Those who know me, rarely associate me with silence. I am not generally a quiet person– in public. Privately, I crave silence. I love the days when Smart Guy and the boys are gone and the house is all mine, and deliciously silent. My dogs smile quietly at me when I look their way; the stairs creak in subtle tones; the rain patters on my windows– It is all in whispers, and I wrap myself in that silence; I relish it.
As a child I learned that I needed to chatter, endlessly. I had to fill the gaps with funny, or clever, or just noise. I had to fill the space. It was the best way to keep my mother happy, and keeping her happy was my daily goal. She and I worked together, in a challenging dance: we were partners in caring for my siblings; damaged goods; survivors, and rarely simple daughter and mother. Our relationship was complex from early on, and I learned quickly that I needed to fill the empty spaces and keep my mother happy, in order to get my own needs met.
Silence was my enemy. When I was a child, silence left me fearful– Where there was silence, there was room for all of my scary thoughts. I worried (constantly) that something bad would happen to my mother, and I’d be alone with my brother and sister. I worried that I would let the adults in my life down. I worried that I didn’t fit in: my mother was a single widow; we were not Catholic, in a predominantly Irish Catholic town; I didn’t have a father; my hair was bright red, and all the pretty girls were blonde; my mother was always flirting with challenge, and I was constantly afraid of what would come next. Silence only led me to think about the worst. And so, I filled the silence.
Over the years, that chatty, always-joking, fill-the-room-with-something part of me took over. It became part of my personality to “perform,” and fill in the gaps. And it became something I didn’t always like about myself: my need to fill the silence. As I’ve gotten older, and I’ve looked more deeply into why I do things and how I feel about things, I’ve realized that being a talker, being a jokester, being the extrovert that most people think of me as, was a coping mechanism that has become a habit; and I don’t always like it. Fighting the silence, or even the quiet, exhausts me. It causes me to jump into things that I have no business jumping into, and often little sincere interest in. It forces me to chatter away and take center stage, when in fact I’m much more interested in what others have to say. It doesn’t come off looking that way, because this monkey on my back is all people see.
Yet strangely, it’s the silent days, the times when I can just listen, or places where no one knows me and I don’t feel compelled to take on the role others anticipate, that I feel most at ease. When I travel alone, I often spend entire days in silence– speaking to no one all day. A few summers ago, I spent nearly 2 weeks alone in Yellowstone, and days and days in silence. I ate alone, I hiked alone, and I sat by quiet rivers alone. It was sublime. It was so hard when it had to end and I was pulled back into my chatty world. (Read the Yellowstone posts in the archives, late June and July 2011). Unless you put yourself in a tank that blocks out all sound, there is no true silence, but the silence of Yellowstone is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever experienced.
It’s taken me a very long time to figure some things out. I still struggle with balancing the me who is drawn to silence, and the me that fears it. I still struggle each time I’m in a crowd, each time I’m drawn to be the person who fills the silence, the person who drowns out the silence, the person who keeps filling it until there is nothing left to fill… and who then feels a rush of self-loathing and regret in having done so. It is one thing to bask in the silence that comes easy– when no one is home, and I can just hide in it. However, it is another when I have to allow quiet to co-exist with the extrovert in me. It’s a challenge to not be constantly pulled into the personality that protected me as child and young adult, but who I would prefer not to lean on so much any more. Like breathing: I don’t know I’m doing it, until there is too little or too much of it. I will continue to seek the silence that quiets my mind, from which I write, where I work things out, where I find peace and clarity– and I’ll work to bring more of it to my daily life.
(No surprise, this was one of my favorite songs as a kid. This is the original recording; I love it. The harmonies are amazing!)
Are you someone who love silence, avoids it, or is neutral on the topic? Are you an introvert or an extrovert, and why? Just how you were born, or did you become one or the other for a reason? Share your thoughts in the comments. Check out the Weekly Writing Challenge, here.
If you like the posts on Tales From the Motherland, please subscribe to this blog. The link is in the upper right hand corner of this post. Then, check out Tales From the Motherland on Facebook and hit Like. I’d love to hit 400 likes there this year, and I appreciate the support. I’m on Twitter; Follow me and be dazzled by my
mostly lame witty and clever Tweets. If I don’t follow you back, send me a tweet reminder and I will. I often miss the cues, when new people join. I’m older, and slower that way.
© 2014 Please note, that content and some images on this page are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.
Any ads at the bottom of this page are not endorsed by Tales From the Motherland. I am just not willing to pay extra to have them not appear there.