It’s Sunday morning. The house is quiet, but I hear the woodpecker carving out a rhythm in the background. Noise and silence engaging in a tug of war. It is an apt metaphor of how I am feeling now. I love solitude – those first few minutes of a morning commencing, the stillness, the minutes unfolding with a certain anticipatory ease. This welcoming is one of my favorite parts of waking because I am ignorant of what the day will offer. There are other pockets of silence I adore – lingering in the pages of a new book, the sound of the keys tapping as I write or running among the beauty of the desert landscape. It took me years to recognize this kind of silence is not something I can dismiss; it’s essential for my well-being. I long for the emptiness and channel it my surroundings. Every room has an uninhabited space in a closet, cupboard or shelf. Sometimes the solitude might prove uncomfortable, but I am convinced being alone, learning to navigate those emotions allows one to reflect and engage in a more meaningful way. My commitment to solitude is one I try not to compromise. The consequences when I don’t have this piece to myself? I am irritable and it impacts how I carry myself throughout the day.
My yearning for solitude only conveys half of my story. I also crave noise. I adore attending concerts. I love the sound of the crowd clapping as a performer takes the stage or when the audience decides to sing every refrain of a favorite song. The energy is unmistakable and exuberant. I also spend a fair amount on social media – checking Facebook, tweeting on my feed and posting pictures on Instagram. When I run, I plug in my headphones and listen to my favorite playlist. I adore getting together with friends for lunch, watching a movie or connecting with people at a party. This juxtaposition of my need for silence and noise reminds me of the Walt Whitman quote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
I am acutely aware of my contradictions, but Whitman’s words offer freedom. There is a permission inherent in his statement. I don’t have to give up the quiet or the noise; both can live in me. In my youth, I thought this was somehow wrong – I had to settle with one or the other. How could I adore both silence and noise? Is this a confused perspective? In midlife, I learned to embrace the unsettling place of grey, something I never thought I’d do in my youth. Contradiction is now a lighthouse. It opens the door to thinking of life as an ebb and flow and not singular and linear.
It has allowed more latitude in other areas of my life. Nothing is static, permanent or fixed. Everything in life possesses its own transience. By adopting this point of view, it lessens expectations and enlarges my space for growth. I am apt to embrace the noise and silence, literary books and People or US, Downton Abbey and reality shows, philosophical musings and basketball, parenting mindfully and the unease of mothering. Neither place is the wrong. It’s embracing the evolving nature of my personality, the willingness to not be so hard on myself and live in the terrain which feels most comfortable at a given time.
It’s Sunday afternoon. The television is blasting the basketball game. The three of us are watching with intensity, while my daughter dribbles the basketball around the house. There are all the signs of a full and noisy house.
Much different from how the day commenced. It’s a life of both noise and silence and of welcoming contradictions.
Image: Black and white hearts by jimpg2_2015 via Fickr.
Love this. I definitely lean toward silence/solitude for most of the time, except when it comes to music (while walking, driving, doing the dishes in an empty house). I can always tell when I’ve had a weekend with lots of other folks/family and the noise level is amped up (even if it is background noise like TV) because by Sunday night, I am physically exhausted. Like last night. All I wanted to (and did) do is light a candle and read in silence. Brought me back to center.
I didn’t always recognize that the physical exhaustion was a result of being around too much noise, but now I know I need silence to recharge. I read that Anne Lamott recommends spending an hour a day in complete solitude. She is probably on to something. . .
I like the balance too. One of my jobs is wrapped in solitude by necessity. One is engaged deeply with many people. Balance is good.
I agree, Barbara. Experiencing quiet and noise helps me sink into these diametrically opposite moments. Hope you had a great holiday weekend.
I love this! I find myself in the same place welcoming the contradictions that are a part of my life. The silence has been slipping away with many obligations and a busy schedule and I crave the space that I make to find peace . Beautiful reflection ! Xox
Thanks, Ayala. I hope you find pockets of silence amidst your busy summer. xo
I love the quote by Orson Welles which states somewhere in it we don’t need to reconcile the posts of contradiction but we do need to recognize them. I live my life in a state of contradiction or so it seems at times. Perhaps, its simply my struggle of balance.
Living in these contradictions is a type of balance, even if it isn’t ideal. I think when we wed ourselves to absolutes it causes the thrum of discontent. Appreciating our multifaceted personalities, I’ve found, leads to a sense of contentment.
I contradict myself too then! I think I’m truly an ambivert. And it may run deeper than that – these needs for pockets of silence and pockets of noise. It’s just that there are more than one (or even two) parts to me, craving different things.
Have you read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet? I’ve mentioned it a few times in previous posts, but there is quiz that helps you determine whether you are a introvert, extrovert or ambivert. I think it is healthy to satisfy all parts of your personality, even if they seem like contradictions.
SO well described and pretty much exactly how I feel. For how much I crave and love quiet, I find it crazy that I have a podcast on, for example, every second I’m in the car or while I’m working out. Or I like the TV on while I cook or I like someone to be talking to me while I cook. I’m constantly reading, which is a kind of noise.
Loved this post.
Thanks, Nina. I also like the television or radio on while I cook. I am slowly turning my attention to podcasts and love the “company.”
That Walt Whitman quote is just superb. Your exploration of letting yourself be both… yes that’s it, isn’t it? I think so many of the messages we receive are so polarizing. It has to be one or the other, never both, no room for both. The bit about allowing things to change, to allow for not static… I’m convinced that’s my lesson to learn this time around. Thank you for sharing. <3