In Search of Silence

power-of-silence

I’m a nitpicker from way back.

Don’t get into a semantic argument with me. I love them more than I care to admit. Don’t use the word ‘literally’ if you really mean ‘metaphorically’. Unless you’re being ironic. And good Lord, don’t get started on ironic. I was so disappointed in my first musical obsession, Alanis Morisette, for writing a song about a bunch of unfortunate coincidences and calling them ironic. But I digress (yes, yes I do. And often.)

One of the things getting me all hot under the collar recently is the whole introvert/extrovert definition. Ten years ago, I would have called myself an extrovert: I enjoy people, socialising, talking. I’m not shy or reserved. Ten years ago, that’s what I thought an extrovert was. But ten years ago I didn’t have children, so ten years ago I ran my own show. And ten years ago I was always able to come home after a busy day of work, or a crazy weekend of socialising, and relax. Alone. I could choose to socialise or, if I didn’t have the energy, to stay in and read or write. Being alone with my own thoughts gave me the energy to go out and be social. Which, it turns out, is the exact definition of an introvert. Being shy isn’t necessarily being an introvert. It’s just… being shy.

So becoming a parent has been inexplicably hard to manage at times. My kids are awake from around 5am and for the next 12-14 hours, there is no silence and I am never alone. 7 days of the week. I remember when Freddie was about 3 months old and I spent a day working for the first time since before he was born. The 30 minute drive to my studio was euphoric. With nobody talking, crying, asking, demanding, wanting. Listening to my own choice of music! Being alone. Being silent.

This weekend I had to have it, I had to have silence. After spending the morning at the Vic Market as a family (which I love!), we were driving home. John was asking what else we need to get at the supermarket. I was trying to formulate a shopping list while reading recipes on my iPhone which, for anyone who knows me well, is about as effortless as trying to read something in a foreign language. There was an interesting but semi-infuriating segment happening on the radio that my brain just would not tune-out to. And Hazel was demanding, ad nauseum, to listen to the Frozen soundtrack. Which was really just the choice between listening to one thing ad nauseum or another.

I felt the panic attack creeping up. I know it’s coming when I try to take a deep breath, but the breath seems to only make it half way to my lungs. The deeper I try to breathe, the shallower the breath seems to go until I’m almost panting and gasping. My logical side was saying “what the hell is wrong with you?” and my emotional side was screaming “jump out of the car!” We were on the freeway so… lucky I’m not a slave to my emotions.

“Let me out at the supermarket. I’ll do the rest on my own.” I said.

So they did. I stood inside the entrance to the supermarket, for what felt like an eternity, just trying to unscramble my thoughts. Slowly, I began making my way around. And at the end, with shoulder bag filled to the brim with groceries (including plenty of heavy cans and bottles) and a jumbo-pack of nappies slung over one arm, I walked home in spite of the looming storm clouds.

It’s about two kilometres of undulating urban hills, or a half hour walk without 10 kilos of groceries. I’ll admit, it wasn’t physically pleasant. But it was mentally and emotionally necessary. A re-set button I used to be able to press on a daily basis that hadn’t been pressed for months.

So, to all you introverted parents out there (not just the shy, socially awkward or agoraphobic ones – but hugs to you guys, too), we all need silence more than we realise, so make sure you take some much needed silent time today.

And not just on the toilet. If you’re lucky enough not to be followed in there, anyway.

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