I grew up in a noisy household. My best memories are surrounded by the racket of life moving rapidly and energetically through our house. Noise was my connection to the umbilical cord of life. I found it comforting and familiar. When my siblings closest in age graduated from high school I was the last child of seven at home. I missed the noise of brothers and sisters, and instruments, accompanied by the constant rhythm of appliances working overtime to keep up with the chaos. I was a teenager with parents that were as old as most of my friends’ grandparents, and I’m sure my passion for adventure and bull strength Taurus stubbornness took a toll on my mom and dad.
I did my best during those years to keep things loud. I was constantly reprimanded by my parents for turning my electric guitar amplifier up too loud, or my record player. I chatted too much on the phone. My oldest brother had given me a second phone line in my room for my birthday when he worked at an appliance shop, and back in those days, before cell phones, that was a huge deal.
Silence was not always displeasing to me, but it felt foreign. I often felt filled with apprehension when I was alone with my thoughts. The quiet made me pause, think, and question. My biggest fear, I hate to admit, was that something would happen to my parents before I was eighteen. I remember more than once softly reciting a prayer to God that he just get me through high school without anything terrible happening to them.
Throughout college and beyond, I stayed in the center of noise--from working with four noisy children in a big city as a nanny, to working in customer service jobs and large company environments, playing in bands, and being with friends almost constantly. I had many roommates throughout that time, mostly because I liked the company and the noise. When I did move into my own place for a year, I made a point not to set foot in my apartment except for sleep, showers, and to store my stuff-- for the silence felt confusing.
When I got married, life became routine for two years before children came along. Mark and I enjoyed the solitude of back-packing, but even the gentle hum of nature sometimes would be interrupted by my need to talk, or play my harmonica, lest I not be left alone with my own silent thoughts. We got a dog and a cat. I don’t know when I really started missing noise, but I can guarantee that is was around the time that I felt a twinge of urgency to become a parent.
When my oldest child was born, I felt an immediate return of something I didn’t know I had missed so badly: the music of life mixing with the noise of a child. Like a long lost friend, I heard my childhood being transplanted in the healthy lungs of a bouncing baby boy.
Six years later the synchronized noise of three children plus a dog became the norm. Then somewhere within the voice of silence started beckoning. I had ignored it for many years. The silence in my mind was waiting for me patiently to acknowledge it every night as I tucked myself in bed, exhausted from the stress of parenthood and life. I could no longer turn my back on its voice.
I knew this inner voice was one that would make me deal with certain chapters of my life that I had tucked away in the dusty corner in the attic of my mind. I convinced myself I could be super mom, super wife, super neighbor with a super life. I couldn’t. I became depressed, anxious, and agoraphobic. I had a sudden urge to discover the deep part of me I had ignored for too many years, buried behind the noise of life. I needed help, and I needed to befriend silence to start the healing process.
It took immense work and a loving village of both friends and strangers for me to become safe in the arms of silence. I have named her Peace, and she is now a huge part of me-- through meditation, writing, composing, snuggling, loving, living, and deep listening to my authentic self.
Oh, my life is still louder than ever, but the musical score has changed. There are measures built in for rests, to honor the sounds that swell and pulse around me. For if it wasn’t for the rests, there would be no rhythm in my life. Today, as I sit in the silence of my house, listening to the click of my keyboard, and the whistling wind outside I am immensely grateful. My house is loud, but Peace coexists….content, beautiful, and with a mission to continue to aide me in journey of being the mom, wife, friend, daughter, and person that I long to be.
I hope that my kids befriend silence much sooner than I did. I know in this age of technology they are immersed in more noise than I ever was. I am trying to stress the importance of silence in their lives, by monitoring TV, computer, cell phones and activity. What do you do, mamas and papas, to keep silence sacred in your life?