Silence and Self-Soothing

CJ Romberger
Jun 24, 2018 · 4 min read

In January of 2017, I turned off NPR, which I’d listened to almost constantly for years.

It wasn’t a vote against NPR. It was an attempt to staunch the constant fear-based adrenaline bleed, an attempt to gain back hope for my own life, and reduce my feelings of utter helplessness and constant shock about what was going on in my country.

By March, I’d stopped listening to podcasts, too, because it was impossible to predict if I’d make it through without getting stressed out.

Silence in my car. I would’ve never guessed how much I loved that, how much that quiet would help me.

When I started a “jobby job” in May, 2017, instead of starting another business, I wondered if I’d still want silence in my car like that. A trip to the grocery store was one thing. I’d just signed up for almost two hours a day in my car. Could I stand it?

I could. I did. I didn’t have to dig in my heels and force anything on myself. I simply never noticed it was silent, because my brain was so busy.

Then in December, 2017, I got licensed as a Zumba instructor. After that, I turned my radio back on, happily filling my car non-stop with wonderful music I wiggled to in my seat.

It’s been an automatic response ever since. I get in my car, I turn on my Zumba music. I don’t tire of it, and it never fails to energize me. I can often even listen to the same song over and over.

Once, while driving home from my jobby job, I thought my car had just broken down…it wouldn’t go forward, and when I pressed on the gas pedal, it just beeped at me.

Turns out in my enthusiasm, doing one-handed choreo, I’d knocked the little paddlestick gear shifter into neutral.

Very quickly, I stopped listening to any other type of music except what I play on the piano and this wonderful Zumba music. I felt anxious and even impatient when other songs automatically came on when I turned on my car.

Today, I changed that.

I am going back to radio silence in my car. I didn’t purposefully decide that. My heart and head have apparently decided this for me.

I got in my car a little while ago to take a big load to goodwill because I’m finally back to purging things out of my life that aren’t working for me or serving my end goals.

And? I almost physically cringed when the music started over Bluetooth!

Hm. Okay. So I turned it off. Ahhh that’s better.

I thought for sure, I’d change my mind any moment and reach for the cord, to plug my phone in. I was positive I’d miss those beats filling my ears and penetrating my being.

I didn’t. I don’t. Not today anyway. Turns out I need silence right now, as much as I need the purging I just re-started yesterday.

My initial choices back then, to purge and embrace silence, feel like they were part of the foundation that helped me get my life going again in a tangible way.

I am delighted that they still feel extremely powerful and healing…and as so often seems to happen for me, perfectly timed for the moment I’m experiencing.

Later today, instead of dancing with my feet and arms, like I’ve been doing so, so much lately, I’m going to start focusing on dancing my fingers across my piano keys again. I never really stopped playing, even though I’ve been spending so much time on Zumba. But there isn’t enough time to deeply focus on both. So piano it is.

Here’s the thing. I am not perfect or likely even “good” at composing for, or playing the piano.

But like my photography, which I may be equally skilled/unskilled at, who even knows?…it brings me deep soothing and joy regardless of whether I’m “good” or not.

My expectations for myself to succeed at accomplishing anything with either, other than just enjoying the experience, are absolutely zero.

And more importantly, I don’t need anyone else to, or even care if anyone else does, like it. I don’t care if anyone listens to my music or looks at my photos. And I definitely don’t care if anyone has an opinion about my skill level or suitability for doing either one of those things.

Mind you, I do love when I share and someone else gets something from it, too. But that’s a bonus, and doesn’t at all impact the core benefits of these activities for me.

When I play, when I stand outside looking up at the sky taking photos, my only goal is to be present with me and enjoy it.

That is a heart and head space I want and need to hang out in for awhile. I am so lucky to have these things in my life.

Now, it’s time to eat lunch in silence, while I’m purging more stuff. 🙂

CJ Romberger

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