Thursday, October 30, 2014

Noises Off

The Buddhists call it "Monkey Mind" and I am one of its biggest victims.
 I spend lots of time, burdened with monkeys who swing from branch to branch in my head. They oftentimes take breaks during the day but at night, they are in full swing, oh boy are they!  But at least they are fairly quiet as they do their work of distracting me from other important matters such as beauty sleep. But that's a whole other topic, one I've decided to not allow time and space for this morning as I write, listening to beautiful baroque music through ear buds.  I would not want to make any noise which might disturb my husband's sleep. God forbid.

I love these early Autumn mornings.  I am up before six and instead of damning my inability to return to slumber (the monkeys wake extra early), I have learned to welcome this, the hour before the sun rises. It's what I kindly refer now to as "Holy Hour" and I consider it a gift.  Quiet, peaceful, my time. The hour before the arrival of the noises that chase the monkeys away and fill my life with external disturbances in their place.

I've long been, let's say "noise conscious".  I have very good hearing.  Well, it's not as good as it once was but it's still decent.  When I hear a noise, I have to track it down in much the same way I have to find the source of an odor and that, my friends, has led me down more than one bad path.  A dead mouse here, a rotted potato there, find them, get rid of them and you're good for months.  But noise, that's different. Noise is everywhere and for some of us, it's very, very stressful.

It's funny that I worked in one of the world's nosiest cities and I can say with honesty, I was never bothered by it.  In fact, the noises of Manhattan during a work-week energized me and made me happy.  I'm also sure that I became immune to a lot of the sounds.It was when I came back home and found myself assaulted by the noises coming from my neighbors as they professed their dissatisfaction with each other, that I wished myself years older, suffering a hearing loss.

I once read an article on this very topic.  The writer shared my feelings about noises, especially those that invaded her private space.  In her essay, she told about a situation which was causing her lots of stress that started shortly after moving into a new apartment. Each night, her silence was crudely interrupted by a loud and unfamiliar noise, one that lasted a few minutes and then went away.  She was annoyed and baffled by what was causing the commotion.  The problem grew greater each day and her stress levels rose but she was already locked into a lease so she was powerless.....until.....she allowed her ears to lead the way and she located the source.  To her surprise, she discovered that her new apartment was right next door to a small theater and each night, she heard applause.  From that discovery on, she no longer found this to be disturbing, Her discovery turned the tables on her disturbances and, the difference between "good" and "bad" noise made her evenings pleasant as she envisioned the happy theater-goers and the lovely sound of their gratitude for a great performance. I instantly identified with the writer and made my own assessments.  I loved New York City but did not even like my neighbors.  Disparity recognized.

Yesterday morning, by 7:30, the leaf blowers were already at work, surrounding our apartment building, joined by the riding mowers.  There were five blowers, all blowing the same pile of leaves.  This was NOISE and it was relentless.  It took over my every thought for hours on end.  MY morning.  How dare they? Non-stop, not even a coffee break.  Hostile noise, punctuating a beautiful morning on a gorgeous day.  I was NOT happy and I let those sweet young men who were only doing their job, know it.  They'll be back and next time, I'm going to buy them coffee.  I'm going to make them my friends.  I'll even bring doughnuts.  I'll smile, make them smile back at me, I'll turn it all around, yes I will.

One more note on"noises versus sound."  There are some that I treasure, that I will never forget, never tire of recalling. The cries of my own newborns, seconds after their first breaths, that of my first-born grandchild, seconds after hers.  My husband saying "I do" almost forty five years ago. The beautiful voice of Elly Ameling, singing Vivaldi,coming through my ear buds at this very moment and the voices of the angels singing their morning song at Santa Chiara in Assisi almost two years ago to the day. To my dying day, I shall never forget that. Sounds, not "noise".  There's such a difference.

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