Short Sabbatical from Spoken Words

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silence

For the past few weeks, I’ve been on break from my teaching job and staying home full time with my sweet three year old. At least I maintain he’s sweet even though sometimes he’s not.

The words I have spoken look something like this:

“Do you have to go potty?”

“Flush the toilet and wash your hands.”

“Do you have to go potty?”

“Sit down to eat your food.”

“Do you have to go potty? You are doing the dance.”

“It hurts Mommy when you do that.” (hit me with a stick, arch back when I’m holding him, step on my foot, etc.)

“Do you have to go potty?”

“No, you may NOT pick the cat up by his skin.”

“It’s time to go potty. You are still doing the dance.”

I found these words draining. Painfully draining. And my inner troll has been rising up to snap at the little guy not unlike the troll under the bridge in the Billy Goat’s Gruff story he loves.

I pestered my husband to grant me a retreat. At first I thought just a morning might do. I took my notebook to the local Starbucks and listened to people talking, taking notes on what they said and journaling my heart out. I went to the park I’d seen but never visited. I walked downtown and saw the gorgeous landscaping at the new city hall that I’d never taken the time to look at before. But two hours wasn’t enough. I needed more time away from “Do you need to go potty?”

So, last weekend I took most of a day and went to our little lake camping spot out by Shelton. I didn’t talk to anyone all day, leaving my phone in the car so I wouldn’t be tempted. I took my time and moved slowly, reminding myself that I was on retreat. The peace felt like I’d entered a sacred space and sunk into a world without spoken words.

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I can see why the monks and nuns take vows of silence. The peace of not talking brings an inner connection like the vibrations settling down on the pond after you finished skipping stones across it. When I did see others at the grocery store on the way out, they smiled at me and I smiled back. This was a change from my usual focus on wrangling little fingers away from the ATM machine buttons and hand holding in the parking lot where I hoped he wouldn’t take anyone out at the knees.

I had thought earlier of going to St. Placid Priory, a place in Lacey where I could have a sister as a spiritual director. But the lake worked better for me. I worked it out with my husband on an hour’s notice and got myself to bliss without the nagging stress of “I don’t know this place or these people.”

Plus I only needed to pay for gas and food.

I figure my inner artist is also about 3 years old, and she loved playing in silence without competition from my son. I can recommend a retreat for anyone who feels the troll under the bridge threatening to take over.

When I got back from my break from words, I was able to sink into the better ones like:

“Let’s go for a walk to feed the horsie.”

“How about we go pick blackberries and eat them from the bowl before they get to the refrigerator?”

“I love you.”

And, even better, I could sink into the words I heard.

“I wuv you, too,” he said when we went back to my retreat and filled it up with sound a few days later.

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2 thoughts on “Short Sabbatical from Spoken Words

  1. Martha Grover

    You write so well of a time almost lost in the fog of my forgetting what it’s like to be a mother of a little one, on-call, no, at work, twenty-four seven. A silent retreat is a blessing for anyone, but to a mother, I think it’s doubly so. Thank you for sharing your story so beautifully.

    • Karrie Zylstra

      You are welcome, Martha. Yes, it is like being at work 24-7 although, thankfully, he does sleep most nights and for naps so then I’m only on call:)

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