For the last two weeks, I’ve actively been choosing to spend time in silence.
When I’m on a streetcar, when I’m walking down the street, when I’m waiting for the bus; I put away my headphones and turn off my phone or iPod.
I do this because I feel like I need to give my brain some breathing room. If I’m constantly subjecting it to a non-stop stream of noise and information, when will I ever just think?
If I’m consistently detaching myself from my environment, when will I ever see and hear what’s new to discover?
It’s interesting to me how active this choice has to be. It seems it’s more natural for me to plug myself in, than to just stand, sit or walk. It’s like I can’t commute without a soundtrack. I’ve lost the ability to just be alone with my thoughts. And I find that to be a terrifying.
Thinking, pondering, reflecting… all of those are vital to the idea-generating process I so desperately need to fuel my writing career.
So, I’m actively choosing to be still — to give those quirky ideas the space to float into my brain where they can hatch into something new.
The phone rang at 9:30 a.m with bad news. My dad’s voice sounded cautious.
“Something happened,” he said. I panicked. After two years of dealing with dizzy spells, bouts of depression and faulty judgement, my family never knew what to expect from my father.
“What?” I asked.
“I accidentally took your car key with me to work.” My body sighed with relief. “But…I think there’s a spare key in the top drawer of my nightstand,” he continued.
“Crap! Okay, I have to go.” I wasn’t angry with him but I didn’t have time to talk. I glanced at the clock and started rifling through my parents’ drawers, even though it was a losing battle. I found the key to a car we’d gotten rid of 10 years ago. So much for that. I dressed quickly and rushed out the door towards the bus stop.
I hadn’t been on a city bus for about two years but remembered the route almost instinctively. I took the bus regularly in high school, even once I got my driver’s license at 18 and I didn’t mind it. Now, at 22, I had inherited one of my parent’s cars after an accident that left my dad psychologically scarred. He rarely drives and never very far.
Finally, I spotted a bus coming round the bend and joined the line to board. The first few seconds were crucial to me. What if there isn’t enough money on my fare card? I tapped it and the green light flashed. What if there were no seats left? I turned to face the rest of the bus. The dead eyes of the passengers bore into me, evaluating this new body. What if I tripped and catapulted to the back of the bus? I paced down the aisle to find a seat before the bus jerked into motion. Avoiding as much eye contact as possible, I plopped down into a window seat and joined the sea of diffident faces.
It was easier then I remembered it. My body seemed to act on muscle memory and my brain followed. The chairs were the same durable blue. The crowd was the same spectrum of young moms with toddlers and working immigrants. No matter how much I felt I had changed in the last two years, the bus hadn’t. The ride drove me to who I was back then: a sheepish and insecure teenager. And actually, I found I haven’t changed much. I’ve just got a few years more then that kid.