10: A Little Piece of Quiet
10: A Little Piece of Quiet
A Little Piece of Quiet
True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.
Today it is quiet in the house. The rain taps a busy staccato outside while inside there are only the hums of the appliances to break the heavy silence.
I am not sure I like all this quiet, even though I am usually the one who is asking for it: “Could you turn it down?” “Please, shut your door!” “Who’s making all the noise out there?”
Quiet. This usually only happens for an hour or two. It’s something I have only when my children go off to visit friends, or when my husband is out doing errands. To have the house to myself for a whole day is both delightful and perplexing. I find myself torn between doing something sensible, like scrubbing out cabinets, or doing something wicked, like looking for stashes of sweets.
I should use the time to get caught up on the housework, maybe plan a month’s worth of meals, or even re-wallpaper the kitchen. I should do something constructive, something for the family. And yet, I find myself drawn to doing “me” things, like taking a nap, and it’s not even the afternoon yet. I would like to read a book from cover to cover. Then there are those dresses hanging in my closet, the ones that have been waiting patiently for those seven pounds to drop off. Trying them on requires privacy. Or maybe I will do something radical to my hair, beyond just touching up the streaks of gray coming in.
I don’t do any of those “me” things. Instead I organize the kitchen drawers.
My mother tells me of the time when she enrolled me in preschool. “I’m going to use these few quiet hours and finally paint that dresser,” she had sighed to another mother. The other mother exclaimed, “Are you crazy? I’m going home to take a long soak in a bubble bath.” It hadn’t occurred to my mother that she could have done the same. She still ended up painting the dresser.
When I find myself surrounded by the family, I get things done. Laundry gets folded, toilets are scrubbed, the garden is weeded, bills are paid, and ironing is conquered. All this is done amid solving sibling conflicts, fielding questions, and finding stuff. Now that it is quiet, I don’t feel as productive. Do I only function best with noise surrounding me?
When the youngest finally entered first grade, I realized that amazing possibilities lay ahead. I could paint the bathroom. Lounge in my pajamas. Take up the harmonica. Abandon common sense and binge on cheesecake. I did none of those things. I filled the hours with a part-time job. I confess — I couldn’t face all that quiet at home.
I wonder if my attempts to fill up these momentary gifts of empty hours with meaningful busyness are because I am not used to being by myself anymore. After all, for more than fourteen years I have had at least one child to account for and my husband to keep track of. It’s going to take me awhile to reprogram myself to make decisions in solitude, while accomplishing something without the pressure of others demanding my attention. I need to get used to having peace in my quiet.
And so, in my quiet house, I am reminded of the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for — you just might get it.”
Today I have the quiet I so often longed for, and yes it is pleasant. On the other hand, I realize that laughter, voices and the noise of my family fill up the empty corners of the house, making it a home. They are the sounds of love, the sounds that complete my peace.
I realize it’s just a piece of quiet I long for, more than peace and quiet.
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