Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

Image: incasa.org

Image: incasa.org

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.

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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52 Responses to Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

  1. Psychobabble says:

    I am a solid introvert who has learned to be more outgoing over the years. I’ve learned to force myself to be social or to say yes to things that scare me, and generally I haven’t regretted it.
    I liked this post a lot – it made me more curious about your childhood and your relationship with your mom. Sounds like you had a lot of responsibility growing up.


    • Thanks Lyssa; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I had a tremendous amount of responsibility growing up. I joked with my husband, when we got married and started a family: that I was already tired of being a wife and mother; I’d done it my whole life! Not a funny joke, a true one. Thanks for reading and sharing… I really enjoy introverts and find myself drawn to them. Probably the need to reclaim that part of myself. 😉


  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I think you and I were on similar brainwaves with our posts today. Sounds like there may be a little introvert in you after all. Perhaps you’re an ambivert–you straddle both worlds. 🙂


    • Thanks for reading Carrie! I’ve been out this morning, and haven’t gotten to read the posts in my inbox yet. I’m looking forward to reading yours, but I have long known that you are an introvert… Probably why I like you so much! I like the ambivert, that suits me. 😉


  3. Julia Connors says:

    I loved this post Dawn.



  4. Jennie Saia says:

    Very few things on earth are as good as quiet cuddle time with my dog. I read, she dozes, and my feet touch her fuzz. It’s Heaven.

    I agree that its harder to be quiet in a group, although I have one friend who so rules any conversation that I get ornery and talk more, just to hear a different voice! J is good at comfortable silences, so I’m getting some practice in for future long road trips. 🙂


  5. susanissima says:

    Hi Dawn,
    I enjoyed hearing about how you long for silence and have had, as in Yellowstone, important positive experiences with it. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert, of course. Somebody has to be the life of the party. But if you hunger for silence and feel challenged to be with it in your daily life, maybe it’s time to give yourself more practice floating in a silent sea. Would a 100% private journal devoted to the Sounds of Silence as you walk through the woods or listen to a conversation without speaking or meditate until the monkey mind that we all have stops chattering do the trick? Don’t know, but I’m gonna try it. Blessings.


    • I always appreciate, and I’m so grateful for the wisdom you bring two things Susan. I’ll have to give that one some thought. For years I did keep a journal, but haven’t for a long time. You’re right, perhaps it’s time to rethink that.


  6. El Guapo says:

    I’m generally quiet. Mostly because I’m not such a fan of small talk, and don’t really like saying something just to fill the silence.
    But I can also be loud when I get going.


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  8. Soapsuds says:

    Hauntingly beautiful.


  9. Deanna Herrmann says:

    I could really relate to this, especially about having so much responsibility as a child. It’s one of the reasons I had my own child so late in life. What’s funny to me is that In my adult life I’ve always considered myself more of an extrovert, but lately, I’m finding that I’m more that introverted girl from my childhood. I’m enjoying the silence and finding solace in just writing in reading. Really enjoyed reading this, Dawn.


    • Thanks Deanna. I really appreciate your thoughtful feedback. Some of us end up in similar places to where we stared out, others circle around, and some just figure it out in bits and pieces. For us, I guess time just illuminates a lot of things.



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  16. lfitzkemmett says:

    I enjoyed this post. I too am generally seen as an extrovert. But I need quiet alone time to refuel and reflect. The older I get the more I appreciate the need to strike that balance.


  17. Mike Lince says:

    I love how you freely share insights about yourself. Maybe your extrovert self is released more comfortably in your writing now that you do not need to use that part of your personality as a defense.

    People always think of me as extroverted. I know because when I am quiet they ask if I am feeling okay. I learned over time to let my ears and eyes be as much a part of my communication as my voice. Given the relationship I was in, I felt that if I did not speak often, then when I did speak it would have greater impact. Now I am simply more comfortable with quiet. While I have a good time at a party, I enjoy the quiet reflection that follows just as much.
    Be well, my friend! – Mike


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  21. These words are true… ‘Unless you put yourself in a tank that blocks out all sound, there is no true silence’ but i am hoping against hope that we may have a modicum of silence around me in my country.
    In fact, i wrote an article about it here…https://seewilliams.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/shh-silence-please/
    You may visit and read about the abuse of silence in a world outside of yours.


    • Charles, thank you for reading my post and commenting, and welcome to Tales From the Motherland. I will check out your post; thank you for sharing it. While I try not to share my links on other blogger’s pages, I know this must be an important topic, and I’ll read it. Again, thank you for checking out TFTM.


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  24. Nan Falkner says:

    Hi Dawn, I’m Nan from FFF. I really like your story about silence. You are a REAL writer. Excellent and I’m glad I sort-of know you. Nan


  25. etomczyk says:

    I am split right down the middle. I can do without people for days upon days (I enjoy my own company) but when I fellowship with real friends and have meaningful conversation, I could talk for days. Weird, huh?


  26. litadoolan says:

    Love the emotional journey in the piece.


  27. I do love silence but equally too much of it drives me crazy. Rare are the times that I don’t have the radio or something on in the house or car.


  28. jgroeber says:

    So glad to find you on the Weekly Challenge. This is lovely and so you.
    How I know that chatty HAHAHAHa, ha, ha… heh self. It is exhausting. Ex-haust-ing. We have quiet time in my house now (while the kids are still young enough to allow me to enforce such a thing) and they head to their rooms, and if only for a half hour, there is silence. Such bliss.


    • We had quiet time in our house, when we lived in a smaller apartment. It got a lot harder to manage over the years. So bravo to you for having it in place. Maybe, too, you are teaching your kids the value and importance of silence, and personal time. Not enough of us get that lesson! Glad you found this one… I have done a few Weekly Challenges– more recently.


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