Learning to Find Peace in Silence – The Oxford Eagle
Essentially ignored growing up, three older sisters kept me away, attended a small Catholic school (all classes), bonded to 90% of the students – friends, girlfriend Public school, mom (IA) still in hospital , sick daddy, dying of a heart attack weeks before going to college – great pain, many years, major stress before realizing that I was not a (total) mental case, an outcast social per se, a loser – but, tremendously insecure, introverted.
Compounding was the public high school girlfriend in Vanderbilt, not making friends my freshman year in college – didn’t want to get hurt again after dad’s recent death, dating, but if she got too close I would was running – little social skills, shy, maybe looking a certain way – people thought I was on the sidelines – ironically needing friends caused more pain and with little study skills, miserable and lost, almost missed! But, with all this Catholic school stuff, I finally found God through pain for the first time.
It took me years to realize that after being around people my body reacted like a caffeine high and needed quiet time, silence, to decompress and recharge my batteries – thus reinforcing the fact that I was a hopeless case.
Painful divorce in the late ’80s, three wonderful sons, asked for “professional” help – and those fucking idiots from hell only added to my agony because they couldn’t get out of it. ‘a dark room – but learned a valuable lesson as a therapist later – what not to do.
One day heroine mom, Gert said I looked like Christ on the cross (gaunt) suggested that I be anointed by a priest in my then Catholic church in Cape Girardeau, MO. The new priest, Father Jeremiah Patrick McDevitt (a great guy, still friends, now in Loyola, Chicago) anointed me, became my confessor, spiritual advisor and indispensable counselor.
Bro. Pat asked me what was my mental process at bedtime – I wasn’t sleeping, my mind was racing at 7000 RPM and Bro. Pat saidâ¦ stop thinking, talk to God – and listen to Godâ¦ eh?
Flashback Vietnam, July 1969-July 1970 – almost killed in many ways that traumatic year, one year – while standing guard in our perimeter bunker all night every five days or the previous year during the massive offensive of the Viet Cong Tet across Vietnam, 14 VC were killed in front of our bunker when they pierced our wire … then peering into a black jungle, finger on the trigger of the M-60 7.62mm machine gun all night for a whole year waiting for an attack – many incidents, but in between, oddly found peace in this deadly, strange, frightening, dark silence before the noise … because after almost losing his life in a horrible rocket, days of mortar attack in Vietnam, I gave my life to God and accepted my deathâ¦.
How would God speak to me? In that same silence that has caused me a lot of post-traumatic stress to this day, I learned to listen to God, to calm my mind, it took two weeks to understand that in order for God to speak to me, I had to again to be calm, still, and my thoughts would be his thoughts. By being still, I was relaxed, open, listening, at peaceâ¦ and I finally heard God âspeakâ to me.
It can be uncomfortable to be calm, alone in deafening silence, as things will come yelling at you – but as a therapist, I have taught my clients to reduce noise, to “stop thoughts” to ignore these. distractions, being silent – and for me, a peace I never thought possible – listen to our Lordâ¦ and there is no greater peace on this earth!
A great introvert, I need downtime, silence, to reflect, to be quiet, to be with our Lord – this is one of the reasons I attend daily mass in St. John’s Catholic Church in Oxford. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I arrive at the church around 10:20 am to install the altar, etc. charge my battery with a dozen other cool and awesome Ole Miss students and parishioners.
Mass on Tuesday and Thursday is at 8:30 a.m. – everything gives me a reason to get up, to cleanse myself, to enter the world, to receive our Lord in the Eucharist (nothing is up to this) , to be still, to receive my “instructions” for the dayâ¦ and out of under my rock.
“Hello Darkness, my old friend, I have come to speak to you again, for a vision that crept gently left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains with the sound of silence. .. Â»Simon Garfunkel
Steve Stricker received his doctorate. in Counseling from Ole Miss, lives in Oxford and can be contacted at email@example.com.