I have a confession to make.
I knew last Friday what the underlying reason for my ‘always a sound in the background’ situation was, at least I had a very strong suspicion. But this week has, with Jeff gone on a golf holiday with some friends, really driven the point home. I’d already noticed that I listen to far less music on the weekends when he’s home, but I assumed it was because he and I don’t share a lot of musical tastes.
Until this year, I’ve often spent my days around other people in some way: working in retail or local business projects, volunteering, training with Scotty or Jessica, passing an hour or two in a favorite cafe, chatting with my favorite store’s owners. But with our decision to not eat out, go to bars/cafe’s, to travel, and to cut way back on our spending this year, not to mention my lack of a regular training partner, now I can go days without speaking to anyone but Jeff after he gets out of work. Toss in my decision to logout of the more distracting social media sites and it’s pretty much crickets around here.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like my solitude, I value my time to myself, I think the decisions are good ones. I’m introverted by nature and by upbringing. But I didn’t fully realize how little I would interact with people day by day now, especially verbally. I promise I’m not spending hours crying into my teacup or anything, nor do I have any desire to start forcing conversation on poor underpaid grocery store clerks, but to say my days are quiet is like saying snow is white.
I understand that my own decisions are the root of the situation. I was the one to suggest we take on this challenge. I made the decision to stop volunteering, at least for a year. I know that I could look for a more social type of work than copyediting. I could even *shudder* join a club of some kind – running, reading, basketweaving. I don’t expect others to fix my silent world or ask you pity me.
I know that there are people isolated from and by society for a variety of reasons. People who don’t have the privilege of making the decisions that I’ve made and that I’m making. People who are so alone and lonely that their only conversational opportunities are with themselves, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. They deserve our compassion when seen mumbling to themselves in public parks, arguing with no one on the sidewalk, or forcing a one-sided conversation on a clearly disinterested bartender or barista. I can only imagine the pain of unrelenting, unending, unmediated aloneness.
For a few years, I shared lunch M-F with someone who, I quickly came to realize, often didn’t speak to anyone else the entire day. A few days before he died, he said something unexpected that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, but which I’ve been thinking about a lot this week. “Of everything you’ve every shared with me, your conversation has meant the most.” I better understand what he meant these days. I wish I could tell him so.
Take care of yourself and each other.
For your listening pleasure, because it’s brilliant and beautiful:
Sounds of Silence
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence
Songwriters: Paul Simon
The Sound of Silence lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group