Last month a similarly noise-averse friend and I were talking about silence.
Or rather, we were talking about the frequent lack of it.
The conversation came just after we had each moved – both hoping to land ourselves in quieter circumstances in the process.
So far, mostly so good.
But even as I type this, a neighbor is attempting to guide his power mower over and through the woods that makes up his backyard. There have been a number of false starts, a few audible oopses, and more than one unscheduled stop to extract hidden lawn treasures from the mower blades.
In other words, not the quietest of afternoons.
My friend and I both have people in our lives – quite a few of them, actually – who wouldn’t think anything of my mowing-challenged neighbor. Or a parent or partner who leaves the television blaring or the stereo blasting.
I once witnessed another friend’s husband fall fast asleep while all of the following still applied:
- The bedroom overhead light was on and the door was open.
- My friend was rummaging around in her nearby closet.
- She then picked up her guitar and sang her newest song for me in full voice.
- We turned on the television and laughed loudly at a comedy show.
Her husband slept through all of this. She said he can sleep through anything and I believe her. He probably also doesn’t fret overmuch about loud noises when he is awake.
But not all of us are so similarly gifted.
Happily, my noise-averse friend, newly returned from a place where all the locals seem to be like my other friend’s snoozing husband, had a neat tip to share on how she had managed to survive the noise during her trip:
- Start naming the sounds as they arise. For instance, “dog barking,” “another dog barking,” “car muffler,” “radio,” “people yelling,” et al.
I was skeptical at first, but I tried it today when the dogs next door went crazy. It was actually an oddly soothing mental exercise to focus on sound-naming: “Dogs barking.” “Fan hum.” “More dogs barking.” “Lawnmower.” “Car door slamming.”
It took me out of my gut and into my head, which turned the experience of getting bombarded with noises from an emotional anxiety-fest into a rational sound-naming contest.
My friend shared a second tip that had helped her survive her recent noise-cation:
- Focus on one noise that you like more than the others and just listen to it.
We both like natural noises better than manmade noises, and animal noises better than people noises.
So today when I went out for my walk and had to pass by the local park, where a few loosely organized sports teams had set up a neighborhood competition complete with a deafening local soundtrack made up of one part car stereos blaring, one part announcer screaming and one part fans cheering, I listened to the sound of the wind in the trees.
I listened very closely to the wind, until the other sounds began to command less of my ears’ attention as I moved away from the park and its noisy chaos.
While I don’t know if this tactic would have gotten me through a whole day at that noise level, it sure did work well for a few minutes.
I’m excited to add these two tips to my newfound awareness that silence itself seems to have a sound I can listen for.
But I’m most excited to realize that, after all these years of tolerating intolerable noise, it appears that a personal noise reduction toolkit of sorts is finally taking shape in my life!
Today’s Takeaway: Do you have any specific tactics that help you deal with noises you find unbearably loud or unpleasant? If so, I sure would love hear about them so we can add them to our growing toolkit here!