Stop This Train.
Silence was never an option.
Growing up, there was always music blaring, the TV was always on in multiple rooms, everyone was always competing for volume. There was never an opportunity to listen to silence because silence was never really part of my environment.
When I left home for college, I let myself continue to be surrounded by sound. I multi-tasked and watched TV shows or a movie while I ate lunch, I listened to music while I studied. I would even walk to class with my headphones on and I’d fall asleep listening to film scores. After college, I would even listen to audio books as I drove home from work. I grew to believe that maybe I was just more comfortable in chaos and surrounded by sound.
I’m not saying sound and music are bad things, they are therapeutically a part of me, I just never allowed myself the opportunity to listen to…well, nothing.
The idea daunted me. Not listening to anything? Not the radio or my mom on the phone or a podcast on my way home? Silence scared me. I didn’t ever want to be alone with my thoughts, so I drowned them out with sound.
My mind has always been one that works constantly. It’s always on, it never stops. There’s always an idea, there’s always a critique, there is always a what if. My mind is always working, always churning.
For the majority of 2016, I was on fire. I was living loud and I was having fun, there wasn’t any time for silence. While a weird amount of people on my social feed were buying houses, I was coughing up phlegm and saying, “I’m fine, I don’t have a fever, let’s go to the next shindig.” #LifeInYour20s—you are now up to speed…although, I don’t know a lot of 20 something year old people that say “shindig” but hey, that’s me.
It wasn’t until I decided to take a break from the chaos and try a social media cleanse,that I fell into having to tap into silence as a part of being in the moment more. And after blocking the thoughts I had ignored for years, it was honestly a break down moment for me. I met silence head on, I worked on myself and I started listening.
Silence is bitter.
In the silence away from the chaos, those things you suppress for so long can sneak up on you. They can ruin your peace and disrupt your happiness. Silence is the place where you can finally come face-to-face with all those unresolved, negative thoughts, the doubts, that circle around in your mind. The thoughts that are just floating, waiting for the window of opportunity to open, so they can charge in and start to control you.
And when you least expect it, the flood of insecure thoughts are sometimes magnified. You feel the rush of loneliness for the wrong reasons. It opens up doors from your past that you’ve sealed shut. It provides a place for disaster, but only if you let it.
Silence is sweet.
So I started listening to those thoughts and becoming more and more comfortable in silence. I started listening with my mind and my heart. I heard mean things that I had been pushing deep down into my gut and they hurt more than ever when they floated back up to the surface. But, while welcoming the silence, I also heard God again.
I heard my inner voice again too, and I married the two together. I dissolved the negative and brought life to the positive. I dealt with loneliness and accepted my season. I dug up the things from my past I chose to push away for so long, and instead of met them face-to-face. I finally dealt with everything.
Silence is bittersweet.
I challenged myself to listen to sounds around me instead of the music in my headphones. I challenged myself to listen to God and what He had been trying to tell me. And through these brutal exercise without the sounds I was comfortable with, I discovered the bittersweet sound of silence.
In silence, you can finally hear the desires of your heart. In silence, you finally face the negative, unresolved things you’ve been hiding from yourself. In silence you realize that there is a moment of stillness where time doesn’t exist.
Silence is the only way you can start your journey to peace.
In chaos you’re free from those thoughts. You can’t hear them because you don’t want to deal with them. But when you look at those thoughts face-to-face, confront them and remind them that you are in control, you’ll start to get more and more comfortable with the silence.
The deeper you push those things down, the more you will cry in the car on your way home, or unexpectedly in the shower as the tears blend with the drops of water coming down from your head. You’ll cry quietly in bed before you fall asleep, so that no one but your own heart can hear you and the only evidence is the leftover mascara on your pillow. But you have the opportunity to face these things, so that you can finally feel relived. And the answer is only in silence.
After accepting silence into my life, I came to find that silence is the place where I feel most present. I guess that’s why I always loved museums and airplanes. Their silence always seemed to sooth me as I walked through the exhibits or where I just sat in the moment to watch the clouds roll by.
But here’s what I didn’t tell you about the cleanse…
I was desperately searching for things to read. I had to keep my mind occupied from the silence sometimes. Those moments where we have to spare, where we just grab our phone and scroll? Yeah, that wasn’t an option. Twitter only heals the social chaotic wound so much, it’s really a weak social drug. Don’t tell Twitter I said that.
But, there was a beautiful God-wink that stumbled upon my Amazon recommendations during my cleanse. I owe most of my tango with silence to God and Shauna Niequist. The moments when I thought I was doing this alone, little did I know someone out there had noticed the same chaos in their heart and wrote a book about it. Damn. I gotta get on this book wagon soon. So, I used it as a guide in my 40 day cleanse.
If you’re thinking of trying a social cleanse, I’m going to be honest with you: odds are you’re going to relapse somehow. I did. Afterwards. And that is totally okay, we are human.
When I got back on social media, within the first week, I started feeling the chaos again from time to time. The anxiety started kicking in. The moments of peace I so desperately longed for had disappeared. I started to panic. I felt that all that hard work I did was for nothing. But, ironically, all that hard work made me find the one thing I was missing in life—peaceful silence.
All I had to do in those moments of chaos was go back to the silence and rebalance my thoughts, simply take a deep breath and open up my heart and talk to God.
Now, I feel more alive in the silence. Ironic, I know. Although sometimes I have a film score to keep me company. Sometimes my silence means laying down, watching the leaves dance as I run blades of grass through my fingers, accompanied by a film score, just watching my mind create a scene. My mind is still working, but I’m not worrying, I’m creating.
And that’s the big difference I feel in the chaos now. Because even if it’s not complete silence, I’m bringing things to life and escaping reality for 3 minutes and 26 seconds. And it’s peaceful.
Lovely Life Lesson:
Sometimes the best thing we need is silence. I know that concept seems to some of you, like something you’ll never be able to do, but you will eventually grow to love it. Trust me. So next time you’re stressed or worried about something, don’t drive with music or listen to your podcast.
Try something new. Roll down your windows and listen to the sounds around you. Sure you’ll hear honking if you’re in traffic, maybe even a conversation or two on the street, but all those things are in the moment. And they’re all part of something bigger. Try and tune those things out if they bother you. Listen to the birds, the wind, children playing—whatever gives you peace of mind.
And when you’re really brave and ready, try listening to nothing when you’re at home alone or when you’re eating. Try to start tackling those thoughts you fear of hearing and work on yourself. And during that time, remember that you are a lovely human being in the making. And that silence is your friend, it’s trying to help you find peace.