Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My sound of choice

My sound of choice is silence - well as silent as I can get in my little part of the world. It annoys me when I wake up at 3am and can hear the trains go by. I don't live anywhere near a train station but the prevailing wind at 3am seems to be in exactly the right direction to bring the sounds straight to my bedroom window.

I'm always the one who turns the tv off if no one is sitting in front of it actively watching (that includes the times someone falls asleep in front of the tv). What's the point? You're either watching it, or you're not. Using it as white noise is irritating.

This week I got a little more silence than I usually ask for. I lost my voice. I'm not talking croaky or husky, I'm talking no volume at all, not even a whisper. It's amazing how much difference it makes to my world. Because I'm silent, most people around me become quieter. A lot of people even whisper at me - I can't make a noise therefore my hearing must be acute. Other people come right up close to me and speak slowly like my hearing has been affected along with my voice. My sense of humour is having a ball.

It's not the first time this has happened. I spent most of my 20s losing my voice three or four times a year, then in my 30s I had 12 months without a voice. I had no volume at all for nearly five months, then had to use a portable voice amplifier for another eight months before my voice was back to normal volume. I've had to do voice exercises every day since to maintain easy volume.

With all this difficulty I have even getting a speaking voice to work, you can imagine what my singing voice is like! It's not that I can't hold a note - I'm just never sure which note I'll get or how long it'll last.

Lauren was 11 or 12 during that year and very quickly learned to respond to a click of my fingers. We developed our own sign language and had quite involved conversations with me not saying a word and her talking in shorthand. She can still say an awful lot to me just by raising an eyebrow. It actually fitted in really well with the dog obedience techniques I used throughout her childhood. I know it sounds odd to say I used dog obedience to raise a child but I did: lots and lots of praise when she did something good and growled at her when she did something wrong, just like we learned when we were training our dog. Of course I didn't realise until we took the dog obedience classes that that's what I was doing.

Now I have a few days of absolute silence inside my head. It's come at the most inconvenient time of the semester - right at the beginning - but there's nothing I can do about that. I'm scared if I don't take the time to rest and get it all working again I'll have another year with no voice. While it was an interesting experience, it's not something I want to repeat.


Jim Harris said...

Now that's a very weird ailment. What causes it? Any chance it could be psychological? Does it improve your writing? You did write a longer post about being silent?

There's a movie I tried to watch called Into the Silence, a German film that's about the silence of a monastery. I said tried, because I couldn't handle three hours of silence, but you might enjoy it.

I do love quiet though, and little unknown noises bug me. Susie makes a lot of noise, turning the TV on when she wakes up, and keeping it on late into the night. Now that she's working out of town, I have a lot more silence. It's lonelier. I guess that why I write more blog posts.

glediar said...

Being a teacher, I talk all day, so being silent is very different for me. That probably does account for the verbosity with the posts! ;) It'll probably take me a couple of days to transfer that into anything truly constructive - like chapter 4 of my book I've been trying to finish for two weeks now.

All the tests done when I lost my voice for a year showed it was stress related. I was covered by workers' compensation and was paid for the whole time which was great - a huge relief. I usually need some sort of infection to trigger the loss of voice though - this time it's sinusitis. The stress is what stops me regaining volume.

I've had two full days now without any volume - not even a croak - and it's becoming a worry. Teaching isn't the kind of job that gets done while you're away. Every day I'm off work the kids are falling behind.

I don't think I could watch that movie either. I have enough trouble sitting in front of the tv for an hour, forget about three hours when I have to focus on the action - it'd be like constantly having to read sub-titles. My mind would wander.

Suddenly having more time alone can take a while to get used to. I think I need more time alone than most people. All of my friends are horrified whenever I have holidays and spend three or four days inside the house not talking to anyone! I guess it depends on how social you are, or like to be. If you're a very social person, having a lot of time on your own would be hard.

glediar said...

I also meant to mention that I do try to keep my posts short-ish. Anything longer than a screen becomes a chore to read - for me anyway, so I try not to inflict that on others.

Danielle Ferries said...

I love noise. I thrive on it. I love hearing the trucks go up the highway late at night, the crows that gather in the trees behind my house and have a good old natter, and I always have music on or the TV on in the background. I find silence extremely unnerving.

glediar said...

I'd be a nervous wreck inside 24 hours if I couldn't get rid of man-made noise for a while each day, at least inasfaras not having the radio or tv on. I can't imagine ever feeling totally comfortable with it, let alone craving it.

The crows and other birds and animals don't bother me at all. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact I grew up in a country town. We lived on the edge of town across the road from a vinyard so one side of the house had no neighbours at all and the other three neighbours weren't close.

Danielle Ferries said...

I think you could be on to something there. I grew up in the city in a house where there was always music playing.

Jim Harris said...

Then you probably have trouble with my long-winded posts. I consider blogs a kind of piano practice for writing essays. I'm always disappointed with short blogs, especially when I'm looking for something in particular on a search engine and end up at a site with a few sentences.

Danielle you love noise? Wow. I don't mind a little noise now and then. Like listening to birds talk back and forth, or a distance lonesome train horn, but trucks on the highway would be a bother.

I've gotten rather sensitive about noise. My friend Janis invited me out to dinner last night, and the restaurant was so damn noisy that I thought I was being tortured. Janis kept nattering away and I struggled to follow what she said over the crowd noise and the blare of the music. I'm getting too old I guess.

glediar said...

I get a bit irritated at really short posts when I'm looking for information too, Jim. Posts have to be long enough to say something.

Don't be offended, but I treat your posts like I do my research. I read the first paragraph to get an idea of what the post is about and, with yours, because you discuss often a number of sub-topics within a post I browse the rest. If I know something about the topic - your topics are eclectic, so I don't always know anything about them (but I learn) - I'll read it more closely a second time, then respond.

I also have a problem in restaurants or anywhere else with background noise. I always have. I was basically deaf for a number of years in my childhood and never grew used to discerning individual sounds out of many. It's all just noise to me. If I'm in a noisy place for too long I basically just shut down - stop trying to hear anything - and rely on sight.

btw, I still have absolutely no voice. It should be coming back a bit by now but there's nothing. I'm beginning to worry.