I live in a two-story apartment, known commonly as a townhome in the U.S.
One thing that is sacrificed when you choose to live in an apartment building or complex is true silence.
Most people don’t care about white noise. Heck, I have a fan on every night that helps soothe the too quiet of the night. I crave silence during the waking hours, though.
Between being able to hear faint noises of neighbors or loud noises of neighbors’ dogs (I’m pretty certain everyone in my apartment complex has a dog), there are also street noises that reverberate back to our apartment. Sometimes it’s construction or a lawn mower.
These sounds aren’t unusual for city living, apartment or no apartment.
But I find myself cherishing the truly quiet minutes in my life. This morning, for instance, I heard a bizarre shrill sound. It kept repeating itself in a pattern. I followed my ears to the hallway, wondering if a small child or animal was being tortured somewhere. Perhaps my ears were playing tricks on me (I’ve had tinnitus in one ear for a few years).
It turned out to be a mosquito or mosquito-like flying insect, whose wings were making that infernal high-pitched squeal that makes me paranoid I’m going to get bitten, and also drives me insane. Instead of water torture, someone could play that whiny sound of a mosquito’s wings beating for less than a half hour and I’d certainly give up any information I had. That or whistling.
Despite having a moment of, “What IS that??” I realized that I was grateful to have such quiet in my apartment that my bat sonar could pick up on it. On any other occasion, it would have been drowned out by any number of things: the dog wooing, the blare of the TV, the sound and feel of others’ apartment doors slamming, music playing on my computer.
I come from parents who revel in quiet and silence, especially in the morning. At my house growing up, having the television on before leaving for school was absolutely forbidden. I never quite understood why. I just thought my parents were strict. Now, I get it. Aside from not allowing their children to develop an unhealthy habit of staring in a zombified stupor at the television for an hour before heading off to school, they also valued the quiet of the morning. To this day, my mother gets up at dawn to sit in solitude, peacefully journaling. My father has similar routines. He writes constantly and he does not play music or have the television on while doing so. (For him, music is something to which one intently listens. TV and movies are attentively watched.)
I love having music on to carry me through my day but more and more, I find myself turning the music off when I’m deep in writing. I’m also discovering I have a visceral reaction to loud, jarring, and/or repetitive noises. The other day, someone loudly pounded on our patio door, and I about jumped out of my skin. I frequently pause the TV to go, “Do you hear that? What’s that sound?” It drives my dude a little crazy. It was yet another reason why our former neighbors were the absolute worst ones to be paired next door to, as their lifestyle was ALL noise.
Perhaps by the time I’m 70 or 80 years old, I’ll embrace any hearing loss that happens with age. I can swim in my own silence. For now, I’ll ask you to <mimics Ross’s hand gesture.>