The Sound of Silence

It's funny, how sometimes the universe will simply hand you over what you need right when you need it most.

Last week, during an evening Yoga session in a class I usually don't attend, with an instructor I am not familiar with we were handed out single word intentions written on crumpled pieces of paper before class to focus on. I pulled out "forgiveness." Not something I could place immediately in my life with any particular specificity, but I held focus.

The next day my car radio went out. Completely. Facing the kind of stark silence I can't remember ever knowing while driving. In all the years I have been. The radio being a source of easy comfort for me for as long as I can recall. In the backseat of my mother's Buick or my step dad's Bronco. In my Ford Falcon coming from a cheap boombox sliding around next to me in the front seat en route to all those seemingly important after school errands. Or existed in less desirable frequencies that come in the form of a static, patchy AM station discussing things I had little interest in. (Currently the situation after my antenna was broken this last year when my car was stolen the second time. My desperate ears eagerly ingesting different degrees of static, still preferred over dead silence. To help combat the ugly fact of our hopelessly clogged freeways being part of Southern California traffic these days, or my kid's fighting, or the nature of my own thoughts which seemed to shrink up and settle to the backseat of my mind's eye as soon as I click that seat belt and ignite the engine.)

In college one of our professors, during a lecture in the subject of "White Noise" asked us if we ever turned off the radio while driving and listened to ourselves, and our thoughts, in the car. I remember thinking, knowing, just how difficult that would be for me. A test I would force upon myself thereafter, occasionally, in brief bouts of curiosity. And then a whole lot less after having kids. With my music suddenly gone I felt riddled with a genuine sense of unease. Fidgety, bothered, unfocused. For a few days I even played music from my phone in a sad, muted attempt to regain my steady state of mind while driving. Before realizing fairly quickly what a pathetic replacement it actually proved. Eventually, it got easier though. Within the second week I had stopped reaching for the volume altogether, or trying in vain to smack the system back into life. In it came a kind of acceptance. A resented surrender but still. We rode with the windows down and felt the June heat against our cheeks. I listened willinglyy to the less than ideal sounds of rush hour traffic, and talked the backseat brigades through the brink of so many silly arguments that arise in light of long car rides. I sat in simple silence where I heard myself and my thoughts bloom in real time. I found new reason to sit down and write again. I listened to my better ideas. And stopped focusing on all the songs my head was craving to keep me company in the car.

Shortly after that our cable and Internet went out. I had forgotten to pay the bill on time, apparently, and spent a good part of my morning arguing over the phone with an unaffected operator because I knew the money had been sent, online, and in the delay I refused to double pay. In the meantime our house fell into the same case of stagnant silence. So the handful of shows I would flip on to ease my dish duties or aid me in my attention to laundry piles late at night, disappeared. So too did the small indulgences that came in the form of Nickelodeon cartoons I let the boys watch early in the morning or late at night, when I needed the time to finish up emails, or edit photos. All our "help" was gone. It went on this way for another week. With no Internet to fall into when bouts of my own mid day boredom sprang. No online browsing, or pretty Pinterest inspiration to dwell on, or articles to consider, or regular communications to uphold. They lost the same luxury. No TV to break up their days. No skate videos or paper airplane tutorials to turn to in the midst of a long, hot summer weekday.

Yet same as the car radio situation. We all came to adjust. They were drawing - more - almost obsessively. They built forts and sometimes laid around the house in plain misery. But then pulled themselves out of it and constructed paper weapons or stabbed holes in cardboard boxes. One day as I was laying down for a quick nap I heard Rex in his room stacking rocks he had collected at the beach days before on his window ledge. He's been known to keep his favorite items there close to him while he sleeps but this went on for over an hour where I was reminded of how simply they are entertained when they are forced to. By all means, we aren't what I would consider to be an overly stimulated household in the first place. We do our best to keep everything in moderation and I've never had an issue with the fact of their cartoons as a helping crutch when I need it but I still found it oddly comforting to see just how easily they come to accept their hours without any of it. How stacking rocks on your window ledge becomes a new source of pleasure. Finding fresh beauty in that which we are constantly in danger of overlooking otherwise.

Gradually, though, it all returned. One day Arlo sat up front and flipped on the radio like it had never had issue. The payments finally came through and our cable was restored and the inter webs were revived. And life as we knew it returned to normal.

As for the intention, it marched on. Holding a steady spot in my days' thoughts. In new silence I was able to stop and really consider it. I found smaller (maybe less obvious) places where it fit. And while I can't say I honestly miss the quiet in our car rides, I do appreciate the reminder that these past couple of weeks offered us. How sometimes it's nice to get reacquainted with the sounds of your own head considering how hard it's become with all these alluring distractions available to us at every turn. Good to know we can still function as ourselves. Unplugged, uninformed, unconnected. With the sound of silence as our only soundtrack. Still not my favorite. But with renewed respect with jus how vital it is to check in with here and there. Learning to embrace it, even when it arrives in the strangest of ways. Or forced upon us entirely. In times where it seems it might just serve us best.

And in light of it, I am proud to announce that rock stacking has become a new thing here.  Showing up on every window cill in every room. Offering cheap thrills, free entertainment, and understandably  sandy bed sheets. But still far more appealing than anything Nickelodeon has going on.