Over the weekend, the gloaming of the sun pushed me to sit with the quiet. I wasn’t always adept at identifying that I not only crave quiet, but need it to live a contented life. In my early thirties, I’d sense a thrum of discontent after attending a party with several people, but afterwards failed to pinpoint the source of my irritation. Only after reflection and reading did I realize I may come across as an extrovert but the essence of my personality felt home with my introverted self. I’ve routinely found big groups of people intimidating and the chatter of small talk is particularly unappealing. I don’t exhibit the best body language at these kind of gatherings – my husband will remind me to uncross my arms. Loud music, people buzzing about like bees and the talking about nothing in particular is a recipe for me to seek refuge in nature or in the comfort of our home.
In midlife, I find it essential to actively separate the quiet from the noise. This is a mantra that not only applies to my social obligations, but also to how I engage in my everyday life. In the morning, I look forward to those moments when the only sounds I hear are my feet moving back and forth toward the coffee maker. In seconds, the entire hour is quiet, with only the coffee dripping into my cup. The air is filled with the smell of light roast, a new day and a hope for routine. If I am not writing in the morning, I am running outside, paying attention to the cactus, the desert flowers and the abundant presence of the mountains in the horizon. This landscape is the one I try to inhabit as I move toward my work and my personal responsibilities.
I am still not perfect at attending to this rhythm. I struggle sometimes at saying no at the wrong kind of interactions and conversations I know will interfere with my quiet. How do you find a way to gracefully say no or mindfully remove yourself from the words being said? I’m working everyday to sink into the quietness of a particular moment and seeking this same momentum amidst the noise. A meditative state, I believe, comes when are able to harness your quiet self in the noise. This will come with practice and time. I have yet to evolve into this state.
I do know the wrong kind of noise can set me back for days. I will linger in the words of others, speculating on speculation and pontificating on another’s intent, knowing I will never decipher the true meaning of what was meant or said. I can’t be around several stimuli at once, a blasting television or the sounds of random noise from an iPad, as well as other intrusions that might potentially interrupt the rhythm of my writing. There is certain humming of noise that will raise its hand – none of us can plan our personal utopian day filled with only the people and activities that contribute to our ideal unfolding.
Much of the transition into what feels right for me requires attentiveness to what matters. Ultimately, I am centered by pursuing activities that raises the decibels of my personal quiet: running, reading, writing and engaging in conversation with a handful of people whom I know are also trying to sink into the present with me. The quintessential feeling is learning how to harness the quiet and staying true to who I am even in the backdrop of noise. My hope is I will get there eventually – working toward separating the quiet and noise, day by day, even if it sometimes feels uncomfortable to do so.