In general, I'm a very quiet person. I don't like to talk a lot. I don't like to hear other people talk a lot. I abhor loud noises. I cringe every time the phone rings. I get pissed off when people honk their car horns (unless there's a very good reason!). For me, one of the greatest downfalls of cell phones and modern technology is that I have to hear other people's conversations. Which I could obviously care less about. I've even left stores when I was browsing because I wasn't able to browse in peace. It's such a shame. It seems that every time I enter someone else's home, there's a TV on. Even when no one is watching. I really can't stand it. I'm just not one of those people who needs constant background noise. So I don't understand the waste of energy.
It was only a few years ago that I couldn't bear the quiet. I was suffering from crippling post partum depression. Lucky for me, I got through it. It took the love of my family, some serious medication and lots of therapy. My therapist was simply divine and she saved me. Well, no, actually, I saved myself. But she did play a HUGE part. During one of our first sessions, she told me to make it a point to have quiet time on a regular basis. No TV, no phone, no heavy music, no one around to talk to me. I could read....but it had to be light and mindless (none of the non-fiction books dealing with societal issues that I would normally read). The first time I tried it, I thought I would lose my mind. I simply couldn't do it. Seriously, I probably lasted 30 seconds. I can't even explain how I felt....I only know that I immediately put on something, anything, to make noise. And when I relayed this to the divine therapist, I broke down and cried for a long time. Why was this? I was always a quiet person and this was way out of character. It took some time and a lot of soul searching but I finally realized that it was easy to cover up with noise. Each time my inner voice tried to speak up to tell me things in my life weren't as they should be, I covered it up. It was SO EASY to watch stupid reality TV and blast hip-hop.....it was a distraction from life's bigger questions and, honestly, something to talk to people about. No one ever has meaningful discussions anymore. It's all about American Idol (snooze), the last episode of Lost (who cares!), the latest fashion to buy (ahem) or some meaningless celebrity bullshit. There didn't seem to be a place in the world for a free little soul like me who didn't need all this and certainly wasn't fulfilled by it. Slowly, and often painfully, I came to terms with myself, my life, my choices. And, once again, I learned to crave the quiet. To lie on my back and revel in it.
No, I am not just sitting around thinking about this. I recently read a NY Times article by Dwight Garner -Meditations on noise. It's a book review on three different books that are coming out which all deal with noise. How it affects people, how the world is getting progressively louder, how we create noise even when we're being quiet. But I especially love the ending of the article when Dwight offers up this example: you find yourself driving and lost, what's your first move?, you usually snap off the radio to reorient yourself. "You find a way to become as silent as you can". While I was driving on my great life journey, I got lost, turned off my "life radio", and almost immediately reoriented myself. There is so much beauty in silence. If you can find it.
Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer
Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence by George Michelson Foy
In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik