Questions In The Dark

It’s that time of year.


Nope, cold season.

Knocked out of work on Friday, I was in bed about 40 of last weekend’s 48 hours. Upshots included the chance to dive into a book and an unexpected, intriguing, quiet solitude.

For a couple of these hours, it was very quiet.

I was asleep before nine Friday night. With the help of a stuffy nose and cough, I awoke at half past midnight and couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. I wasn’t tired, so I just lay there in dark staring across my room, barely able to make out the furniture. Not a peep from outside my window in the middle of the cold night; not a noise in my apartment except maybe the refrigerator.

Countering my physical congestion, I enjoyed a mental-emotional clarity. First I just felt the unfamiliar nothingness, this novel lack of stimulation. Then out of this emptiness came crystal clear questions:

Why do I live in Minnesota if I don’t like the cold?

Why have I never been engaged?

Why am I not as successful as other writers?

What’s stopping me from living up to my potential?

One doesn’t the realize the degree to which he is regularly distracted until struck by the questions that await him in the silence.

I then could make out patterns of my past — the avoidances, the shortcuts, the distractions — traps that have kept me from being more and living more. I was simultaneously fearful that these new found patterns were scripted to continue while motivated by my sight of them to change.

Everyone has those moments where you’re able to step outside of yourself and say, “What am I doing with my life? Is this what I want?”

I realized the stimulation of daily living has allowed me to evade such questioning and doubt. My cold, then — and my inexplicable decision to not surf my phone — was a blessing that placed these questions before me.

I can’t say how/if I’ll change in response, but it is safe to say that I feel better today — not just because I’m getting over my cold, but because I carry with me the insight and direction from facing the questions that arose when nothing was there to distract me from them.

I have some friends that attend a silent retreat each winter, a 72-hour weekend, where attendees don’t say a word. I think I’ll ask them about going along this year.

What say you?