One of the most sublime moments of my entire life happened all alone in a laundry-mat in Nuremburg, Germany.
My brain is very busy. Sometimes, it drives me crazy, because it doesn’t know how to just be, be still, be quiet, be calm. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this problem. Face it, we are inundated, everywhere we go, with candy for our brain- there are always things to entertain, tantalize, amuse, draw in, trap, and encircle our thoughts and mind. Things like colors, street signs, advertisements, packaging, melodies, music, words, overheard conversations, imagined conversations you want to have, musings, stewings, lyrics, and so on and so on. Very seldom are we offered the opportunity to experience silence, or absence of media vying for our attention- even in our own homes. Even in the shower, the shampoo bottles have something to say to you. Your brain is constantly engaged, whether you want it to be or not.
So a few years ago, I was in Germany for a toy convention. Rough, I know, but someone has to do it. Anyway, a colleague was with me for about five days, when she went home, I opted to stay on and vacation by myself for three weeks. Germany is incredibly safe for traveling, and I was looking forward to bouncing around wherever my whim took me, alone. Oh, yes, it was marvelous.
One morning, I realized I needed to do some laundry. Asking directions in my sehr schleckt pre-school level German to the desk clerk, I headed off towards the laundry mat. As I was sitting in the laundry mat, I felt my mind start to speed up, almost frantically and panicking, looking for something to understand, something to read, trying to read the signs, the ads on the busses, the directions on the wall, listen in on some conversation- and as it sped faster and more frantically, I had the oddest sensation of being detached from my brain. Then, all of the sudden, it just stopped. Completely stopped. Calm. Silence.
I remember sitting there, stunned, and oddly noticing the stillness, and the quiet. There was nothing for my mind to focus on… I had been alone for so many days, not spoken English at all, my German was so rudimentary that I could not distract myself with reading or even eavesdropping. And for the first time in my life, everything was still.
For the remaining weeks I was there, I was able to carry it with me quite a bit. As I traveled around, not having an American companion or anyone to distract me, I became submersed in where I was, and an odd thing happened- along with the stillness, suddenly, my German became passable, and I could communicate what I needed to, with little effort. Frankly, I think my brain was just desperate, but whatever.
It was a unique time in my life- being alone in a country where you don’t know the language well might not be everyone’s idea of a picnic, but it was nirvana for me. I wouldn’t trade that laundry mat for anything in the world. I might not be able to find much peace in my life now, but I know it exists.