The Sweetness of Withholding

Sometimes I look up the definitions of words I already know the meaning of just to make sure what I’m trying to convey matches the words I’m using because when you’re trying to express a new thought unto yourself, words can often taint the origination. Because how exactly do you explain the recent discovery of how saying no to things, waiting, being patient, and embracing mindfulness can sometimes more exciting than their counterparts (impulsivity, being a “yes” person, wildly adventurous, and “living in the moment”).

Twenty-somethings are expected to embody the above counterparts. We are seen as the generation to do things that our older selves would easily be talked out of. You know, the typical — hop on a plane and travel Europe, party into the early morning hours, make decisions based on poor judgement, impulsively move to a new city, have a billion different jobs that we’re never really certain of, date (a lot), drink excessive amounts of cheap liquor during the week, and fight against our tired bodies when someone offers us an extra spot to a music festival, theme park, road trip, or similar adventure.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve partaken in several of these things many times — happily, I might add. And I have great memories from them. But what happens when you enter a period of silence? When your body, mind, and spirit simply aren’t as excited to jump at these kinds of opportunities anymore? Does it just mean you’re getting older? Or does it mean something a little deeper than that?

I seem to go through periods of excitement and silence a few times a year, and each time I’m surprised. Maybe I forget that life’s seasons are inevitable and as one lesson ends, another begins that requires a specific type of environment in order for it to take root. Regardless, I have found that the “empty” periods are the ones that sometimes feel the most full…the ones where I do all the learning. It’s almost as if my life is sleeping, allowing myself adequate rest to soak up past experiences and what they mean for my life.

I’m in that right now.

At first I was disappointed by how quiet my life became — not as many events to go to, less texts from friends asking me to hang out, empty calendars, and less familiar faces on a regular basis. Now, I’ve come to see the benefits of life’s removal of these things when it wants to teach you something.

What I’ve uncovered over the past couple months of quiet weekends and even quieter weekdays is abundantly more life-giving than some of the more adventurous experiences I’ve had in the past. Except seeing the fruit of self-work doesn’t usually come with hangovers and empty bank accounts. Instead, it has come with profound new realities about myself, solidified values and self-truths, reclaimed dreams of what I genuinely want out of life, and deeper discoveries about who I am.

I know. This sounds so typical of a twenty-something “I need to find myself” rant. But there truly is something to that. Taking the time to invest back into yourself without the distractions of Happy Hours or self-imposed expectations on just how many people you need to impress at your local dive bar is far more appealing than meets the eye. Those who have gone through similar quiet periods in life understand the vast self-knowledge that’s acquired during those times…and the admonition that you wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yes, at some point I will most likely exit this more-quiet-than-usual period and re-enter the one with a fuller calender. And I’ll be challenged with situations that will cause me to either use what I’ve learned or revert back to older, less wise tendencies. And if life has taught me anything, it’s that it will continue to bring the same situation to your attention until you deal with it properly and truly learn from it. You don’t stop trying to teach an infant to stand on their own; you keep at it until they can do it.

Life isn’t always glamorous, you’re not always going to be asked to “cool” events, or have an endless supply of friends you can call upon when you’re bored or want to go out and have some fun. You won’t always have a full bank account just waiting for you to buy a plane ticket, or the perfect job that leaves you satisfied at the end of the day, or the perfect living situation or significant other. But, you will always have an opportunity to listen for the whispers of wisdom gained through experience after experience. And if you don’t hear them, life will certainly make sure you do one way or another.

I can’t wait for the end of 2012 when I can list all the things that have caused me to grow this year. I’m half-way through and I sometimes can’t believe what life has allowed me to learn thus far. I’m now grateful for the silence and eagerly await the whispers because I know that’s where the juice is…that’s where the goodness lies.

So, now I humbly request more empty calendars, dinners for one, and quiet weekends, because now I see just how exciting life can get when you actually pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you.

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2 thoughts on “The Sweetness of Withholding

    • “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

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