In the stillness there is contentment. Less processing of sound and more flow of thought. I’m more at peace here, devoid of noise. Although I have no idea what totally quiet means. Even when voices aren’t present, there’s the hum of the fridge, the lamp timer softly ticks, and the fan of our furnace is constantly having an opinion.
Even so, amid the ever-present sound, I can sometimes feel the stillness. It comes from my own self. I like to communicate quietly. Someone in my past told my parent I was mute. I had to learn to be boisterous, feeding on the energy of my extroversion, copying the delivery I heard from comedians. Discovering what stuck and what bombed. Eventually, my humour was my own. I would be the life of the gathering. People got excited when I entered a room because they knew I would be entertaining.
I never had the chance to know what it would be like to be a non-vocal extrovert. For some reason, speaking out loud is important to so many people.
I would have loved to have learned signing as a child. Then, I could express my humour while being silent. The lack of voices would have made me feel calmer too, and I’m sure the banter would have been amazing.
I don’t understand ASL, but even without knowing the signs, I love watching the movements of the conversations. It soothes me. The facial expressions make me feel so engaged. Where I live now, they speak with their vocal chords and almost completely free of emotion. It makes me feel sad. I guess I prefer quiet communication with loud emotions.
My relationship with sound has always been complex. It can seduce me or repel me. I can be hard of hearing and acutely hearing at the same time. Voices often elude me. They get buried underneath all the other noises in the room.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. But I can love the drums yet go into a panic over repetitive patterns. Perhaps controlling the beat and varying it with riffs and rolls makes it okay in my brain. Whenever I was in a band whose musicians didn’t bother listening to each other, I felt tormented by the ghastly intersecting of sounds that didn’t go together. I would often lose my temper or beg them to stop playing, not understanding how they could be so calm amid the chaos.
Today though, I’m alone. It’s my day to control how much noise I hear. I don’t have to speak out loud for hours. This is paradise. A temporary visit to Innisfree. My only regret is that time is passing too quickly, and I will have to use my voice soon.
I wish people understood, even in my own family, how much stillness I need.
Because it dials everything back.
There is beauty in still moments.
If only they didn’t have to be so fleeting.
Processing Noise, Seeking Stillness © 2023 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and the forthcoming Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the multi-genre disability fiction anthologies Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too.
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