The Newfound Joy of Quiet

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 

I remember vividly how, as a freshman in high school, I was overcome with awe the first time I walked into a school pep rally. It was so… raucous—but, you know—in a good way. An entire high school shouting chants and fight-songs in unison. An entire high school stomping the bleachers until the stone building rocked. It stirred me.

I was similarly moved the first time I went to a dance club, one of those “teen night” deals (I can’t believe my mom let me go! My dad called it a “meat market”). I approached the line in front of the building and felt the bass pulsing from inside. I was one of those idiotic girls dancing in line outside. I couldn’t even wait to get to the dance floor.

In college, I was a regular at house-parties and night-clubs. The more people the better. …The louder the better.

In the car, I played my music loud.

The deafening roar of a roller-coaster? Give it to me. Mardi Gras? Beads to my ears. Crowds, chaos, mayhem, they fed my fledgling soul.

For me, noise was synonymous with life, movement, action. It meant something exciting was happening.

And then, in my mid-twenties, I got married and had a baby.

Suddenly, silence was so infrequent an occurrence that it became a commodity, like gold. There were days when the supply of it was so limited that the price stretched far beyond what I could possibly afford to pay. Like a hobo on the street who dreams of gold bars, I paced the halls with my screeching baby and prayed for a few moments of calm.

Back then, we lived on a busy road (first-time home-buyer’s mistake—don’t do it!) and as luck would have it, right around the time I gave birth to my son Lucas, the county decided to widen the already-busy road. For our newborn’s entire first year, we lived with ground-shaking digging and hammering right outside our front door. They even took part of our front yard, and there was not a damn thing we could do but stew in our impotent frustration.

On top of that, we had a high-anxiety dog who barked at specks of dust floating through the air or a leaf landing on someone’s deck three houses down. And our neighbors, the ones who lived on the side of the house where my infant son’s bedroom window was located, decided that us having a baby was a perfect excuse to add a garage onto their house. They began hammering and sawing every morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp. Yes, even on the weekends.

And of course, Lucas himself was loud. (Lord knows he still is.) He cried soooo freaking much. I can remember lying down on the bed next to him as he cried, my own body wracked with hiccupping sobs.

I so desperately wanted a little…silence.

Now I have two kids, plus a bevy of neighborhood children who streak back and forth through our yard wailing shrieks of glee. It’s always at least a little bit loud around here.

Strangely, my husband’s tolerance for noise doesn’t seem to have been affected by the arrival of children into our lives, though, that might be because he’s out of the house most of the day. When he’s home on the weekends, the first thing he does in the morning is turn on the news at full volume. Later in the day, he blares music to accompany whatever it is that we’re doing. In the car, he blasts the radio.

He likes UB40, okay?

I am over the noise. I hate it. I don’t like how when the TV or music is blaring, if you want to be heard, you have to shout. And if you want to hear anyone, you have to do that head-tilty thingy and point your ear-hole at the person’s mouth and shout “WHAT?” and the person has to repeat themselves five times while practically screaming at you. And then everyone’s bitchy from all the screaming and not-hearing.

It doesn’t help that my husband’s partially deaf in one ear and can’t hear anything I say anyway. If there’s background noise, I might as well not be there at all.

And really, the kids, our daily lives, the general running of a household… things are noisy enough without adding anything extra. So…yeah. I’m kinda over it.

So when my husband cranks up the noise, I try to calmly explain to him how much it bothers me. I’m sure he thinks I’m being controlling or bitchy or something, which I guess is sort of the case, but honestly, the feeling I get when the noise level is past a certain decibel is akin to rage, and I can’t just deep-cleansing-breath it away. The kids can be playing innocently, not hurting a thing, but just loud, oh so incredibly LOUD, and I want to scream at them to “SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY!!!” Sometimes I escape to my bathroom on pretense of pooping just to detach from the roaring din of my household.

When I was twenty, if you had told me that one day I would be annoyed by loud music, I would’ve rolled my eyes and said “whateverrrrr.” How was I supposed to know that one day I would have zero control over the noise in my life?

When something taken for granted becomes a precious commodity, it has a way of shifting one’s perceptions. It seems that, after I had a baby, my infatuation with noise died right alongside my love of hooker-shoes, false eyelashes, and glitter.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe having kids has less to do with my new aversion to noise than I thought.

Maybe I just grew up.

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