Quiet in my Brain

What do I need to write? Space to think. And what do I need for that?

Quiet. Preferably first thing in the morning or late at night.

Calm. No thoughts, no to do list, nothing else going on, no interruption waiting to happen.

Comfort. I need to be comfortable where I’m sitting so my thoughts can flow, uninterrupted by the mundane aspects of my physical existence.

And, if I’m lucky, a bit of luxury; a cup of something warm, ideally coffee, and something sweet to eat.

I write the way I sleep: very, very sensitively.

I’m an awful person to share the bed with. I require complete silence and total stillness. No snoring, no breathing, no ambient TV, no leg wiggling. Basically, if you can pretend you’re not there, or if I can feel like I’m sleeping alone, I can sleep. There are some magical nights that, if I fall asleep first, I can manage to sleep through any sound or movement, at least for most of the night.

I know my mother, who sleeps like the dead, shakes her head ruefully at this. She did everything she could to ensure that I would sleep, and write for that matter, with any number of things going on around me.

Sadly, nothing worked.

When I was a baby, she would leave my door open while the house was under construction. She left my windows open in the summer, letting in the loud downtown Toronto noises. She and my father watched TV in the room next to my bedroom. And as for writing, she used to try to explain to me that I really needed to be able to work with distractions.

Easy for her to say. She does, as I said, sleep like the dead. And she concentrates single-mindedly as well.

I’ve never been able to do either.

On New Year’s Day, after what felt like many, many weeks of hanging out with my talkative son, I turned to him and said, “Sweetie, I need some quiet in my brain.”

I have loved having so much time with him, but I was feeling frustrated because I hadn’t had enough silence or enough time to myself, especially as I’m used to having full days without talking when he is at school.

Without the silence and the time to myself, I hadn’t been able to think, to touch base with how I was feeling and what I needed. And I hadn’t really been able to write much during the holidays. I knew that if I could just get some quiet – no doing stuff, no one talking to me, no one asking me to do something – just some extended quiet, then I would be able to get back into writing.

I’ve discovered I become grumpy (grumpier?) if too many non-writing days pass.

I never really found much thinking space, though, throughout the past few weeks, I have tried to steal at least the odd quiet moment to myself, and in those moments I have written, and at times even posted.

Sitting quietly for a few minutes to think, or to not-think, is usually part of my de-stressing technique, but I have employed it during these holidays just to get a bit of the quiet in the brain back.

I have tired shutting myself into our guest room, I have settled onto the floor of the bathroom, I have stood on a pair of skates on a skating rink, my fingers freezing, with my eyes closed. But I generally found it hard to think in those conditions because I was uncomfortable, or I knew I was about to be interrupted, or I was aware that I had only a short amount of time before I needed to start doing something, like cooking dinner.

I thought today would be the day things would finally return to normal, but the school buses were cancelled and the roads were an icy nightmare, so my son stayed home.

Maybe tomorrow will be my day.

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