I’ve always thought that I was quite comfortable with the sound of silence – I enjoy time in my own company and often find that my most productive moments are when I am by myself.
I decided that I was going to try a little experiment while I’m still recovering from my hospitalisation last week – I intended to spend just 12 hours with no electronic media whatsoever, the purpose being to examine what life would be like on a more simple level and to discover exactly how comfortable I am with the sound of silence. That meant no TV, phone, music, computer, laptop, iPad, Internet, DVD’s, Blu Rays, cameras, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram, iTunes, apps, games consoles – instead I would have to find other things to occupy my time. I also set myself a rule that small naps would be permitted, as I often indulge in afternoon naps at the weekends, but sleeping for the majority of the day wouldn’t be allowed. The Bloke would be in with me for a part of the day, but for the rest of it he would be off doing other things, so aside from any quick conversations that we would have the majority of the day would be spent in silence. I was going to start at 6.00am and finish at 6.00pm and was quite looking forward to it. It was only going to be for twelve hours… Easy! Right?
Here was my day. Note: there would be photographs accompanying this but as I wasn’t allowed to use my camera I had to use google images post challenge.
6.00am: I woke up in a positive frame of mind and went and injected my diabetic cat. Normally, I would follow this by checking my blog, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and I was surprised by the immediate feeling of loss that washed over me when I realised that I wasn’t allowed to do so. So, what to do instead? TV? Nope, that wasn’t allowed either. I suddenly felt very tired and went back to bed.
8.00am: I got up, had some breakfast, put some washing in, put my clean clothes away and vacuumed the upstairs part of the house.
9.00am: I decided to start the monumental task of sorting out the piles of paperwork and useless junk that have been lying around the house since we moved in. I put all my old bills into a bag for shredding, I collected all my tickets and cards together for my scrapbook, sorted out my bookshelves and piled up all the books I knew I wasn’t going to read again ready to go to the charity shop. I then (finally) unpacked the last two boxes that were left over from the move. I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of pointless crap that I had insisted on packing and bringing with us. I was ruthless – I obviously hadn’t missed the items in those boxes and so I got rid of the lot.
11.00am: The Bloke and I went to the charity shop with the items that we had collected – he insisted on accompanying me just in case I passed out as I am still quite light headed at times. We also called at the bank and deposited the change that I had bagged from around the house – it worked out that we had £11.00 lying around, which we used to treat ourselves to some snacks for this evening.
12.00pm: I put another load of washing in and made lunch. I have to admit, by this point I was starting to get a little bored. Normally, my chores would be completed with music playing in the background, and I was growing increasingly frustrated with my own thoughts – my brain started to wander to deadlines at work, or play random snippets from songs on a loop and after a morning of this I found that I was craving the TV, just for something to take my mind off the increasingly negative thoughts I started to have. I had some playtime with the cats, who had spent a lot of the morning following me around (until I got the vacuum cleaner out) and it was quite amusing to see Daisy stalking a rubber mouse on the floor.
12.30pm: I got out the vacuum cleaner again and set to work on downstairs, much to the cats annoyance. I tidied up, organised the side and coffee tables, put more of my washing out and started to get stuck into little jobs that I had been avoiding for a while. I started to get stronger urges to turn the TV on, despite the fact that I knew that there was very little on (daytime TV is shocking in the UK unless you’re into property or antique programmes).
2.00pm: I decided to have a nice hot bath. Normally, I would put on a playlist of relaxing songs, but instead I had to lie in silence, which I didn’t enjoy. I got a book and started to read, realising that it had been six months since I had last done so, and I had forgotten just how much fun it was. A quick glance in the mirror revealed that my eyebrows had grown out so much that they were beginning to take over my face, so after locating my tweezers I managed to sort them out, following this with a long, overdue pedicure.
4.00pm. I was bored. My chores were done, I was too weak to go outside again, I’d had a bath, read some of my book, tidied the house, played with the cats and organised my paperwork. I had started to experience an intense craving to get out my iPad and write something down, and the strangest thing was that it was a similar craving to what I had experienced when I was quitting smoking – it was a physical, intense urge to do something that I knew I shouldn’t be doing. I decided to follow a similar approach to what I did when getting rid of cigarettes (I got an electronic cigarette) – I substituted the iPad with a notebook and a set of greetings cards and I did something that I haven’t done for years – I wrote a letter to my friend. When we were at university my friend and I used to write to each other all the time and I have kept all her cards and letters in a shoebox. It suddenly occurred to me that during my first two years at university I lived in the Halls of Residence without a TV, the Internet, or a computer, and so I used to write her lots of letters to pass the time at weekends when I couldn’t afford to go out. The more I thought about it, the more I remembered how peaceful life was – some of my happiest memories are of sitting in bed on a Sunday morning, reading a book.
As soon as it turned 6.00pm, and I had cooked dinner and sorted out the cats, the first thing that I did was grab my iPad, switch on the TV and start to write. While it was only a short experiment, it has been valuable in that it has allowed to catch up on lots of chores that needed to be finished, reminded me of my love of reading and writing letters, and more importantly, it has taught me a few things about myself.
1. I am not as comfortable with the sound of silence as I initially thought. My brain goes into overdrive when there is nothing to occupy it and has a tendency to visit the darker and more anxious times I have experienced, and I have subconsciously used the sounds of the TV and music to block it out.
2. I still believe that I am comfortable with my own company, but found that this ‘alone’ time is actually spent chatting to people on various social networks and not actually by myself.
I was surprised at how reliant I am on technology for entertainment. So, I am able to take something from this lesson and in the future I am going to take a little bit of time to put everything down, turn everything off and embrace the sound of silence.
What about you guys? Do you ever take the time just to do nothing? Can you cope with the sound of silence?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog
Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge.