areas of your life with more intention?
For those of you who have a word for 2019, how is that going? What does your word seem to be saying to you? What insights have you gained so far? What glimpses of the Holy have you seen?
“So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” Psalm 90:12, NRSV