“Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.” Mary Oliver
I like quiet. When I feel lost, I retreat home. Sitting in my office, the familiar seeps into my veins. The sound of my fingers moving on the keys of my laptop, the slice of light that smile through the blinds, and the smell of fresh, brewed coffee give me permission to take a deep breath. Sinking into an unforgettable sigh, smelling quiet is like a spellbinding potion.
For so many years, I resisted solitude. The constant busy in my life became an unshakeable trance. Even after a long commute to work, I planned activities in the evening that ensured that gaping holes of silence would fail to materialize. These jam-packed seconds left me tired and irritated. I needed a way to balance my desire for extroversion and a means to cultivate my introverted spirit. As I get older, I lean more toward my quieter self. Large crowds overwhelm, noisy places interfere with my constitution, and the notion of being “popular” is a wholly unfulfilling proposition.
This past year, on the recommendation of several people I trust, I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, a careful study on extroversion and introversion. As I delved further into her work, I realized that for many years I wrongly classified myself as an extrovert. The clearest indication of my extroversion depended on my former profession as an attorney. To varying degrees, I did and still do gravitate toward being social. Small intimate parties, getting together at home with friends, and a vigorous debate on a subject that matters stirs excitement and a forum to voice my beliefs. But like most, I possess a multitude of contradictions. While reading this book, I learned, at the core, my introverted self offers the most comfort. I enjoy solitude, prefer long periods where I delve into my thoughts, and uninterrupted hours where my focus is writing.
There are periods where life directs me toward a more social perimeter. I understand this. In the middle of it, I grow weary, but now I am adept at recognizing that I really crave is solitude. For reasons I am unable to decipher, I balked at the notion that I required this quiet time, because for years I convinced myself that I needed to be more social to fill the disconnect that hovered in and around me. Really, though, all these years I required the fullness of quiet. It is comforting staying at home. Reading a book, writing in my journal, listening to the owls at night or the chirp of the birds in the morning, and the echo of all of the everyday movements of my home.
The quiet is all the noise I need.