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30/06/2011 / melgardener

The Sounds of Silence

In preparation for writing this story I turned to the trusty Wikipedia for more information. Not knowing exactly the right search term to use, I tried ‘silence’, then I tried ‘noise overload’, then finally hit pay dirt with ‘sensory overload’. According to the aforementioned Wiki – sensory overload “is a condition where one or more of the senses are strained and it becomes difficult to focus on the task at hand”.

This describes my current attitude to sound perfectly.

I have children. Children make noise. These are unassailable facts. Up until now, I feel I’ve been managing but I’ve reached my limit; experiencing my own ‘sensory overload’ if you will.

Prior to having children I don’t think I ever truly appreciated just how awesome silence can be. I was always a gregarious creature – preferring to be out and about, catching up with friends, listening to music, going to the movies, shopping and generally socialising. Okay, so not much has changed on that front but it’s only since having the kids that I realise just how precious true silence really is.

It seems there are very few real opportunities for us to experience true silence. We have on-hold music to listen to while we wait, lifts have the ubiquitous ‘elevator music’, every shop you enter has something different playing, shopping centres have announcements and adverts at every corner.

The children seem to produce the most amazing cacophony of sounds – and I don’t just mean the whinging, whining and sniping that seems to be par for the course in our house at the moment (I’m blaming the weather). Children seem to come with an innate ability to create sound – whether it is incessant chatter, singing, talking to toys, playing make-believe games, asking innumerable questions, squabbling, watching TV, playing computer games, laughing, giggling, crying, eating, drinking, or making music.

I can’t deny that one of my pleasures in life is the sound of my children playing or laughing but I have days when I long for some peace and quiet – a break from the increasing ‘white noise’ of my life.  When I left work at the end of last year to work from home, I was concerned that I might be lonely. After all, I’d spent the better part of my working life in an office with plenty of distractions from phones and meetings to the general day-to-day chit chat that goes hand in hand with many types of work.

But, no.

In fact, I relish the days when I can sit in (almost) perfect silence – save for the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. I’ve even turned off my computer speakers so I don’t have to hear any more ‘beeps’ or ‘dings’ when an email arrives in my inbox. I have taken to driving around in the car, with no children and no radio or CD. It is immensely liberating to give my brain a break from the constant bombardment of auditory stimulation.

For some people, the idea of a car trip with no music is almost incomprehensible. I used to be one of them. But for now, I’m going to revel in this opportunity and embrace all the head space that a bit of silence can afford.

Do you like your silence or prefer to be surrounded by noise and activity?

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