There is no such thing as absolute quiet within our world. Rather, there is the absence of certain sounds. I have control over some of them and powerlessness before other ones.
For some people quiet means something is wrong. They are never without some form of noise. The television or radio must be on, or ear buds must always be securely in place. A break in a conversation must be filled in with words.
For us it is the opposite. By temperament we are quiet people. Silence means that all is well. I know where this comes from in my life and it is not because I am an extreme introvert or anything like that. I grew up in an anxious family where the emotional tension was palpable at times. When things were stressful my father would get angry and withdraw and my mother would talk – compulsively. The more tense the situation, the more my Mom would talk. The television was rarely off in the evenings. I think it served as an emotional buffer a part of the time.
I remember a vacation we took up the coast of California. We had one of those little travel trailers, less than 15 feet long. It was designed to sleep a bunch of people and not much more. My Mom decided driving up Highway 1 between San Simeon and Carmel would be a fun idea. My Dad thought otherwise, but being somewhat a passive-aggressive person, he agreed. Our station wagon was relatively old, and navigating the narrow, sometimes steep road pulling a trailer was very stressful for him. His anxiety triggered Mom’s anxiety and so we spent several long hours listening to my Dad being angry and blaming, and my Mom talking incessantly. So much for a pleasant vacation for us kids.
My love of music compelled me to break this tendency towards quiet. When first married and for many years afterwards our house was constantly filled with music – live and otherwise. Music is joy for me and for Nan. For years Nan danced around the stereo when the television was turned off, hooked up to a pair of Koss headphones. I think maybe Nan drowned out the more unpleasant parts of life with music (loneliness from being unequally yoked in part). It was a skill she picked up while living in her chaotic home growing up. As a child I used to practice piano for hours at a time joyfully, but it was also my coping mechanism for blocking out conflict. As an adult I used music to try to give meaning to life and masked the unpleasantness with alcohol.
But these days the need for quiet is strong. The contemplative side of me has emerged. Perhaps it’s a natural reflective state of being for those of us who are aging. Regardless, those quiet moments are very life-giving. I am more aware of my senses – color, sounds, smells, taste, touch and our sixth sense – spirituality. In those places of pause, I am more likely to hear the still, small voice of our Creator.
I have tried to develop tolerance and patience for those who are not quiet people. But I gravitate towards those who are calm, especially during our off-work times. Perhaps you can relate to me because you are like me. Or maybe you can empathize and try to develop tolerance and patience for people like us because you are not.
All of us need connection, we just do it differently.