My 1st Day of Silence
Today was rather nice, though I could not have a complete day of silence. I had a final exam to make up; I have no words that could praise the generosity of my teachers’ patience with my absenteeism this semester. That surgery and its recovery time did one hell of a number on my time in the classroom and my schoolwork. I think my grades will make it through just fine though.
For my first Day of Silence I did a lot of hanging around my folks. Odin seemed amused that I could not communicate as I would have liked to. I did a lot of gesticulating that my folks had an introduction to when I did my Vow of Silence for the Nine Days I hung on Yggdrasil last year. I know very basic American Sign Language (not more than a few basic gestures and the alphabet) and my Mom used to work at a group home before she had me, so overall we can talk in a very stunted way. It made me appreciate finally being able to talk to Dad once midnight hit. The silence has taught me in just a little bit how much I rely on talking, and how listening can help others. Although I could not say anything, listening to Mom or Dad talk about their troubles without interruption or judgment helped them open up to me. Attentive listening is more powerful than I give it credit at times.
I printed up my horarium after I got back from taking my test and ran smack into a problem: reality. I was scrambling most of the day trying to get back to it and fulfill it. I was worrying about it as I hung out with my folks, going over “What was I supposed to do now?” when Odin finally interrupted my thoughts. His words amounted to, “This is isn’t why you’re doing this in the first place. You’re supposed to do this to grow closer to Me, not run yourself into the ground for what you ‘should’ have done. Have you never set a schedule aside for something more important?” I then asked Him what was more important and He openly laughed at me and said “You think I wanted this thing to rule you? I wanted you to have a tool, not be one. Do you really think you’ll have anything like healing if you just hole up and pray all day? There are people out there, your parents, you know, your Ancestors? -that you should be with. What good is a Vow of Silence if you’re by yourself talking to no one besides yourself?”
Well that frustrated me a bit. This is, though, one of the advantages I feel I have in Paganism that I never really did have in Catholicism: I couldn’t ask demanding questions like these of Yahweh and get any satisfying answers. I can ask Odin what He means, and I might not get a response, but I know in one way or another He has heard me, and in His own way, is answering. More often than not with Yahweh I had deafening silence, and a definitive lack of presence. Back then I took that as “not being faithful enough”, but really, Yahweh just was not answering. I would sit in devout prayer with my rosary, or Bible, or just my hands clasped, rocking back and forth as I prayed. Only a few times did I really feel the touch of His Presence, and those were few and far between in my life. Some might say I feel Odin’s Presence too much now…but I would rather hear a God too many times than not hear Him enough.
So I asked Him, “Hey, what the hell is that supposed to mean?” He answered me curtly “What good does a Vow of Silence do you when you’re all alone? Sure, it can help you shut up and keep your mind on me, but part of that Vow is a challenge to not speak to others, to listen to others. If you didn’t have the temptation to speak, how would you learn to listen to others half so well?” Well, I had to admit I guess that made sense. But why not just have me “hole up and pray by myself”? “That’s not your lesson for today, which you would have seen if you had actually read your Runes like your schedule says you should.” Yeah, He’s got me there. I may not like all the answers I get, but Odin doesn’t tend to bullshit me a lot. He’s very to-the-point a lot of times, and sometimes has this tone to His Voice like “Why did it take you this long to figure it out?” or “Do I really need to explain this?” I hope He gets some amusement out of the deal, because He must have a lot of patience to deal with the questions.
So what did I get out of my Day of Silence? Well, beyond the idea that I’ll be sticking to my horarium a lot more closely, I may also want to take a second look at it and see if I haven’t overscheduled my days so that I’ve eliminated human contact. I had a lot of limited human contact when I was living in the dorms; I didn’t see a lot of people outside of class, or the Society on the weekends. A lot of my life revolved around spirituality. Perhaps what I needed the horarium for was to balance my spirituality moreso than my mundane life. I’ll be doing my best to work with my horarium, and adjusting it as I need to fit my life, and my spiritual needs. Like Odin said, it should be the tool, not I.
Something else I learned from today is really the value of listening. Especially with other people. There were times that I wanted to say something, or make a joke that I simple couldn’t because of my Vow. It made me think about how much I use humor to deflect, how I use words to stop things from affecting me. In having to sit there and listen, and feel the affect of the words, it made me think of how I relate to other people, especially when my folks sat with me in the basement and talked. I could find myself at times when things would get uncomfortable reaching for a joke, or for a deflective or mean statement.
Something my Mom told me last night has been stewing in my head in relation to this: “Truth without love is brutality.” When I told people what I saw as the truth, did I say it in love? Sugar-coating is one thing; I find it often strays into lying, or lying by obfuscation. The Runes talk to me in a blunt, realistic way, and that is how I read them to others. Yet when I talked about personal truths, especially ones that I felt I knew a lot on, I took a hard and cutting edge to my truth. In reality there was a lot more insecurity than I liked to put out there; after all these were things I was supposed to know about. What was the use of saying “I know x, y, and z. Person a, b, or c probably doesn’t.” other than to prop up my ego or protect my insecurities? Why could I not just have said “I know x, y, and z.” and left it at that? There was no reason to go further, to hurt another person. I know that in my mind. The key is knowing it in the moment. Besides what I’ve already written, that really is what the Day of Silence has taught me, to begin to recognize when I get defensive, and when that happens, to recognize when I am going to lash out. There’s a lot less judgment on me than I perceive, and that is probably the key to these insecurities: fear of judgment. Perhaps the more I work in silence, and at least my own thoughts, the deeper I’ll work into this. I’ll know if I am starting to learn the lesson when I stop myself from saying something hurtful in defense of those insecurities.