I've been speechless a few times in my life.
I know it's hard for some people to believe that I could ever be rendered mute, but it has happened. The first time I was blindsided by my boss in a principal's advisory committee during which she casually revealed some of my personal information. The second time came three years later when a man revealed some of his own personal information that cut me off at the knees as it was an indirect slap in the face...and he knew it. And the last time came six years ago when I realized I was living next to gang-banging drug dealers. My silence didn't last for long, but in those moments I remember how helpless I felt, how undeniably caught in someone else's web of manipulation or drama.
These days I'm at a loss for words, but not for the same reasons. After months of pitching The Lace Makers to a host of literary agents, all I've received are emails which politely, but firmly say they aren't interested. You'd think I'd be used to it by now. For nearly sixteen years I've been swimming upstream in a river of rejection, and now I'm wondering if sending my work out into the world in the way I've always done it is wise. After all, Einstein said the clearest definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In any event, I've decided to get out of the water, get quiet, and wait for novel inspiration (pun intended).
In the mid-nineties, exhausted from a long year of teaching first grade with some pretty demanding kids, I went on a three-day silent retreat. There was no talking during meals, while in our semi-private rooms, and especially when sitting in group meditation. At first my inner "chatty Kathy" thought this would be nearly impossible, but I soon discovered it was an uncommon respite in my highly-verbal world to not be expected to teach or speak or give any kind of guidance. I didn't have to respond or react to anything that was happening around me. Happily quiet, I simply observed it all with greater clarity and awareness.
By the second evening, I felt as though I never wanted to speak again, but of course, life got in the way and that soon changed.
These days I spend Sundays in silence. It's a ritual I learned from Ghandi, as he was quiet one day a week and only communicated through notes. While Jhoti can speak several words in English (hello, Mom, now, and NO!) unless my cats learn how to read, there's no way I can be completely mute on my only day off. Still, on Sundays I don't talk on the phone. I don't meet friends for coffee. I don't plan anything other than resting my voice and preparing for the week ahead. The silence is soothing and allows me to sift through my inner chatter so I can find some peace and clarity...most of the time.
Since June I had let my path in the publishing world take a back seat to teaching yoga, editing a client's memoir, and spending time catching up with friends. But since autumn winds started breezing in, I've been more focused on finding my way to a fantastic agent. From past experience I know that fall is the best time of year to try and sell a book to publishers, and I've been feeling disappointed and dejected when, no matter what I do, nothing seems to gain momentum. The constant running dialogue in my head cycles back and forth, and in the midst of contradictory feelings, I've often asked myself, After all this time, is a writing vocation what you really want?
The answer is always a resounding yes.
But I know I can't bend an agent's or anyone's will to mine...at least not without some serious karmic consequences. I can't make anyone want my work...or want me for any reason, so I've been silently repeating the serenity prayer and shifting around my priorities.
Last Sunday I took a walk at the park, marveling at the changing leaves. It's been a slow and steady transition from summer into autumn, so the forest was still ablaze with color. When the wind blew through the branches, the leaves fell effortlessly, for the trees didn't fight the natural process of nature...they intuitively let go of what had flourished in the previous season in order to allow the silence of winter to bring them into stillness, which as many gardeners know is the most profound part of the life cycle. Dormancy is crucial to the plant's survival in order to regrow each year, and while energy conservation during cold conditions is important, it's equally important during times of stress.
It's been a stressful year, but not all of it's been bad. Writing projects and new yoga classes and working for a good friend have been wonderful ways to spend my time...and keep me busier than I've been in a decade. So it's a blessing to move into silence where I've realized that no matter how hard I work, how much I try to invoke the gods of destiny to fulfill my long-held desires, until the timing is right, I'll have to wait. And through the waiting, I've begun to see that my definition of rejection needs to be reframed into something I no longer need to swim against, but something I can flow into and out of with grace...on my way to a wider tributary which will eventually lead to an ocean of infinite possibilities.
When all's said and done, and the maples and oaks have long dropped their leaves, I love to marvel at how the innate structure of the trees is revealed, how the bare branches allow the glorious autumnal skies to illuminate their silhouettes in the setting sun. Speechless as the enchantment of a November twilight fills my senses, I know that words could never describe the incredible beauty of nature effortlessly flowing through time, teaching me how to trust the cycles of life and the wonder of the unknown...mirroring the lessons of my life with a profound, silent beauty.