Stillness in motion

I write a lot about the various lines of poetry and song that come to mind for me, apparently unbidden, and about the mysterious calculus that surely underlines this process.  Why am I thinking of certain words at certain times? Sometimes I can’t get specific lines of poems or songs out of my head.  For what felt like months at a time, a few years ago, Let It Be was on the radio whenever I turned it on.  I love Let It Be, but it being on the radio felt a little less obvious than, say, Bad Blood.  It took me an embarassingly long time to realize that probably somewhere, somewhat, or something was trying to tell me to, you know, let it be.

What I can’t stop hearing in my head these days are TS Eliot’s famous lines from Four Quartets (which I re-read last year, and highly recommend, particularly for some reason in this season):

we must be still and still moving

I’ve always understood these poetic words to mean that life is about stillness in the midst of motion.  I don’t know if that’s what TS Eliot means, but it’s what it means to me. That life won’t ever actually stop (God willing, not for a while) so what I need to try to do is find stillness, whatever that means, in the middle of constant motion.

December is a busy month for all of us.  Right now, for me, what’s creating that busy-ness is work, not social engagements, though there’s also simultaneous pressure to wrap gifts and address holiday cards and trim the tree.  It is also the month when I want most to be still.  This paradox is at the heart of the dissonance many of us feel at the holidays, I’m sure of it.  There’s something magical about all this light in the darkness, some deep-seated longing we have to touch something ephemeral and essential at this time of year.  And yet the frantic do-ing sometimes occludes our ability to do this.

I’ve written a lot about the ways our family has pared back at the holidays and tried to simplify how we celebrate and what we do.  While there’s more we could do, I’m grateful that we do usually have an opportunity to sit by the tree and listen to carols and drink hot chocolate.  I have one more trip ahead of me and then I can settle into home – hours at the computer notwithstanding – until the new year.

This seems to be a lesson I need to keep learning (like so many of them!).  There is no slowing down of life, so the slowing down needs to be internal.  It’s on me.  Only I can learn to still and still moving, but it might be the most important thing I do in my entire life.

And so, once again, I recommit to that.  To sitting still, to breathing deeply, to reading with my children, to admiring the Christmas lights, to being here now.  That’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it?  To the tattoo-I-would-have, to the three words I return to over and over again: be here now.

20 thoughts on “Stillness in motion”

  1. Yes to all of this! I’ve journaled about the same just this morning, as I do every day in the dark, in front of the lit tree, by candlelight. My holidays have changed with my daughter moving away, and I still feel the urge to be still, to get everything done and to somehow manage to enjoy the ordinary moments. Thank you for the beautiful reminder, and for letting me know I’m not alone in my struggle.

  2. Oh how I feel this. Working full-time, with a toddler, we hardly have the time to make decent meals and do household chores. I miss the long hours of decorating, making handmade gifts, just sitting by the tree (which we haven’t even picked out yet) I seem to have had before the arrival of my son. And yet, this is his first Christmas where he will actually recognize the tree and get a glimpse of all the magic of the season. I need to remember to hold still just for a few minutes and soak it all in. And allow him to do so, too.

  3. I got chills reading this Lindsey, because you’re so right – the stillness has to come from within, but what a challenge that is. A worthy one, though. “It might be the most important thing I do in my entire life.” I hope to find some internal and external stillness this month and more in the new year.

  4. “It’s on me.” YES. That is a lesson I’m learning over and over — and not yet applying all that well. It’s on me to carve out and protect the time for quiet reflection and stillness (by the light of the tree here, too); no one else, however well-meaning, can do that for me. Thanks for this reminder – especially important in these few hectic weeks.

  5. I read your blog today, and it made me think of the scripture “Be Still and Know That I Am God”. I looked up the root meaning of “be still”. It comes from the Hiphil stem of the verb rapha (meaning to be weak, to let go, to release) which means “cause yourselves to let go”.

    So, basically, Be Still and Let It Go/Be…It all kind of continues to tie together into the same message, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for your beautifully written blog.

  6. Stillness in the midst of movement. Yes. We must keep going, want to keep going, but have to find a way to “be here now”. Beautiful. (P.S. When are you getting that tattoo?)

  7. “we must be still and still moving”


    Here my take on it, for what I need:

    we must be still and still allow ourselves to be moved.

    I find myself little by little becoming jaded about the world, and steeling myself against everything out of self-preservation. I need to remind myself it is still okay to feel…anything.

  8. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much this kind comment means to me! I love that about the root meaning of be still – I didn’t know that. xo

  9. It makes me feel simultaneous relief and pressure to realize that it really is, at the end of the day, up to me …

  10. I don’t think I’ve told you in a while how awesome you are. I like it when you are still because your stillness makes words and art that reflect out on the world (your readers) and actually makes a difference. Happiest season to you and your family.

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