Thursday, September 13, 2007

Go Placidly Amid The Noise And Haste

There's a downside to teaching -- you talk all day. ALL day. And when you're not talking, someone's talking to you. Often, when you're talking, someone's talking at you. There are usually layers and layers of sound that you have to process on some level or another. While you're explaining composition to Jenny, you have to be aware that there is a noisy conversation in the back of the room and you have to be able to read it to see if it could be developing into a fight, or if the conversationalists are simply overly excited about Alex's new cellphone. At the same time, an announcement comes on the public address system and a loud sound occurs in the hallway that really ought to be checked out.

It's a noisy job. By the end of the day, my brain is so overloaded with audial information that I simply can't process words anymore. Ask me a question at 3:15, and chances are that you'll get a blank stare and I'll say, "Huh?" The "huh" might mean that I didn't hear you, or it just might mean that I need you to repeat the question to buy some time for my brain to process just what it is that you're saying. I really need one of those status bars like computers have that shows the progress of the data loading into my head. "Loading... 15% of 251k... estimated time 2 minutes, 34 seconds."

And then I go home to my four children who bombard me with questions and things they want to tell me before I'm even out of the car, and I want to hear what they have to say but my mind is just adjusting back from my quiet commuting time to my noisy home time again. It takes a while. If it's been a good day, I can ease right back into conversational mode, but if it's been an especially hectic day, it's much more difficult for me to welcome noise again.

I've learned to value silence. A person needs a certain amount of quiet each day. A quiet walk, eating lunch alone while reading the news -- even a walk with passive noise-- noise I don't have to process or react to, like the sound of the traffic downtown -- these are all rare treats that I've learned to drink up whenever the opportunity presents itself. I spent some time yesterday evening walking around a pond at a neighbor's house while the kids played in the back yard, just snapping photos of waterlilies and wildflowers and enjoying not talking.

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