I recently sat through a staff meeting where we discussed our Emergency Preparedness Plan. Words like “bomb” and “evacuate” were thrown around. My mind wandered and all I could hear was “you dropped a bomb on me, baby” and “evacuate the dance floor”. Lyrics of songs ran through my head and eventually they spilled out. My friends jokingly said that they wondered what it would be like to be in my head for a minute.
That moment took me back to one years ago when I was sharing with two dear friends all that was swirling around for me and the internal dialogue that ensued. My friend looked at me and lifted up her hand as if to turn down a nob and asked, “how do you turn that off?”. I remember feeling seen and known in the moment and at the same time ashamed and caught.
My mind is always like this. Always. As I was pondering the themes for April this month, I was standing outside watching my boys playing as we waited for the rain storm to roll in. My mind began to wander and before I knew it, I was hearing lyrics such as “kiss the rain, whenever you miss me”, and “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky”, and “here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory, falling on my heart like a new emotion.” I could go on with all the songs that popped into my mind but I think you get the point. My mind didn’t stop there however. In a matter of seconds, as I watched my children play, I was also tied to memories and the people connected with each of those songs. In a single moment, I felt playful, sad, loved, and lonely.
As I think about all of this, I continue to be amazed by the human brain. I am stunned by the complexity and fragility on a daily basis. Our brains, controlling movement, regulating senses, processing emotions, providing understanding and keeping us alive are changing and adjusting all the time. Experiences, patterns, trauma, stress, beliefs, age, exercise, mindfulness, and gratitude are just a few of the factors that have an effect on the brain. I find it fascinating to think about how little we are consciously aware of, on a moment by moment basis, that is affecting our being.
I recently was walking downtown when I popped into a shop that spotlights local artists as well as some of their favorite artists. As I was enjoying the unique creations, I found myself drawn to a print from an artist based in West Virginia. The whimsy and color coupled with a bizarre image caused me to pause long enough to read the words on the print: “it was a fine day indeed when Phillip realized how well the orchestra of madness responds to a conductor who has learned to let go.” Yes. I walked away that day without the print but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. My friend shared with me a sign she recently received that was an invitation to relax and accept the chaos and I shared with her about the picture that I had seen saying something about the orchestra of sounds that play when we quit trying to control the chaos.
The words, as I could remember, stayed with me for weeks until I walked into the store again one late afternoon. As I surveyed the room for the print, my anxiety grew as I was not finding it anywhere. I had pondered those words and finally decided that this piece felt significant and like something I wanted to embrace and now it was nowhere to be found. As I was about to ask the sales clerk, I turned a corner and found a stack of prints from the artist. I rifled through them, reading more of his brilliant words but kept returning to the original one that I had found. I bought it that day and it now rests on a shelf in my bathroom for me to see every day. I keep it in a place where my reflection is always looking back at me. A place where I choose every day to either be critical or hard, controlling or free, indifferent or kind.
As I engage in my day and the chaos that abounds both internally and externally for me I am continuing to climb out of the box to embrace the beauty in the truth. The truth, that it was a fine day indeed when I realized how well the orchestra of madness responds to a conductor who has learned to let go!
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.