When I was a little girl, I used to stare at my cat, wondering what he was thinking about, lying still and calm, only mildly irritated by the curiosity of his small owner. I couldn't even imagine then what I eventually concluded: that he was mostly thinking about nothing. I still can't.
On Saturday, as I looked out the car window as we were leaving Houston, C asked me, "Is your head noisy?" I smiled at him, "Yeah . . . can you hear it?" He laughed. "Are you kidding me? The people in the next car can hear it!" I could absolutely imagine the teenaged boys in the car alongside us able to hear the cacophony of my thoughts as clearly as I could hear the bass line of their music.
My head stays pretty noisy, mostly thinking about what I need to do next or tomorrow or eventually. It cycles through recent conversations with people, undergoing the torment of second-guessing and self-recrimination, and sometimes it lands on fond thoughts about the people I love. Occasionally, the inner dialogue is a creative one, full of new ideas or intriguing variations on old ideas. I love it when that happens, but it's still hard to hush when it's time to rest or pray or focus. I've mostly given up on the contemplative pursuits but it's never too late to try again. I would love to be rid of "the monkeys in the banana trees," as Henri Nouwen called them. In the meantime, if you can hear my noisy thoughts before you even see me coming, I won't be surprised.