The other day I was working in front of the fireplace, which I often do. As the flames licked the stone and blushed my chilled face, I sat down in front of my computer to write. I picked up my noise-canceling headphones (I love this pair), put them on, and immediately got distracted by an unexpected email. 10 minutes later I was stunned to notice something. Or rather, a lack of something all together. Utter silence. I had been sitting in absolute quiet for all that time, focused and at ease. I always listen to music while I work, and I had completely forgotten how good it felt to hear nothing.
In the depths of the student library at my university, there was a space partitioned by glass walls labeled the “Absolute Quiet Room.” It was a room comprised of about 12 tables, huddled in a basement corner, and was, frankly, a place I never needed to work in. Computers and cell phones were not allowed, and it was under the most strict restrictions that I’m pretty sure everyone respected. Well, that is, unless you were dared to go into this florescent abyss and do something hilariously distracting (frats would have people undress in the silence then run out in their underwear, and it was a favorite place for mimes to practice). I never needed quiet like that. At least, I didn’t then. Instead, I opted for a graduate shelf, hidden up in the stacks of the Rockefeller Library. Is was quiet enough I suppose, and worked for me at the time.
But these days, unless you have an Absolute Quiet Room of your own, there’s always noise. And we’ve grown accustomed to it. Cellphones continually buzzing, car horns blaring, music banging out of the radio – nearly everything we participate in makes noise. In fact, it feels against our nature to be in a room with other people and NOT to speak. It takes restraint.
This week, as my husband is away photographing parts of California’s desert landscape, I’m taking a few breaths and leaning into silence a little more. I hear the creaking of the heat. The subtle hum of the motor inside the printer. The tapping claws as our cat walks along the hardwood floor. And then, at night, the bedroom silence is palpable. Between the moments I turn off the light and sleep, I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen in the darkness.
I suppose it takes time to get used to the quiet, but silence still feels golden to me.
Do you ever feel like you need silence? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! And did you know absolute silence will drive you insane within 45 minutes? Check out this article to read all about it!