I love words. Every day, I am putting words together in speech or in writing. With words, I and my work come to life.
In order to have a sufficient output of words, I have to have enough input. So I read a lot of books and articles and I listen to podcasts and music, because I cannot be a hollow writer. I have to be filled in order to offer anything. Oh, and then there’s the social media—do we all have an ambivalent relationship with it?—where I can keep up with the happenings of my friends, yes, but it also gives me a pulse on what others think or believe. This can be a helpful place to digest some varying opinions [in moderation]. More words of others for me to absorb. All of this to say, I have to take in the words of other people in order to have inspiration for my own.
Because of this, it’s easy for my life to get a little too noisy. There are so many words and approximately even more opinions. Sometimes I just run out of space for it all.
A couple of days ago, I was taking my dog out for a walk. Before heading out the door, I grabbed my phone and my headphones. No use in wasting time doing nothing while I’m walking, I thought to myself while scrolling through my phone to find an edifying podcast.
I made it to the sidewalk before putting my phone in my pocket, without a podcast playing. I just didn’t want to hear anything. I went for a walk with my dog, earbuds in my ears, listening to nothing. Silence. It was maybe the most productive walk I’ve taken in a while.
I don’t know about you, but I forget about the deep value of silence. I don’t just mean quiet — though moments of quiet are definitely magical, especially for you parents out there. I mean the kind of silence so deep that your mind begins to settle and you experience rest down in your soul. The kind of silence that invites you to reflect beyond your own to-do list, beyond the vitriol piercing our nation, beyond the words and opinions of others — no matter how beautiful or divisive they may be.
I am, by no means, a proponent of remaining silent on issues of social justice or current events. I, however, cannot use my voice well when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the voices of others. We begin to lose our ability to think clearly, or even to think for ourselves. We lose the voice of our Creator when everything is drowned out by the words of others. We cannot communicate very effectively when we’re bombarded with noise.
Several years ago, a hearing problem I’d probably had my entire life was finally diagnosed. Over the span of a few years, I had surgery done on each ear to try and improve my hearing. The second surgery was performed just about a year ago, which means that my hearing level in my left ear was definitely lacking during the first year of my marriage. This caused some annoyances, yes, but it also gave me a small advantage: In the event that my husband would snore, I could roll over onto my right side—left ear up—and sleep soundly without hearing him.
Silence comes at a loss — we can miss out on conversations or events when we choose to feast on silence rather than more (and more) words. The payoff, though, can be so much greater than the loss. Silence can give us rest, be it from our snoring partner or from the thoughts, opinions, stories, or expectations of others.
The divisiveness in our country is tiring and heartbreaking—I feel it, too. I’m not advocating for us to bow out of the important conversations, and I don’t think all silence, all the time is the answer. But here’s what I’m learning — to listen well, to communicate well, and to be a kind and present wife/friend/daughter/sister/writer, I have to choose silence sometimes. I have to shut it all down and go on a walk with my dog without the symphony of voices constantly playing in my ears.
Try it—even if only for a couple of minutes. Even if it means getting up early or missing lunch with a co-worker. Because we all need an intermission from the symphony.