The Beauty of Quiet

The Purple Tree

Real silence: as rare as a purple tree.

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.

Friends-Ross-quiet

Me, most of the time when it comes to other people’s noises.

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.>

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My “Seriously??” Moment

It is late and instead of being asleep for the past two hours I have been tweaking things here and there and everywhere, instead of simply writing the short post I intended. For example, it took me an hour to figure out that my blog theme is one of four that doesn’t have Options on the Links Widget. Terrific. At least the blogroll is back up there and has been updated.

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I love my man. I really, really do.

Yet the longer time passes as we live together, the more I find examples which perfectly illustrate how differently we think and operate. I have many but few are able to be so perfectly captured by two snapshots.

Over the weekend, I noticed that the plastic bin in the bathroom which houses extra toilet paper was empty. I thought we were totally out when my wonderful boyfriend pulled the remaining eight rolls or so from another closet. Delighted we didn’t have to resort to kleenex and paper towels until we got new toilet paper, I kindly asked him to refill the bin. He ever so willingly obliged.

If I were more of a control freak – and I really am one – I might have “checked his work” sooner. However, in working on not being ‘that person,’ I didn’t think twice about it. Then, as is the natural way of things, the first roll ran out and I went to the bin to get another. Here is how he – and most men would – refilled it:

Toilet paper stocking, man style.

I burst out in a shocked laugh. “Seriously?” I said to myself.

Muttering some more with things like, “I should have known” and “Figures,” I rearranged the toilet paper. There is no way I would be able to sleep with that kind of mess going on. Isn’t that so completely irrational? Yet there is no way I could not NOT fix it.

The compulsive or "normal" way to stock TP.

I really can not think of another way to demonstrate just how polar opposite these approaches are. One takes the extra twenty seconds to get as many rolls in to the bin as neatly as possible, making it look nice and ready when we need it. The other says that the person can’t be bothered to care about how something as trivial as toilet paper should be stocked and at least it’s in the bin so what are you complaining about?

And let’s face it. It’s not the end of the world. But it goes deeper than this. This kind of haphazard “arranging,” if you can call it that, extends to other organizational and cleanliness tendencies around the home. I simply do not have the time or energy to delve into it but let’s just say that this is just a metaphor for how each one of us does things. I’ll have to write more on this at another time. My dog is staring at me non-stop and nudging my elbow, urging both of us to climb in bed where we belong.

Still baffled by the line of thinking that believes the arbitrary throwing of the toilet paper is “fine,” I must bid goodnight and get some sleep.