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.