You would think that a busy guy like I am would love to have a few moments of silent bliss just to sit and think, or to indulge in a little reading without interruption. I have discovered, however, that when this rare opportunity comes around I am either too restless to sit still, or else become bored and sleepy. After blowing my most recent opportunity of peaceful uninterrupted bliss, the truth finally dawned on me. I need a little background noise in order to relax.
The moment of self discovery came this past weekend, when my wife left for a couple of errands that would take a good part of the morning. This left only my girls at home, who were unusually quiet that day, thanks to a fresh collection of library books to occupy themselves with. This should have been an ideal time for me to do the same, or at least work on my next article. Instead, I ended up restlessly walking through the house in search of something to do. It wasn’t until my wife returned, and my daughters were back to their active selves that I finally sat down and quietly read a book.
Maybe this little problem I have with silence stems from being a parent for so many years. My wife and I are now halfway through raising our four children, and past experience has led me to equate silence with children getting into mischief. I know numerous examples of quietness leading up to a child doing something he or she (or they) shouldn’t have been. One such quiet moment found one very young child sampling the used tissues and Q-tips from a tipped over bathroom trash can. That example is tame compared to a few other instances, but I think you get my point. To most parents, silence instantly means something is not quite right. Now that our children are older, I had hoped this mindset would change. Not so much.
Surely that can’t be the only reason that silence makes me restless. Maybe I have just become used to the ordinary sounds of life around the house, and my subconscious needs to hear some activity in order to compensate for my own inactivity. Perhaps something deep inside thinks that if there is no commotion, no sounds of activity going on, that I should go and create some.
This doesn’t mean that I need to have a lot of noise. No, just normal rhythm of home life is enough to make me content; the clinking of dishes in the kitchen; the sound of the clothes dryer; feet going up or down the stairs; the call for someone to come and fold their clothes; just normal sounds. The funny thing is that these sounds aren’t so noticeable until they’re absent, and that’s when I get restless. In fact, I don’t actually notice these sounds while I am reading, writing an article, or working on a project. I don’t because I am a guy, and therefore have the uncanny ability to tune out everything else around me when focused on one thing. This “tune out” ability really frustrates the females in my life, and I can’t seem to make them understand that any attempts to carry on a conversation with me at these moments will sound like the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher, or at best, an annoying buzzing sound.
Still, the truth of the matter is I need a little “buzzing” in the background to relax and enjoy a book, sand on a piece of wood, or even write a magazine article. The noise is comforting, even when it’s the barely noticeable, mundane resonance of life. In the midst of it I am comfortable. It also means I can be content in knowing none of my kids are up to anything.