Quiet

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Noise.

It is everywhere. All around you, all-pervasive, ever-present, never-ending. The world is a noisy, crowded, bustling place, and always there is something or someone, somewhere, creating noise. It is enough to drive a quiet man to distraction- and eventually madness, if he is not careful.

I am not merely referring to noise in terms of loudness or volume, by the way. I am also referring to the stark reality that most of the conversation that surrounds us is empty, completely devoid of meaning or content. People blithely carry on long-winded conversations about the weather and pleasant nothings, uttering trivial banalities with great emphasis as if the mere act of uttering such useless and obvious thoughts somehow imparts them with the utmost profundity.

You'll hear and feel noise around you wherever you go. And if you are a deep introvert (like me) and you let this noise surround you without respite, it will become toxic.

I mean that in a literal sense. Exposure to noise- whether it be the random noise of the street, or the structured noise of vapid conversation- acts upon an introvert's presence of mind in the same way that long-distance running wears down the endurance and physical stamina of a marathon runner.

And like a marathoner, a deep introvert will eventually hit "the wall"- the point at which his natural reserves of energy are fully consumed, and his psyche begins feeding on itself in order to keep going.

Those of us who have learned to accept that we are different, have usually figured out how to recognise this point. Some of us have figured out ways of getting around it. All of us have struggled with it, at some point in our lives.

Contrary to what our more extroverted counterparts would like to believe, not everyone is particularly interested in discussing what he did over the weekend. We introverts are not particularly interested in other people's views on politics and society and travel and office gossip; if we want to know about it, we'll go read it somewhere.

Most of us want nothing more than to be left the hell alone to do what we need to do, and then get the hell out, so that we can spend more time doing what we actually want to do.

I've struggled to balance the needs of an introverted mind and psyche against the requirements of an extroverted society for years. It's still a struggle, particularly in office environments that generally discourage, whether tacitly or otherwise, the use of headphones by employees. There are, however, ways of coping.

If your internal "warning light" starts flashing, just get up and take a walk. Get outside, no matter how cold or how foul the weather. If it's sunny outside, great; step outside, bask in the sunshine for a little bit, and re-energise. Stand around on a sidewalk, and let the noisy world outside wash over you.

If you work in an office, never, ever, eat lunch at your desk. This is important for more than merely mental reasons; eating lunch at your desk robs you of critical time needed to recharge, to be sure, but it also takes away from your enjoyment of your food. And if there is one thing that I've learned over the last few years, it is that food is to be savoured, especially if it is freshly prepared and well presented. As weird as this sounds, if you respect the sources of energy that go into your body, you'll get far more out of them. If you eat sloppily prepared fast food with little respect for aesthetics or presentation, it generally just won't taste as good; it'll taste even worse if you're parked in front of a computer screen while you're eating it, under fluorescent lighting  with your colleague yapping away on the phone behind you.

Better by far to eat in a secluded, quiet place- a nearby park bench, or a churchyard pew, is generally a good choice.

As I've written several times before, for an introvert, quiet is not to be feared or disliked. It is essential to who and what we are. It defines us, heals us, gives us strength and conviction when we falter, and provides us with a refuge in which we might find our fullest expressions as human beings. Our homes tend to be quiet and secluded- pleasant, comfortable, homely, simple, and aesthetically uncluttered. Our lives revolve around these places of silence and solitude, and without them, we would be lost- ground down to nothingness by the rest of society.

Silence- of the mind, of the body, of the soul- is the antidote to the toxicity of the world around us. If you are an introvert, and you find yourself struggling to maintain your equilibrium and your sense of self on a daily basis- find a place of quiet and peace, and wrap its life-giving warmth and serene strength around you, as you would a favourite blanket on a cold day; and so armed, go forth once again and face the noisy world.

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