Quiet

I’ve documented here that I really prefer it quiet.  I took me a long time to realize my aversion to music on while trying to read, or write – or really, to do anything other than drive – was a part of a wholesale sensitivity to stimulus, broadly defined.  Loud noises generally either freak me out or aggravate me (the one notable exception is that I love thunder and lightning).  In a house with small children, my desire for it to be quiet is a bit of a liability: I do an awful lot of shushing.  Too much shushing.  But sometimes I just need ten minutes without anyone talking to – at! – me.

This preference for quiet is becoming more and more pronounced as I get older.  These days my favorite evenings are those when I tuck my children in and then sit in silence and read or write.  I have heard people say they find silence when they’re home alone (or, alone without any other adults) unnerving.  For me, it’s the opposite.  There’s something hugely comforting and familiar to me about silence.  I’m sitting in silence as I write this, having just watched the sky wheel through a pale, eggshell-colored sunset, and I feel calmer than I have all day.

The silence sings. It is musical. I remember a night when it was audible. I heard the unspeakable.  – Henry David Thoreau

I read this beautiful quote on Roots of She and thought: yes.  That’s it.  Because silence is not really empty, is it?  It is full of its own music: the humming of my work computer on the desk next to me, the faint notes of the familiar lullabye CD wafting from my son’s room, the barking of the dog next door.  It is also full in another way, because in silence I’m able to hear myself.  It is only when I quiet way down – in every sense of the word, both literal and figurative – that I’m able to really tune in and hear what it is my body and spirit are saying.
Years ago I wrote about the ways that our spirit communicates through our bodies. About a knowledge that is on the flip side of reason, beyond logic, to a place where all there is is belief. Something soaked in blood, in tears, in milk. Something that might – maybe? – be showing me the way towards faith, towards meaning, towards the things, both maddeningly abstract and all-important, that I ache for most powerfully.  I expressed my conviction to listen to the messages that I know throb in my bloodstream. There is more there than the simple beat of my heart. It occurred to me that this sense of something more basic than intellect animate in my own body was another expression of instinct and intuition, and actually the same internal choir I’ve been struggling so mightily to hear.
And I can only hear it when it is quiet.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted July 19, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Yes. More and more, I crave quiet above all else. It is the only way I can hear the Knowing that feeds my creativity, my inner compass, all that I have come to treasure, slippery as it can feel.

    And the older I get, the more I feel the introvert coming back… just ordered the book “Quiet” – have you read it?

    Thanks for this, Lindsey. Fascinating stuff.

    XOXO

    admin Reply:

    I have read Quiet, and it helped me understand a lot of things about myself and this world. one post just as I was starting it: http://www.adesignsovast.com/2012/04/an-introvert-in-an-extroverts-world/

  2. Posted July 19, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    YES! This is what makes me that “shy extrovert” that I talked about. I, too, crave more silence and quiet time alone as I get older. Maikael often comments that, on this score, I am SO different than when I met him 15 years ago. I love that part in “Quiet” when she talks about — how does she say? — “stimulus-sensitive” or “highly-reactive” people. Even though I am an extrovert I am SO highly reactive. I’ve always had an alarmingly high startle response. And I, too, can only write in silence. I really prefer the house quiet: I can’t stand having the TV on “for background noise” as I once did. Drives me absolutely bonkers.

    I highly recommend Sara Maitland’s “The Book of Silence” if you haven’t read it. You would love it, I’m sure.

  3. Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I can relate. Got all my kids off to camp this morning and then returned to my quiet house, to read, maybe write and genrally reflect. My favorite time of day.

  4. Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I am so fascinated by this- particularly the comments. I read your writing about the book Quiet and thought how it was not for me- I am such an extrovert but… I crave quiet, need to it read, write, think. In fact there are times that noise really is like finger nails on the chalk board. So interesting…

  5. Posted July 20, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    There are times when good music infuses me with pleasure. As I grow and mellow, though, quiet is a balm. I avoid most TV now and prefer books and ‘doing’. With less time before me than behind and an appetite for so many activities, I need the solitude to pursue my interests. Sometimes it is painting or writing but often it is the peaceful pleasure of just listening to my surroundings. Bliss.

  6. Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I am the same way — I need and crave silence! With two noisy kids that is so not easy although as they have gotten older they are getting better at understanding that Mom needs some “quiet time” in order to function 🙂 Unfortunately my DH loves noise and has to have music or tv on all the time which drives me slightly batty — sigh. As soon as he leaves the house I turn everything off 🙂

  7. Posted July 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Once again, a soul sister. One of my favorite old songs “sounds of silence” says so well what you beautifully describe “hello darkness my old friend…” We are so rarely alone. So rarely quiet. To hear your own voice without words, to hear your thoughts above the cacophony, it feels like a gift when the silence envelopes me. Like a hug. I felt in my bones exactly what you said, it’s the most peaceful feeling.

  8. Posted July 22, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Another one of your posts that made me cry. I crave quiet and cannot have it. Even at 1 am, I’m awake, trying to soak in the relative quiet, but it’s still not quiet enough for me. I can’t write with noise around me, either. So hubby has to put his headphones on, the 3 yo has to be in bed and the windows shut against the neighbour’s nonsense. I can’t do anything about the traffic, but I can sit as far away from the road-facing door as possible. More than anything, I crave quiet around me and I find that choosing writing space devoid of pattern, clutter or mess makes me feel marginally better. Thanks for the post, Lindsay. Makes me miss our years in England so much (in a good way). Enjoy the quiet.

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