Turn Down The Volume

What’s the soundtrack to your days?

As I circumnavigated the forest this morning I tried to unpick why I had a five-minute meltdown last night. I’ve been trying to work on my emotional and reactive responses to stress. Last night would suggest there’s still some major personal development to be done as I kicked out and stomped off to the kitchen to see what earth-shattering injustice was causing the Wrigglet to incessantly whine.

When I say kicked out, I might’ve actually caused bodily harm to the husband. It really was accidental. It wasn’t him I was exploding at. I just wanted to stop my head from erupting. It was really quite impressive – like a ninja on-the-edge as I scissor-kicked off the sofa.

It was the noise.

All day long. Noise. A cacophony of demands. An orchestra of toys. The disharmony of competing voices.

Lockdown is massively a contributory factor. Husband working from home has played its part. And the holiday season may well have pushed me over the edge. If Spotify were to create my daily playlist it would look something like this:

  1. Cats miaowing for food despite having been fed
  2. Paw Patrol sirens / Blippi’s nasal tones / YouTube train videos
  3. Small child repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly, asking for snacks
  4. Ominous rumble of the tumble dryer
  5. Washing machine thrashing about on spin cycle
  6. Train left running, chuntering in a box, somewhere…
  7. Hoover sucking up the fourth spillage of the day
  8. Husband shouting to keep small child out of office or he’ll “never be able to finish for the day”
  9. Cats still miaowing
  10. The Polar Express repeatedly announcing “I am the King of the North Pole” as it chugs and chugs and chugs and toots and chugs its way around its endless track

Unlike Spotify, who carefully present each track before gently fading in to the next, my soundtrack plays simultaneously, on a circuit, for the entire day, like a sledgehammer to my brain.

Back in the glory days, that nirvana before we all started living on top of each other 24 hours of every day, I used to get Fridays to myself. I mean in the house alone. Yes, Arnold and Iris were there as my support act but well-fed felines purring at your feet are not generally bad company. Chris would head to the office for nine hours and Harry would be deposited in nursery. And it was the silence that would embrace me with obliging arms on my return home. The silence that I longed for.

So whilst, in my development of self-awareness, I knew last night was not my finest moment, I knew exactly what I needed to rectify it. Quiet. Peace.

Searching for Silence

So with the three of us holed up together in tier 4 tears, where could I find a moment of shhh and hush?

The first was an accidental discovery.

As I stumbled in to the kitchen, eyes half-closed with New Year sleep, I left Harry in the playroom. On a less drowsy, more coffee-sated start to the day I would’ve automatically turned on the TV for a CBeebies machete to sever the sleep from my brain. Today I forgot. Instead I left him there whilst I readied my caffeine fix. On my return he was sitting with a book, quietly flicking through.

The difference was palpable. For fifteen minutes we sat and shared the pictures, counting the objects. It was a calm and gentle emergence in to the day and the new year. I will be so bold as to try the same tomorrow. Bing can hold his horses, or rabbits, till we’ve at least had chance for the coffee to kick in.

I then took myself off for a run. “I can’t run without music.” My lycra-clad mantra. I’d rather not go out, than run without banging tunes to spur me on. But today as I entered the forest, with Chase + Status at full volume in my ears, I made the decision to take out my earphones. And what do you know, I could still run!

It was far from silent. Squirrels scuttling. Birds everywhere singing their 8am chorus. Planes going over. Socially-distanced forest go-oers bidding me morning. My pounding heart and squelching size eights. But a sense of peace descended over me.

What shocked me most though was how all my senses were heightened. Usually it’s tunnel vision all the way round, despite my beautiful surroundings. But my hearing was keener. And I was looking up, down and all around to identify the sounds. I could almost taste the chill in the air. Not only did I get the quiet solace I craved but it was an A-Grade sensory experience!

Until I stepped through the door – it was like the Björk song, ‘Oh So Quiet.’ The big band and trumpet fanfare to welcome me home after the whispered hush of my eight kilometres. The volume immediately ramped up to maximum decibels. But I was restored.

So as I enter this year of personal growth, intent on becoming more mindful of my actions, my thoughts and my choices (all a result of the Noom programme which has given me so much more than weight loss), I have started the year with a new goal. Every day, whether it be five minutes or fifty minutes, the back-garden or the bedroom, I need to find some time to be still and quiet. My brain needs it. My ninja needs to move away from the edge.

And if the worst comes to the worst, hide all the batteries – that’s one way of muting things! Happy new yea-shhhhhhhhh!

Have you discovered anything about yourself over lockdown? How do you take moments of stillness and quiet? Any tips or hints?

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