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When I was fifteen (ish), I had a heated conversation with my parents – it was specifically targeted at my mother.
My father was more of a passivist.
He was always pained by our level of emotion and angry words.
When it was over, and I had retreated to my bedroom, he came to share some what was an epiphany to me.
He said, “you don’t need to say everything that is in your head all the time.”
Honestly, I was completely blown away.
I had been speaking or shouting what I believed to be my important thoughts, opinions, and ideas since I had learned to talk.
Unfortunately, I didn’t learn the lesson when my father offered it.
But, I have never forgotten his face and his tone when he sat on the end of my bed.
Many years later, a dear friend said basically the same thing to me when she suggested that I didn’t have to react to everything going on around me.
That was the craziest thing I ever heard.
Of course, I did!
I was a pastor of a growing church, a mother of four, a wife…everyone was seeking my input.
Except they weren’t. And I was the last one to know.
So, my friend taught me to breathe…literally.
To breathe and then to say, “Oh.”
For years I said it out loud. It was the least reactive response I could find.
Here’s how it went: My son would say, “I can’t find my swim goggles.”
I would respond, “Oh.”
The church administrator would say, “I can’t work Holy Week.”
I would respond, “Oh.”
My husband would say, “I’m on work travel for the summer.”
I would say, “Oh.”
Sometimes, I had it in me to be silent, to not say anything.
And in those moments, I could check in with my body.
I learned that depending on what I was hearing, my mind would begin to race towards solutions.
My heart would begin to pound.
I would get sweaty and I would have to move – pace or at the very, least stand up.
I learned that by first talking or shouting even, I could not pay attention to the needs of my body.
I simply overrode what was going on there.
So, I had to retrain myself.
The power of being silent, allowed me to learn about myself.
And it was mighty uncomfortable.
And it took years. Well, it’s still evolving.
All these years later, most often, but not always, I can sit with a response.
I don’t have to talk first and I don’t jump to answers.
When my brain kicks in, it is with questions that lead to solutions.
The power of being silent for me has brought me to understand myself more fully and to offer grace to those around me.
The power of being silent has ushered me into my rightful position.
I’m no longer the “fixer and the know it all” – I’m the “one who hears and supports.”
I no longer have those out of body experiences with a pounding heart and blurred vision and a racing mind.
I am fully in my body, breathing and aware.
Rev. Meredith Wilkins
Meredith is a United Methodist pastor serving at Arnolia UMC in Baltimore, MD. She began her ministry career as an ordained pastor in the ELCA. Her passions are preaching, relationship building, and her family. She is the mother of four children (ages 13, 19, 19, 27). She is a Life Coach and the co-owner of Sacred Scones.