Boomer Journey…

Deep Thoughts In The Night…

I remember being just four years old, lying in my bed, with nothing else to think about but just “being” and listening to the night. It was 1960. My window was open. It was a hot, humid summer night. My screen fluttered from a light breeze. A small Vornado desk fan hummed atop my chest of drawers. We lived in a modest little rambler on a cul-de-sac butting up against the woods in Lanham, Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.

Lanham was a quiet little community when Suburban Washington was on the grow at the cusp of the 1960s. Neighboring New Carrollton was a housing development just getting underway, waiting for the sounds of kids at play, lawnmowers, and the sweet aroma of backyard barbeques  Yet, the night was very quiet except for the sounds we hear in nature—crickets, toads, frogs, mosquitoes, the occasional barking dog, a cat fight, and other sounds creepy to a kid.

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Isn’t it remarkable the sounds we hear in nature at night when all is quiet? When there’s the hush from urban noise such as cars and trucks or fire sirens, it allows us pause and think about just being. Those sounds in nature are a reminder of how long these sounds have been heard by humans throughout thousands of years of evolution. They remind us of our short time on the planet. They were there before you were here and they will be here long after you are gone. Particularly ironic is these sounds are being made by tiny creatures that are here for a much shorter time than we are.

The quiet of the night is accompanied by the ringing in our ears, which seems spiritual in scope. It is that subtle neurological feedback ringing or hissing in our ears we’ve been listening to all our lives. It’s always there even when we’re in a noisy room. When you’re a child in bed in the silence of the night, that ringing is a baffling sound no one hears but you. It wavers in tone to where you can’t tell where it leaves off and the sounds of nature begin. Have you ever noticed that and did you ever ask anyone if they could hear it? There’s no such thing as true dead silence.

It makes me think of Lucy and Ricky in “I Love Lucy” when they moved out to the country to the quiet of rural Connecticut. That first night in their country home. Neither could sleep because the steady din of city noise had given way to the discomforting quiet of the country. It was a little too quiet except for perhaps the ringing in their ears. Suddenly, there was the sound of something running across the roof of their house. Little Ricky came running in from his bedroom. The silence of the country night gave way to a little boy lamenting, “I’m scared…” Silence and just “being” was a strong reminder of their mortality—like a pilot light indicating they were still alive with all of the thoughts and fears we all have.

We really aren’t aware of our own existence until we reach ages 1-2. Prior to those impressionable years we see life in a foggy dream-like state. My very first memory, though quite vague, was an asphalt playground with forest green playground equipment consisting of swings, a sliding board, a see-saw, and perhaps a cluster of monkey bars. My grandfather and big sister were present for the memory. Memory fast-forwards to a small apartment in Hyattsville, Maryland when I was age 2. It was a hot apartment with a huge exhaust fan in the window along with the sound of my father’s jazz records on the Hi Fi. There isn’t a moment when I hear jazz that I don’t think about my father and that hot apartment.

I think those quiet moments in the night as a child were in a sense an invitation to to get quiet, centered, and at peace within. We learn this early on—then tend to forget about it as life ramps up and gets busy. We become so far removed from our spiritual core that we forget to listen to just being. When you get quiet and centered it allows you to focus on your soul, your being, and getting spiritually centered. Regardless of your religious beliefs it is good to focus on your mind’s eye, your soul, and God.

This is a moment in life when it is time to get calm, centered, and abandon that fear of the unknown. Fear not the unknown, but instead look at life as that series of chapters we’ve talked about before in Boomer Journey. You’ve survived and are living to enjoy those senior discounts you’ve long waited for. It is time to be true to yourself and what you want.

Growing older is a new chapter to embrace—to go to a place you’ve never been before. Isn’t this what we’ve been thinking about all of our lives? We’re born to this world to live and experience be the experience good or bad. If you’re feeling pain and crying real tears, it means you are alive. You are feeling. However, instead being consumed with the pain, focus on your blessings regardless of how small they may seem.

Blessings are as many and varied as you may wish. A balmy breeze on your face in the still of the evening. The sweet sound of a kitten purring in your lap. A child’s laughter a block away. A Carole King LP playing on your parent’s old and dusty stereo console. Scoring a pair of bellbottoms at an old thrift store. Discovering a childhood toy in a box in the attic you thought was long gone. And, basking in a sweet memory from your youth.

Self-awareness is the ability to look within and recognize yourself as an individual without being concerned over what others think of you. What matters most is what you think of yourself. Self-awareness is also how you know and understand who you are for better or worse, recognizing what you like and don’t like about yourself—then working on how to be a better person.

Then—stay with it and remember…we’re each a work in progress.

—Jim Smart

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