It has took me a long while to appreciate silence. Our minds become accustomed to a level of noise which we don’t realise becomes comforting, sending us signals that life is how we would consider normal. I used to love the distinct whirring and wheezing of the Jubilee line, the trilling of the beeps at the barriers, the hiss as the 139 pulled to a stop, the semi-regulated stomp of feet trained to march from station to office, office to station, the clatter of cups from teas being made in the kitchen, the buzz of computers barely heard about the hum of conversation.
At home, on my own, those noises, the symphony of my commute fell silent. Or at least that is how it felt. This new silence that had descended on my life, without the familiar soundtrack of my working day, weighed heavy around me. It was if it had cloaked what was normal from my view. My home, a sanctuary at week-ends, became a dark and unknown place full of hidden danger, traps and snares. Everything around me, everything in me did not feel right. Each sound a beat out of rhythm, each tone a key change too dissonant. Inside a voice, never before heard, began to shriek, you do not belong here!
At first I would drown out the unwelcome sounds and screeching voice with music, TV and radio. Cheery tunes in a major key, voices that would talk to me through drama, laughter and debate; my attempt to recreate what I was missing, and sooth that voice and send it back to the deep. I’d sleep too, or fall asleep watching uninteresting box sets. Anything to avoid this Silence, creeping around looking for a way in.
But these noises, my cloned comfort, were unproductive. The hums, the whirrs, the wheezes and hisses I missed were noises of work and connection. Activity amongst others, achievement through progress. That path was no longer open to me, there would be no commutes or office blocks in my likely future, and so began the realisation that I would need to find a new path, and do so I would need to face the Silence.
I sat. I waited. I opened myself up and it fell about me. It pushed inside, curling around my bones, seeping into my muscles until I was heavy with its presence. It whispered
The heaviness lifted. Something lightly stroked over my skin catching each tiny hair one by one, a breath deep and constant expanded my lungs, a pressure forced open my ears. There were sounds all around me. The clicks and clangs of the heating system pushing hot water through pipes, a chirp of a bird, no two, out on the tree behind my closed window, the footsteps softly thudding across the floor of a neighbour two floors above, the wind crackling through the bricks, a soft groan of woodwork, and further out, almost out of reach, a faint hiss of a bus coming to a stop on the main road. And in between that, weaving it all together was Silence. Not to be feared but to be welcomed. Not to be my captor, but to be my companion.
My life has a different soundtrack now, one born from moments like this. I no longer avoid or hide those quiet moments, knowing that they hold within, the riches of all sounds. Instead I welcome Silence, allow it in. The comfort is no longer the noisescape of my past but the heavy cloak it wears which descends around me. And for a time, its voice, that pure resonant voice, is all that I can hear.