The sound of my voice

“Sometimes we talk simply for the sake of hearing ourselves talk…The activity gives us a pleasant sense of being alive…In all this, the significance of the words used is almost completely irrelevant.” -S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action. Ch. 6, The Language of Social Cohesion

Mindless talking for the sake of talking? Guilty as charged. If there is a silence, I must fill it. Recently, a friend jokingly commanded me to not talk and just nod in agreement with whatever he said. I probably made it thirty seconds…he didn’t say anything, so I had to say something.

When I called Michael tonight, I didn’t have much to say. Neither did he, yet we talked for at least a half hour. I’d be left feeling lonely and shafted if the call had been any shorter. Not because either of us had anything worth saying, just because it’s the only way we “hang out” when we’re apart in our separate cities. I’m a storyteller. I do it to Meredith all the time. I reiterate things that I already told her on Facebook. I recall stories about things we’ve done or said…which she obviously knows about. I tell everyone pointless stories about my unremarkable life and the goings-on of friends and acquaintances.

Am I hopelessly self-absorbed? Do I really think people are interested in the intricacies of my hum-drum existence?

It’s not a unique habit. Don’t most people talk for the sake of talking? It’s a way of reaffirming that we are not alone. We share common human experiences, common language, a common sense of community. We interact because we care about other people, and we need them to care about us. Our empty small-talk and mindless ramblings are an easy source of unity and comfort in an uncertain world.

We’re in love with noise, but silence is good sometimes. It’s kind of nice to sit here alone in my room in the dark, sipping a mudslide after a long night of class, meeting, and work. But how much silence is there, really? Am I alone with my thoughts? My laptop is singing to me. With over 3,000 songs in my iTunes library, I can escape true silence for 8 days straight without repeating a song. And here I am, writing a blog, casting out a line in search of a (somewhat artificial) conversation with readers. I love comments. Sometimes I even consider a blog post a failure if it garners no comments.

When finish this entry, I will shut my laptop, read my Bible, then lay in bed enveloped in darkness. Surely I will be in silence then. But my mind won’t allow it. Past conversations will replay in my thoughts. Future conversations will be laid out. I even formulate fictional conversations centered around scenarios that will certainly never play out. I have no idea why. When I fall asleep, my brain will instantly initiate dream sequences that I will almost always remember the next morning. My dreams are far more complex than my reality; full of action, detail, conflict, and noise.

Maybe I’m afraid of silence. Afraid I’ll miss something. Afraid to be left alone for too long. Or maybe my mind and mouth have simply forgotten how to be still.


About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
This entry was posted in Contentment, Creative Nonfiction, Life as we know it, Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The sound of my voice

  1. PeterDallas says:

    I cant understand why I read this blog but I ended up REALLY enjoying it.

  2. PeterDallas says:

    This blog inspired me to read some of your earlier ones. When I returned, I expected to see many more positives comments but strangely none! I suppose it might be because
    – you haven’t raised a contentious issue or
    – people that enjoyed it didn’t feel it was necessary to comment
    – perhaps this site doesn’t get much traffic.
    I don’t know, but having read a few of your other blogs I think this is the best. A warm articulate human in cyber space – surely gives readers a good feeling knowing you and therefore probably many more people are floating around there! Keep blogging!

  3. Emily says:

    Not all of us are in love with noise…in fact, my obsession with silence has made me rather crazy lately. I can tolerate less and less noise, it seems, and I have begun to relate a little too closely with Emily Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”…which is, in fact, about a descent into madness (and, in my opinion, sound).

    Maybe a love for noise gives you a tolerance for the noisy, noisy world we live in–like the superbugs that get used to DDT and come back stronger the next year…

  4. Nicole says:

    Thanks, Peter. I’m glad you enjoyed it. A few comments are enough to make it seem worthwhile. This site occasionally has surges in traffic, usually when I tag a post with something that people are searching for. But for the most part it’s small and mostly read by my acquaintances, which is fine by me.

    Emily, I think it’s good to love a little silence. I wish I could take time to appreciate it more. When I’m hiking or reading alone in the park, the silence is lovely. Don’t go crazy though. My work environment is insanely noisy, so it’s probably helped me become immune to the annoyance of noise.

  5. Jane says:

    I don’t believe it’s from being afraid . . . . I believe it’s a result of growing up with Papa and your brother. . . . perhaps you felt you had to make up for them????

  6. Nicole says:

    That certainly contributed. I assumed the role of family communicator pretty early on. But you could conversely wonder if Josh might have spoken up more had I given him a chance. Same thing could have happened with my dad–growing up with Eva, Rose and Oma, he probably didn’t have a lot of silence he needed to fill.

  7. PeterDallas says:

    I always find eccentric people rather fascinating (perhaps because I haven’t met that many) which may explain why Emily’s going crazy interests me.
    Getting to my normally very practical self.. if you (Emily) are serious about noise driving you crazy it might just be because of your diet!! When I was little my dad said to me that the bible (Jesus) said that what comes out your mouth (words) is more important than what goes into it. So for years I didn’t pay much attention to my diet and only recently realized the importance of a balance diet i.e. just because what you say is important doesn’t mean that food is unimportant!

  8. Nicole says:

    I’m a little confused about the connection you’re drawing between diet and noise driving Emily crazy. Although, as someone who’s hypoglycemic, I definitely feel very agitated by noise (and most other sensory stimulants) when I haven’t eaten all day or if I’m coming down from a spike in blood sugar. I don’t think that’s what she’s talking about though. Peter, can you elaborate on what you mean?

  9. PeterDallas says:

    Perhaps I was looking for a reason to launch into something that has recently become a fad of mine – mood food. I have been reading up on how a deficiency of certain amino acids can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, etc. For example a symptom of D-phenylalanine deficiency is hypersensitivity. With food, unlike drugs, it often takes a long time for symptoms to develop and also to go. I believe that since I started having a “protein shake” every morning (it has all essential amino acids in the right proportions) I am more relaxed, concentrate better etc. I bore my friends with this stuff so I better not go on too long but must repeat that it can take months for changes to happen.

  10. Nicole says:

    I don’t think that’s boring at all. I definitely have sleeplessness. Not so much anxiety…I probably have less anxiety than I should. But who knows? I certainly don’t always have a perfectly balanced diet. I try to eat healthy, but it’s tough.

  11. PeterDallas says:

    Nicole I stumbled across your blog accidently, the titled drew me in and then your words, open, honest, sort of quirky, inviting me to get to know you, you instantly became my friend. I keep finding new old blogs of yours to read even your resume. Had a quick look at “The contents of my trunk” and felt quite envious of your camping/hiking trip. In our (South African) parks camping is great but you have to make special arrangements if you want to hike – like an armed ranger to stop the lions from eating you. We don’t have lion mace here but I expect bear mace would do the trick.
    Must confess I was a little disappointed to read in your 8 year anniversary blog how much you loved Michael as I was considering adding you to my “potential daughter in law” list. I have three bachelor sons who don’t seem to be able to find themselves a good woman!
    Have a wonderful holiday.

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