Snow and the city

Snow covered courtyard in Manchester

Waking up this morning to a softer almost grey-blue light filtering through the bedroom blinds caused me to leap out of bed and go straight to the window to see the snow. I could sense that it was going to be deeper than a light dusting. Leaping anywhere, let alone out of bed, is simply not my preferred mode of travel so I was pretty excited by the prospect of what I would see when I opened the blinds.

It was beautiful. Really beautiful. I am fortunate to have mature trees in my garden and their limbs and boughs were laden snow. A robin’s red breast stood out even more clearly against the white background. Footprints from my cats marked their tentative tread across a virginal lawn. And best of all, it was completely silent. Not a single sound disturbed the peace for minutes.

Here in south Manchester, where my postman told me no gritting had happened overnight, it kept traffic off the roads. I hear the absence of the usually constant, distant hum of commuter traffic coming into the city. It’s an interesting experience to hear the absence of a sound. I realised how accustomed I am to the background murmur that is a constant presence for city dwellers.

Brilliantly, the building site next door is out of action for the day. Hallelujah! I feel like I can breathe! That was my instant reaction: relief, joy, gratitude for the snow giving me this wonderful gift of silence. I couldn’t stop smiling.

For the first time in many months, my morning is peaceful, free from the noise of reversing lorries, drilling, sawing and hammering. There is no radio blaring today. In time, I may remember with a vague fondness tempered by a grudging grumpy humour, the off-key crew of brickies who took great delight in singing along to Cheese FM or whatever they were listening to for weeks on end. They sang loudly. Very loudly. Abba seemed to be a special favourite.

So this morning’s silence is something truly precious and profound for me. I have always been fairly sensitive to noise, I noticeably jump at fireworks and loud bangs. As a result of experiencing PTSD for a large majority of 2018, I have a hypersensitivity now to noise that makes city living painful for me. The construction site has been my personal version of hell for 9 months. It has had, I believe, a significant impact on my physical, mental and emotional health. As a result, silence has become something I crave, even more than sugar which I am horribly addicted to! I can’t do without silence on a daily basis and I have needed and still need long, long periods of it.

My lovely best friend, who has been such a support to me throughout this difficult period, sent me a link to an article the other day entitled “Science Says Silence is Vital for Our Brains”. On reading this, I felt a huge sense of acknowledgement and relief that what has become so important in my life is actually a natural response to healing the trauma I have experienced. I’m not being anti-social, seeking isolation or withdrawing because I don’t like people anymore or I can’t be bothered to make an effort. My brain and my body know what is needed for me to heal. Silence was, and still is, a massive part of this.

Reflecting on this, my own experience and the stories others’ share with me about feeling stressed, tired, not able to concentrate like they used to, I wonder how many of us get enough silence on a regular basis. Are we giving ourselves enough space and peace to assist our brains and bodies in functioning optimally? Personally, I doubt it. I don’t have children, I get to spend a lot of time on my own and yet I still can’t get enough of well, nothing-ness. Sitting still and staring at the sky for hours now makes much more sense to me as being a physiological necessity for my wellbeing on every level. I wasn’t incapable of doing anything, I was trying to heal myself without realising.

So I have a couple of questions for you . . . When was the last time you truly experienced silence? How do you respond if you find yourself completely alone in a quiet place? How could more silence benefit your wellbeing?

Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to read more

And please let me know if you are interested in the idea of a silence workshop! I would love to design and facilitate that for a group of interested people. It’s something that I’ve been pondering for a while. The snow helped crystallise for me how crucial silence is for us all.

Thanks for reading,

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