The Beach Boys Saved My Life

There’s a world where I can go
And tell my secrets to
In my room
In my room

I gave serious thought to “walking on” as a college freshman to play football at Vanderbilt. I was 18 years old, I thought I could play at that level, but, that fantasy vanished before I even got to campus. The summer after my high school graduation I got mononucleosis, lost twenty pounds, and sick as a dog I lay flat on my back with the shades drawn in my room for three weeks. I passed the time sipping grape juice through a straw, wondering if God was punishing me (a good, Southern Protestant) for dating a really cute Jewish girl (and for the record, she did not give me mono).

All the while, the Beach Boys played in the darkness, acquainting me with solitude and silence. Yes, I was miserable and frustrated, but for the first time in my young life I was forced to slow down and think about the things that mattered most to me. Was I praying? I’m not sure. Later, I read that “prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us.” I was alone, but not lonely: Simply silent in my room.

I recovered and resumed my normal pace of life, a blur for the most part; going to college, joining a fraternity, meeting a girl, and getting married. My soul continued to crave what I had encountered while cloistered in my room that summer, but rarely did I reclaim the grounding perspective that only silence and solitude can deliver about one’s life. There was just too much to do. That neglect cost me dearly. 

Psychologists have a word for a distracted, anxiety-driven lifestyle: Codependence. Cool people call it F.O.M.O. – The Fear of Missing Out. That’s shorthand for a question: “What will people think of me?” F.O.M.O. is an addiction that has brought many to their knees – including me – but only after our dreams, families, and confidences came crashing down.

I’m in recovery today from the hot mess I once was, and one of the ways I allow healing to continue in my life is by slowing down, getting still, and being present in the moment before me. I’ve never found a substitute for these appointments with myself and the unscripted, unhurried minutes alone “in my room,” as the Beach Boys sang to me six decades ago.

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