There’s a difference between “sound” and “noise.” Well, not a scientific one. Or maybe. I don’t know. Science isn’t my thing. Either way, your mind almost certainly goes to two distinctly different places when you hear those words. “Sounds” are things you want to listen to, while “noises” are things that are seemingly pointless and louder than they should be.
But things aren’t always this black and white. For one, what’s noise to me may be a sweet sound to you. Things get even murkier when we realize that the way we respond to the things we hear is completely circumstantial. Your baby’s first cry is like music to your ears. But the tenth wake-up scream in one night? Not so much.
When I’m stressed out, tired, hungry, or feeling stretched too thin, certain noises just make me want to rip my hair out, scream, and run full-speed into a wall. To avoid these responses (which, I’ll admit are entirely over-the-top and irrational), sometimes I’ll just put on some kind of white noise to drown it out.
Being a mom to two kiddos is an adventure every day, but sometimes I just want to zone out and have someone speak to me in full sentences about something interesting. When they’re finally buckled up in their car seats, I’ll often indulge in a little radio noise while we drive to and fro. During this time of year, I’ll admit I geek out listening to college football talk radio. The little duo in the backseat usually zones out too, but probably more from boredom than anything else.
Feeling a bit of guilt from basically muting my own children, I turned the radio off. At first, the silence felt deafening. I was trying to keep Hudson asleep, and white noise happens to help him sleep better. And you know what happened? Rowan started blabbering. And then his little brother woke up. Experiment failed, right. Not quite.
I didn’t engage at all – I simply listened. By some divine interference in my mood, the same jibber-jabber that was making me crazy before hopping in the car suddenly made me smile. After muting the meaningless stuff, I was able to just sit and appreciate his little voice. And Hudson? Well, his cooing along with his brother’s unrhythmic rhapsody about trucks was just about the sweetest sound in the world.
I find it ironic when it takes me so long to figure out something in one area in my life that I’ve long known to be true in another. I so love running and hiking on quiet trails because I’m free from the constant din of background activity that we’ve all grown accustomed to. The result of turning down that pointless volume is the freedom to appreciate the things that are really important.
When I mute everything all that is truly just white noise, I can finally hear sounds that, while always present, I mostly ignored: the happy chirp of birds from tree to tree, the quick rush of water over the rocks, or the rhythmic stomp of each foot as it propels me forward.
Despite the Ducks’ dismal season, I still love listening to SEC vs PAC-12 football debates while I’m driving and crappy pop music while I’m doing interval training. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the times when I feel triggered to drown out all the noise in my life where I really need to take a step back and be still. The little things that bring you joy are always there if you’re willing to listen. I’m always amazed at the attitude change that takes place when you just take a deep breath and force yourself to be present. It gives you a healthier perspective that oftentimes the smallest things really are the most important. And the ones that make you want to rip your hair out, turn out to be nothing more than noise.