It has been a busy week. Celebrating the end of the summer holidays – we experimented with celebrating, as opposed to limping into the new academic year, it was fun. Getting to grips with a new routine – we’re not there yet, several after-school activities are only starting this week. Coping with the reawakening that happens at the start of September – my inbox is filled with announcements, updates and plans and I am out every evening this week. Most importantly, celebrating a significant family birthday with lots of family and friends. We had a gorgeous weekend of parties, presents, good food and good wine. Just as it all should be.
There is no doubt I am an extrovert, I gain my energy by being with people, I get lonely quickly. As I get older though, I am noticing that I am maybe not as extrovert as I think I am. I talk a lot, I am loud, I like being with lots of people. Yet, I am currently craving some time alone, some quiet, some time just being with my own thoughts for a while. My commutes into work last week felt very precious indeed, as I relished being alone in the car. It’s not quite as much peace as I need though, the whole having to concentrate on driving gets in the way of ones thoughts wandering properly.
This time in the morning with a journal and a blog was so important in the busyness of last week. I have loved spending some time doing a tiny bit of yoga in the last week – because it is quiet and still.
My next challenge for myself is to carve out quiet minutes in my day, to stop waiting for a quiet time to present itself, rather to make it happen myself. And not to worry about it being a certain period of time. Just two minutes a day of being in silence would help hugely in this busy time of change.
Many years ago, I made a decision not to live and work in London. It’s hard to remember making that decision, it was a long time ago, but I have never regretted it. This week I remembered one of the big reasons I left. It is the sound of silence in commuting London.
I work relatively frequently in the capital and enjoy it, there is a great feeling walking from the station to work seeing international landmarks. People travel all over the world to see the Parliament building or St Paul’s Cathedral, I gawk at them on my way to a job I enjoy.
I have a relatively smooth commute, which involves lovely walking when time allows and only rarely does it involve sighs of despair as I face a sardine-like tube carriage.
This week I walked from Euston to Waterloo. Along with possibly thousands of others. And the reason for that decision to leave London flooded my senses. As I walked down a busy thoroughfare it was hard to find a good pace as there were just so many people walking along the same road. All of us walking quickly and purposefully. And in total silence.
The road was of course noisy with cars, busses, motorbikes, building work. But absolutely no human noise at all.
That was it – that sound of silence. It brought back memories of arriving at Charing Cross station on my way to work in the early 90s and hundreds of humans marching in silence. I felt a feeling of real horror at the silence. At that time I thought it was because of the contrast with my childhood in a quiet corner of Wales where silence was because of a general lack of humans. This was silence with more humans than I had possibly ever experienced.
As it happens, all these years later, I still feel a sense of horror, real anxiety when immersed in this strange silence.
I was so grateful for it being broken this morning by a bird singing, by someone on a phone call and then a colleague called me and I felt a real relief at having someone to talk to.
And relief at that decision made many years ago.