How do you feel about silence? I mean the kind of silence where you can hear the birds singing, and your own thoughts seem to disappear into the void of quiet.
I did not like silence, it felt so empty, lonely and isolating. But these words have taken on a new meaning in 2020, as we embrace self-isolation to keep ourselves and others safe. Loneliness has become a co-pandemic to Covid-19, and emptiness has replaced the busyness of our regular lifestyles. Even before our Lockdown I liked noise. Whenever I was in my car Classic FM would be on, our I would play music through my phone. Walking Jackson was an opportunity to listen to podcasts or to enjoy my iTunes music collection. In my job as a teacher noise goes hand in hand with the chalk marks on my black trousers. My whole life has been engineered around noise of some kind or another.
Comfort in noise
When I first moved out of my family home, my mum gave me a piece of advice I will not forget – she told me to have a radio or tv on down at a low volume whenever I was home alone. This would take the silence out of my flat and give me a bit of comfort. She was right, it worked a treat. There is nothing like rattling around an empty, silent house moving from room to room with nothing about other than your thoughts and the deafening quiet. But having a tv on the Food Network at a low level feels like there are friends in the room, and you do not feel quite so alone.
Noise was also one of the tools I was told to use to help Jackson settle at night – leave the radio on at a low level, the noise will soothe him, and he’ll go to sleep. So, for the last 2 years, Jackson has fallen asleep to Classic FM on a very low volume, and he does seem to settle quite quickly.
The new normal
Working from home brough a whole host of challenges and opportunities for all of us. I would finally be able to listen to John Suchet’s radio show daily (the man has an amazing voice, as do all the Classic FM presenters!) So, I set my radios up in every room of my house, to ensure that wherever I went there would be some comforting chat or relaxing music. This became part of my daily routine, having the radio on during the morning then putting on the Food Network in the afternoon, when school was finished for the day.
Let it all change
This morning I left my phone and headphones at home when Jackson and I went out for our walk. I went out without my comfort blanket and without any technology. As we walked, I listened to the birds singing, to the distant traffic and to the nothingness. My walk became completely focused on the quiet, the still and the silence. And it was beautiful. I found a meditative quality to a functional task of taking my dog a walk. My thoughts stilled, my breath became more even and calm and I found myself completely immersed in the present moment. This is when I realised exactly what the concept of Mindfulness is all about. And I liked it.
Lessons in quiet
After the walk I slipped back into my new normal, making breakfast while Classic FM played softly in the background, but the silent stillness of my walk remained with me. When we head out for our walk later today, I might just leave my headphones again, and try to experience another few moment of silence. I felt so calm and centred after the walk in the quiet that I think it might by quite good for me to build in some serious quiet time into my day. Maybe then I can finally learn to find some comfort in the silence and observe its beauty.