Searching for Silence

by Paulina French

The first step, I am told, when recognizing that you are an addict, is actually saying it out loud. I can’t say it out loud to you, but I can write, “My name is Paulina and I am an addict. I am addicted to busyness.” I suspect that there are many of us who suffer from this addiction, and as you read this, you will probably find that we have many things in common. My days are filled to capacity with things that I need to do. Every day I am driven by an addiction to be busy doing things.

The frightening thing is that the addiction to busyness is fueled by the access to technology. Being busy all of the time becomes easier. Like any other addiction you don’t realise that you are addicted until something happens in your life that makes you realise that maybe there is an imbalance.

I was not able to attend the Winter Living Theology lectures (because I was busy), but I have been listening to them on audio. As the lectures progressed I became more and more aware of the fact that I am not able to do “nothing”. And this inability to do “nothing” and to just sit for five or ten minutes has always been a part of my makeup. In fact, my late father’s comments resonate – “Why are you always running around? Even when you are sitting still your brain is thinking of the next thing.” That was five years ago – a few weeks before he passed away.

And my busyness has continued unabated. Any white space in my calendar creates anxiety for me. And in this busyness I have sometimes missed the glimpses of Jesus in my life. Time with my children. Time with my husband. Time with good friends. Time with God. These are all glimpses of Jesus wanting to say, “Hey, can I have some space in your head for a bit?”

As I write this I think of a time when I felt closest to God. I felt closest to God on a road trip we did as a family last year where we spent time in the Tankwa National Park, in the Karoo. There is nothing there! No cellphone reception. No electricity at night and silence. Silence that is so loud it frightened me in the first few hours. But it was that silence that birthed my creativity and led me to write two children’s books. Something I never even had on my list of things to do!

We live in a country where there is so much going on everyday and perhaps we are busy in order to escape the troubles that our country faces. Perhaps we create our own busyness so that we don’t have to face the dire consequences that our society is facing at the moment. The consequences of poverty, broken homes and a broken society. Or perhaps we are afraid that God may talk to us when there is silence and we are afraid of what the Lord may say to us.

Recordings of Fr Weston’s talks on “Addiction & Recovery” are available from the Jesuit Institute

Mrs Paulina French

Paulina is a Chartered Accountant who spent a number of years working for an international auditing firm and with a major retail bank. She is married with two daughters. On the birth of her second daughter she left the corporate world and became a full time mom. She spent a few years doing some consulting work and used to work three mornings a week for the Jesuit Institute.
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