As I write, the room is quiet. All I can hear is the ticking of a clock and the faint murmur of cars in the distance. I’ve begun to value quietness a lot lately. I think it’s because I had felt that my life was too full of people talking to me or talking at me, asking me questions all day, which I sometimes had no useful answer to. People wondering how they would survive to the following week. Sometimes, I wondered how I could get through to the following week without going mad. It seemed that there was more noise than sense in my world. More words than meaning.
Quietness can be a peculiar place to be in for any length of time. If you are not used to it, it can be an echo chamber for sad or worrying thoughts. It’s been like that sometimes for me. Especially when I carried home worries about some client on the edge of despair. So, I’d step out of the echo chamber before it got any chance to send echoes of my thoughts back to me. I’d turn on a radio, or play a CD, and half-listen to Bob Dylan or Mozart or some jazz artist no one else listens to. Or, when I tried to write, I’d surround myself with the chattering and clattering of a café. It felt relaxing to be surrounded by lots of people who didn’t need my help. And the sounds kept the echo chamber at bay.
Quietness can also be a healing place to be. Sometimes, at home, I’d get tired of blotting out my own thoughts with music and I’d switch off the radio or a CD. It was always instantly a different place. If I stayed calm enough, within the ticking of a clock and the small street sounds outside – was that a person coughing or a faraway dog? – then, I could begin to work things out in my head. What to write next. Or, when should I go and visit my dad in Edinburgh. Or, where I could go with Isobel on our next walk. Campberdown Park or the long beach at Tentsmuir in Fife. And sometimes, very hesitantly, I’d try to work out how to move into another job. Someplace where no one would need me to save them from disappearing off the face of the earth. Something simpler. Preferably without too much ‘noise’. Such thoughts, considered in quietness, were fascinating to me, but they but could feel a bit like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. As Dorothy said – “Do you think there really is such a place, Toto?”. Well, maybe not.
Perhaps, the best thing about quietness is – it can be a place to create within. In my case, that involves playing around with words. Recently, I completed writing over 20,000 words for a book about people surviving poverty. It’s just under half of the whole book, but I’ll finish the rest in a few weeks. It’s not the only longer piece of writing I’m working on but it’s special as it seems to have written itself, stepping out of the quietness like a welcome stranger.
As I write, it’s still quiet in the room. More stories are taking form in my mind. Stories, not worries. Yes, quietness can be a good place.