The Need for Quiet

the-need-for-quietWe live in a noisy world. Yep, noise pollution is a thing.

Sometimes it comes with people. Other times it comes with the machines we can no longer live without.

Have you ever listened to the silence that comes when the power goes out of your home? That louder than thunder stillness in which you can hear your heart beat. You hear every creak of the house and every raindrop on the roof, wondering if you will ever be able to fall asleep.

When we lose power at home, I go a bit into survival mode, but once we have light and everyone is settled down, I grab my notebook and begin writing. Truly there is little else I can do when I want to enjoy that quiet.

Recently, I went to the yearly writing retreat with MidMichigan Writers. The members of this group try to retreat each year although it doesn’t always happen. It is simply a weekend away with like minded people. For those of us in the group, we talk about writing.

And, talk and talk about writing.

By the time that I arrived, I was in desperate need of some quiet time. I’d had a day filled with little ones and lots of frustrations. During the drive, I tried to decompress and had a bit of success but walking into the retreat space told me I hadn’t done enough.

I don’t know what the biggest turnout has been, but this group was large and loud. Loud in a good way except when you had a day like I did. I attempted to put my issues aside, even drinking some tea that helped me to settle in. Of course, politics being what they are this year, the conversation didn’t stop until the lights went out.

After getting up and having breakfast, I attempted to sit down and write.

Attempted is a good word for it. Nothing would come. There are days when the words just don’t come, and despair takes over. How could I not be able to write at a writing retreat? It probably happens more often than I think.

I decided that I needed to go out for a walk. I even declined any joiners on my walk because, more than the walk, I needed the quiet.

As I stepped out into the moist fall air, I took a breath and headed toward a small wooded neighborhood away from the main road. Along the way, I passed a couple who were busy planting hosta’s before the weather turns. Each step I took, I could feel peace taking over.

Once off the main road, I started a hawk who had been hunting. I only know this because I heard a panicked squeak in the tree where the hawk flew out. I tried to follow the hawk, but it disappeared into the trees. As I walked past houses, some seasonal and some permanent, most quite interesting, ideas began to flow through my brain. I hadn’t brought pen or paper, or my phone, so I decided to experience whatever I could.

My walk wasn’t long, and when I got back to the room, it was quiet. Unusually quiet. For a moment, I thought something was wrong, but everyone was writing. I didn’t join in the exercise, but I did sit down and write some of the thoughts I’d experienced on my walk.

I decided on that weekend that a walk is the cure for just about anything.

You should try it sometime.

Perfectly Alone

coffee-750990_1280I am sitting in a coffee shop in a town far away from home, enjoying the rare quiet, reflecting on just how unusual this is.

I had just walked out of my hotel and into the hot windy weather. For a moment I closed my eyes to relish the feel of heat and wind on my face. It had been a rough couple of days and I was feeling none too positive. Somehow, the wind cleansed away the creeping dark mood I’d been carrying. A feeling of peace came over me.

As I now sit and write with soft music playing and the barista the only other person in the building, I remember what I all too often forget:

I need time alone.

Time where I am actually without another person anywhere near me. I don’t mean just being in one room of my house while everyone else is in a different room. I actually need the house to myself. I need to be able to walk outside and just breath in the air. I need that freedom to just sit and do nothing for a bit without someone speaking to me or asking anything of me. Even if they present and are quiet, it’s not the same thing.

I forget that this alone time is necessary. I forget until that moment when that creeping angst crawls into my heart and spreads throughout my body. By that time I am frustrated with everyone and everything. It is not pretty. This is when I don’t like myself very much.

We learn so much about ourselves by being alone and that can be scary. It takes courage to face and accept yourself.

As a writer, I prefer to write alone in the quiet. It is in these moments where I can put honest, even ugly, words down. I know that at some point they will turn into a thing of beauty but in that moment, I am content. I am in the moment.

Being alone can take on many forms. Getting outside and taking a walk is healthy. Sitting in a quiet coffee shop people watching or simply reading the paper is enough. Sometimes just a few moments are all you need.

Our souls crave this quiet, especially in the midst of a busy life. balance-110850_1280

So, the challenge is to find time to be alone, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 5 hours or anywhere in between.

I dare you to stop in that park you pass on your way home and just listen to the wind in the trees.

Or pop into that bookstore you’ve been dying to visit but never found the time to just browse. You don’t have to buy, it’s okay to just look.

Or while you are waiting for your kid to get done with practice. Spend some time away from the field. It doesn’t take long. Just a few minutes to remember who you are and to be in the moment.

Challenge – Find some time to be alone this week and let go, if only a few minutes, of the rest of your responsibilities. You’ll be glad you did.