On Friday afternoon I boarded a bus with 23 others and headed deep into the heart of Kentucky. Our destination was the Loretto Motherhouse. It was the first true retreat I’d signed up for. I’d been on others, of course, but this was the first one without activities built in. It was time for us to step away from the crazy, practice the discipline of silence, and just be. We were asked to leave electronics behind. So with phone, ipod, and headphones stowed safely on the bus, I stepped off the bottom step and into the weekend. Within an hour I was questioning what I was even doing there.
I walked from dinner down the gravel road towards a cluster of cabins. I stopped in the little chapel there, walked around that area, walked back towards the main buildings, walked down to the pond in front of our house, walked back up to the cemetery, through one of the buildings, and out back again, this time veering towards the lake. I couldn’t stop moving.
As dusk slipped into dark I went back to the house, brewed a cup of tea, and sat outside for a while. I pulled my knees to my chest, hands formed around the stoneware so familiar to them. And I started to pray.
The silence was overwhelming. I was running from something. From the restlessness. From everything in me that just didn’t feel right, that I didn’t want to deal with. But it was nothing new. It’s the same feeling that I put so much energy into not thinking about. It’s precisely that thing I try to drown out with another episode of whatever it is that I’m watching.
I’ve said before that I want to slow down and quiet some of the noise around me. But for the first time in a long time, this weekend I was truly quiet. It was harder than I thought it would be. It was hard for me to be fully present. After all, how can I be present when that presence is the very thing I spend my days fighting against?
This retreat came on the heels of an especially wearying week. It was, for many of us, exactly what it needed to be. There were some incredible moments, moments that will be shared soon. But not yet. Right now, I just want to learn the freedom to be.