I watched the woman take a couple steps away from my booth, pause, and return. She stood quietly for a few moments, touching the gray napkins we’d talked about, then walked away again, only to return once more.
I like to be left alone when I’m deciding whether or not to buy something, so I didn’t say anything more to her as she reached out and touched the fabric again.
It can grow very loud and busy in my head when I’m deciding whether or not to buy something. So many questions: Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I want to spend the money right now? Will it bring me joy?
Based on the questions this woman had asked me, I could imagine what was going on in her head: Are these napkins the right color for my son and daughter-in-law? Will they like them and use them? Do I want to buy four now and maybe ask her to weave four more later? Do I wait until their kitchen renovation is finished?
It can be hard to make a decision with all that chatter.
As I watched her walk away one more time, I wondered how I could have offered her some ease while being respectful of her decision-making process.
Sometimes another voice, no matter how well-meaning, doesn’t help.
When my friend Marci and I lived in the same city, I enjoyed clothes shopping with her. I loved that she would encourage me to push past my comfort zone and consider colors and styles I would’ve barely glanced at on my own.
On one such adventure, I tried on an orange corduroy jacket. I did and didn’t like it. It’s fun, but orange? Me? I wondered.
Marci’s encouraging voice was louder than the quiet voice inside me saying No.
As I bought the jacket, I sensed I was doing it to make Marci happy, not because I loved it. The jacket hung in my closet, unworn, until I took it to a consignment store a year later.
But sometimes I see something and experience a refreshing quiet, if only for a moment before I start to second-guess myself.
Many years ago, I went looking for a wooden dresser. In store after store, as I admired how smoothly the drawers opened and closed, my mind was busy with questions and objections. So busy in fact that I discussed this struggle with a therapist. “Is it really okay to buy a wooden bureau when the four-drawer cardboard contraption I’ve been using for the past few years works just fine?”
Then one afternoon, at the back of yet another store, I saw an exhibit by a local woodworker.
Suddenly the noise, the chatter stopped.
In the quiet, I knew I’d found what I’d been searching for. I contacted the woodworker and asked him to build a dresser for me.
That quiet, when something inside me said yes and I recognized a kind of click, brought more than relief from the noise and more than clarity about the bureau. I’d found a way to honor my desire that rang true for me – to support a local furniture maker, rather than get a factory-produced dresser. In that moment I understood that I value quality handcrafted items and supporting artisans.
I’ve never regretted the decision to buy that dresser.
Just as I discounted the quiet No and bought the orange corduroy jacket, I could’ve ignored the quiet Yes and walked away from yet another furniture store.
These quiet Yeses and Nos are easy to miss. They’re hard to hear as the mind chatters away. They fall below the radar as we rush through life.
These quiet knowings are also easy to dismiss. They come from the body more than the mind and we’ve been taught to discount the wisdom of our bodies. We rely on words and thought, not on physical and emotional reactions. We talk rather than feel our way through decisions.
I’m learning to recognize these sensations. To notice when my shoulders relax — or tighten. When I feel my chest open – or constrict. When a joy bubbles up from my belly and turns into a skipping movement. I’m learning to pay attention when something resonates deep within and I know that I need to pay attention.
When we listen below the noise in our heads, below the second-guesses and lists of pros and cons, we find more than an answer to a specific question, to whether or not to buy an orange corduroy jacket or a set of handwoven napkins. We develop a deeper clarity about who we are and what matters to us.
Sometimes these knowings surprise us and teach us something new about ourselves or open us to a desire we didn’t know we had.
Before I saw the furniture exhibit, I didn’t consciously know that I wanted a local woodworker to build me a beautiful dresser. My body and heart knew what I wanted even though my logical mind did not.
When we listen below the noise, when we develop an awareness of what these Yeses and Nos feel like in our bodies and in our hearts, when we respect their wisdom and follow their guidance, we open more fully to who we are and we stand in our own beauty and power.
My invitation to you: Have you experienced with this kind of quiet knowing – either a Yes or a No? What was it like? What did you learn about yourself? I’d love to hear your experiences.
photo credit: Lynne Graves