Spirituality and sexuality are two themes that frequently, but subtly, spiral their way into my poetry. When I was asked to come up with a “word of the day” for my episode on Broccoli Production’s Anthems podcast for Pride month, I wanted to take a word that I felt touched many aspects of my life. Stillness challenges me, it calms me, it sometimes bores me, and it leads me.
Anthems Podcast is described as, “a collection of original manifestos, speeches, stories, poems, and rallying cries written and voiced by exceptional people, that celebrate and contemplate what it means to be human.”
You can listen to my episode, and all past episodes here – Anthems – podfollow.com – and read the transcript below.
STILLNESS Podcast Transcript
Hi! I’m Ella Otomewo and I am a poet, performer, and educator, and your word of the day is Stillness.
So stillness, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary can be defined as “a state of freedom from storm or disturbance” (which I just love), or by the Cambridge Dictionary as a “total lack of movement or changing of position” (which I kinda hate.) I do appreciate the duality of these definitions though. This idea that stillness can be both a state of freedom and a lack of movement is a poem that the English language has already written for me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can heal my relationship with stillness after a period of what feels like so much stagnation. Because, the words seem really similar; but when I think of stagnant water, I see something murky and lifeless, whereas still water is tranquil and untainted, and I think time can work like that too. After the year that we’ve all been through, in many ways, being still is one of the last things I want to do. I know I want to dance, and I want to scream, and I want to run far away, and shake and sweat out all of the nervous energy I’ve acquired, I want to move forward and beyond. And lately I’ve been trying to figure out how cultivating stillness might help with that transition.
I would say I suffer from a kind of restlessness that could only be described as feeling like my skeleton and my skin are a pair of lovers dancing to two completely different beats. I’m always moving, stretching, running into a room and forgetting why … And so stillness doesn’t come naturally to me, even though I do feel it at the core of my being. Like when I’m rooted and honest, there’s a stillness there.
What I do miss is that delicate stillness that comes in anticipation of movement. Sitting diligently in a theatre with 300 strangers before a performance starts, holding her gaze before I kiss her, waiting for the beat to drop, or a plane to take off. These tiny moments of stillness are really significant and teach us that so much can happen while nothing seems to be happening.
When I think of stillness, I think of the sun sinking into our skin as we sat and sunk into the Moors; resting our beers between some rocks in the cool, shallow waters of nature’s fridge; I think of feeling a little tired, and peaceful, and happy, and a little sweaty, and like we belonged there with the sand and the clay and the long grass and the water; and in a moment when none of us tried to fill the quiet, just for a moment … we were still.
I think of cycling at night through empty roads,
Or standing under a bus stop in the rain.
I think of waiting for Godot
Or waiting for God.
I think sitting with other Quakers, to gather together in the stillness to find meaning and guidance
I think of a kid who, previously wriggling in her chair, has just straightened her spine and is holding a smile because she finally understands what her teacher has been trying to explain all morning.
I think of sitting on a park bench for an hour.
Or of holding a really long pose for a life drawing class until the stillness becomes more thrilling than the nudity.
Or of just doing nothing. I love doing nothing! Truly nothing. I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as wasted time. In doing “nothing”, we start to peel back the layers of a messy and chaotic day to accept it for what it is. Just a day, just a moment, no more or less important than any other.
Stillness often feels like a moment that needs catching. It’s often fleeting between the business of life.
And so, I invite you now, to catch a moment of stillness. A little time for yourself, a little sit, a little space. I think that stillness is space, and in that ordinary space, is an ever expanding power.
Stillness. Definition. Noun. A state of freedom from storm or disturbance.