Is it possible to silence the noise?
By Jessica Brodie
I used to be a person who needed noise. In the car, I always had the radio blaring and the windows cracked. At work, I listened to music and thrived off the buzz of a busy office in the background, phones ringing and people talking and laughing all around me. At home alone, I’d keep the television on to make me feel like I had company, and I can’t ever remember settling into a comfortable quiet with anyone, not even my cat.
Silence was something to be filled—with words, with music, the louder the better.
But in my late twenties, I was chatting with a much-older friend who offhandedly and rather cheerfully mentioned she always liked to stay busy because she was afraid—that is, afraid if she slowed down she’d realize how depressed she probably was.
Her words, flung so casually and almost carelessly, felt like a punch in the gut.
I gazed at her with fresh eyes, realizing that she was, indeed, always running. Always harried. Always on the go. Always hurrying nonstop through life—just like I was. And while that was okay for me at that period in my life, I certainly didn’t want to still be that way in my future, after I had kids and was supposed to be in my “prime.” At some point, I assumed, all my angst would magically calm down and I’d settle into my own brain and everything would just be perfect.
But no. It wouldn’t.
My life forever changed the day I had that conversation with my friend, for it was the day I realized the way I was living—all rushed and hectic—was not what I wanted in the least. It was also the day I realized it was up to me to change that. It wasn’t at all dependent on luck or my circumstances or how much money I had or where I was professionally. It was on me, on my choices, on my attitude.
I realized not only was I rushing through my days at breakneck speed, but I was filling all the special, quiet, tranquil moments with so much noise they were drowned out entirely.
I needed to stop, to breathe, to live.
I needed to silence the noise—even if that meant I’d be “bored” or “boring.” Even if that meant I’d be sad or have to think about uncomfortable things.
In the years since then, I’ve gotten far more comfortable with quiet. I can go long stretches without a book or a sound. I can send the whole day alone, just hanging out with myself. I can even take long car rides and barely utter a word to my sweet husband (who, by the way, is wonderful at quiet time and very comfortable in his own skin). We can just hold hands and be.
And in that quiet, that stillness, our souls can simply unite with God.
I’ve realized many of us are afraid of the quiet and the solitude for precisely that reason: because, deep down, we know when the noise and the excitement stops, we’ll be all alone and have to face the music. In the quiet, that’s when we are most likely to encounter God and wrestle with our true natures, and sometimes, we fear this. We fill our silent times with music and television and YouTube and even music as a distraction.
But the quiet always comes. Even when we fight it, there comes a time sooner or later when the noise stops and we are left alone with our Creator.
The sooner we can own it, face it, embrace it, the sooner we can stop going through the motions of living and start truly living.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”—Psalm 46:10