On finding your voice

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." - Anne Lamott

I was in the middle of the lake when it happened: silence, a moment of panic followed by a not-so-brief struggle, followed by silence.

I don’t know the exact moment my mind registered the stillness. All week I’d asked it to be on high alert, vigilant against incoming queries, battling stray thoughts and alternately straining and thriving under the pressure to do more, go faster, push further.

The physical signs were the first to show – the slight raise of the shoulders, the subtle yet persistent headache, the struggle to fall asleep followed by the reluctance to wake, still tired and anything but refreshed.

And yet, I felt the tension begin to drain from my body as the pavement gave way to gravel road, then melt the moment the car door slammed and my eyes registered the endless expanse of lush green forest and tranquil blue waters laid out before me.

But my mind was more reluctant, still thumbing through the emails I’d sent, the out of office replies I’d hurriedly dashed off, the work yet to be done the following week.

It wasn’t until later, after I’d paddled out into the middle of the bay and found the minutes stretching further and further between slight tugs on the fishing line, that my mind registered the stillness and the panic set in.

The strangeness of it wouldn’t shake, the silence stretched far and wide and utterly unfamiliar. I groped blindly for something, anything to focus on, but nothing would take.

Defenseless and confused, I settled into my newfound state. Dipping just a toe into the stillness at first, then growing braver and putting out a hand to test the boundaries this new state of complete and total nothingness had to offer.

Just as I began to adjust to the stillness, the world erupted in movement and sound. First, the lazy hum of a dragonfly in flight. Then the mirror-lake surface of the surrounding lake was broken by the meandering wake of a mama mallard and her half-grown brood. A lone bark sounded from the direction of the cabin, crashed into a grove of balsams on the far bank and bounced back in a chorus of echoes.

It would take a few more moments of adjustment before my mind was ready to make its way back into the fray. Gone were the worries of words said or left unsaid, the retracing of steps and the fortunetelling into what might still be.

Instead, new thoughts rose unbidden to the surface. Ideas, born of curiosity the natural world had inspired. Questions bubbled up, no longer afraid to be voiced. Curiosity, reawakened.

And just like that, I was in recovery. It's amazing how quickly we rediscover our voices when we find a little peace and quiet and silence the world around us. And yet, it's so important that we do just that – and not only when we've reached the end of our patience or when we stumble unwittingly into it.

Starting this journey to small business ownership, it's so easy to lose sight of the now and get wrapped up in the next – what needs doing, what could be done, what wasn't part of the plan but now feels like an absolute must-have. It's so much easier to push, to shove, to climb to the top as fast as we possibly can.

Slow and steady may not win any races, but it's necessary all the same – if only to maintain a sense of sanity (which, if we're being honest, can feel more like a want than a need to have these days). But it's absolutely vital to cultivating and maintaining that inner voice that led us down this road in the first place. Because without it, we're really just another means of emotionless, characterless goods-for-money exchange – and lord knows the world has more than its share of that.

To slowing down, restarting and rediscovery.