Once fearing the void of silence in her life, one woman learns to embrace it, inviting in new sounds, thoughts and perspectives
We live in a world of constant noise. From young children to the elderly, if it is not the TV or music, we are listening to a podcast or watching a video.
I used to convince myself that I needed ‘white noise’ to be productive. I told myself that I just worked better in noise. Even as a young mother, I convinced myself that I should have the TV on for my kids so they could pick up new words and learn. Maybe that was partly true, but what was probably more real was that…
I was afraid of silence, fearful of where my mind would travel left on its own.
So, for years, I filled my moments with noise. And believe me when I say there is plenty of sounds to be found — I threw myself into my children’s school activities and after school sports. I organized fundraisers and even joined a group to revitalize an old theater — anything to keep me from the quiet. I thought all that noise insulated me from me. Avoiding silence became my superpower. The saying “ask a busy person if you want to get something done” became my mantra. I could be that busy person and appear for all things for all people.
But I was hiding this deep dark secret. I hated silence.
Battling depression and anxiety, I tried to stay out of my head as much as possible. I saw a situation and automatically went to the worst possible outcome. If my husband was a few minutes late, I was sure there had been an accident. If my son forgot to text, I would call immediately to see if he was alright. I came to believe that this was just the way most people’s (mother’s) minds worked.
Boy was I surprised when I was told that this was my anxiety speaking and my need to control all things to assure everyone was safe and happy.
As my therapist told me: “Consider your head a bad neighborhood that should not be gone into alone or unprepared.”
Now that my kids are grown and starting lives of their own, I spend a good deal of time alone. I have my teaching, my writing, and my family to fill the void, but recently I have started to investigate what would happen if I sought silence.
The first experience caught me by surprise when I was walking along the reservoir with a friend. We usually fill our walks with friendly banter on anything from local gossip to politics. But that day was different. We were both in contemplative moods and walked side by side, not saying a word. I started to hear things that I never had before. The thumping of our feet in unison as they hit the pavement, a bird chirping in the distance, the rumbling breeze picking up strength as it pushed through the trees.
How had I missed this? The sound of nature, life, movement…
I was working so hard to avoid the silence that I was missing all that could be found within it. Instead of feeling fear, I felt like a wave of peace wash over me.
I am not going to say that I am cured of my fear of silence, but I am trying to overcome it, a little at a time. And it appears the Universe is on board. Days after my first eye-opening encounter, the storm knocked out our internet, cable, and lights. My initial reaction was panic, but as I made my way around the house, I heard things I had never noticed before. The thump of the wet towels in the dryer was almost musical. The sigh from my dog curled at my feet was pure love. In my silence, I found that the world is filled with the rhythms of life, things that should be feared.
Nothing terrible happened while the power was out. My family remained safe without me calling them and the sun went down without my help. In the silence, I found a new piece of my mind was awoken. Little by little, I began to tiptoe into that internal neighborhood I had avoided for so long, and to my surprise, instead of expecting darkness, it was a beautiful place filled with love, hope, and forgiveness.
You may also enjoy reading The Sacred Pause: The Art of Activating Healing Energy by Travis Elliot