Friday, February 15, 2008

Head Time (Or My Head’s Not for Rent)

We live in a noisy society. Or had you noticed? Try sitting in your living room without the overt sounds of a radio, TV, computer buzz, or the like, and just listen. I’ll bet you can still identify at least three distinct sounds. Those sounds might be the refrigerator, the washer/dryer, or even the distant sounds of an airplane overhead. Maybe it’s the sound of your own breathing or that of your near companion. You might even hear the crickets on your patio. My point is that even when we think we’re in a silent mode, we’re really not.

Right from the get-go I will say that I love silence. I NEED silence as much as I need oxygen, food, and water. I need quiet time (henceforth to be called QT) to sort out things in my head. Sometimes I do not sort. I just sit. I simply am. And it seems that the older I get, the more I need large quantities of my quiet or head time. The consequences of not getting this QT are real and severe.

My job – while enjoyable and rewarding – is also quite challenging on any given day. I am a librarian who works diligently every day to meet the academic and informational needs of the school community. Now while this is not physical work, it is highly demanding intellectually. The constant flow of patrons in the Library, each with a different need, requires quick thinking and multi-tasking, not to mention a high degree of knowledge for “where to look” for the required piece of information. It also requires technical knowledge of computers – hardware and software – as well as the ability to search various databases using the most efficient of search techniques and strategies. No, it’s not like digging ditches, but I am mentally exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve definitely given my employer (the school community) the best eight hours of my day.

That being said, silence is imperative at the end of a work day. The silence helps to replenish me; helps me to regroup for the next day; in essence, the silence fills me up so that I am able to pour out the next day. As you can see, silence and QT are not really options for me. They are a necessary part of my work life. It’s also essential for the artistic (music) side of me. Silence provides me an opportunity to reflect, to create, to grow in my artistry. Without silence, art is not made.

I’m happy to report that I almost always get that quiet time. Since I now live without human companionship – having lost my precious husband almost four years ago – I am more able to control the environment of my home. It’s not that my husband was noisy. In fact, he was a quieter person than I and also needed his quiet time. It’s just that I can now know with exact certainty that the house will be mine and mine alone.

Of course, there is Domino. You may have read about him in a prior post. If not, please go back in time and read about this amazing little creature. Fortunately, Domino is not a yapper/barker/noise maker. He serves as an excellent watchdog, or as I proclaimed him recently, Head of Household Security, a job he takes quite seriously and performs amazingly well. When on duty and as warranted, I get a sample of his barking skills. But other than barking as part of his job, he is a quiet, docile little dog who’d rather sit quietly in my lap with me while watching TV, reading, or napping than bark up a storm for no apparent reason. Domino, it would seem, also needs his fair share of quiet time. That’s something we have in common.

And so it can be said that I am able to control the noise level in my home and can get as much silence and QT as I need on a regular basis – that being on a DAILY basis. As previously mentioned, not getting this QT has negative consequences for me: I lose focus throughout the day; I am cranky; my patience is paper thin; and I feel bad physically. I may get a headache; start to get body aches; in general, I start to feel sick. My head also feels like it has a pile of trash in it – trash that needs to be taken OUT but stays IN because of not getting that QT.

I believe that a lot of people have trouble with QT. They’re not comfortable with their own thoughts. They need constant stimulus (noise, eating, fidgeting, etc.) so as to possibly avoid their own thoughts. Perhaps this is why so many people flip on the stereo, kick up the iPod, and tune in to Sirius – to avoid being alone with their thoughts – or perhaps alone with no thoughts. And I do think that some people don’t have nay thoughts. Nothing to sort out. Nothing of consequence to think about. Like, “Nobody’s home.”

Or maybe it’s because we are a society constantly “on the go”. We have forgotten how to be quiet. We have forgotten how to be still. With busy family schedules, it seems there’s always something to do. (And don’t get me started on the troubling fact that kids are way over scheduled these days – that’s yet another post.) It leaves very little time for those simple pleasures – one of which I call my QT.

Whether it’s due to self-imposed noise, or the lack of time for oneself, I believe that we, as a society, will one day pay for this lack of silence, solitude. And the price may be as real and severe as mine are.

Can you hear me America – over all of the noise?

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