Speech is silver; silence is golden, goes the saying. Though the second half is the more remembered according to the Literary Devices site.
Tonight my husband was thirsting for some silence, and I was sitting in the dining room on my laptop, oblivious to this fact. He had his phone in hand, and was sort of half-listening to me (or at least that was what I perceived).
When he does this while I am trying to actually connect with him, it drives me crazy. But because I was kind of wound up from a busy day, and thoughts of needing to “fit everything in” before I return to a full time work schedule, I was multi-tasking. I was talking off and on, not very aware of how much I was blathering on, while trying to get 3 other things done on my computer.
Even for those of us with variable attention, who juggle many tasks fairly well (more than the average person), there is a limit. Going beyond the limit does not typically end well.
In our case, it touched off a sensitive subject for me. He pointed out that I was talking a lot (it had been a hard day for him) and it was too much for him. I didn’t respond well at first. It triggered a “shame storm” of my own memories of being silenced in other settings: in my family, in various workplaces and at other times.
So I did my best to respond mindfully and I asked him to tell me more. I had gotten a little teary and “raw” at the story that I was making up: that he doesn’t care what I have to say. In reality, he only wanted what I’ve been giving myself every morning: quiet time upon arriving home, to wind down and transition into the evening. (In my case, it is quiet time in the morning to transition to into my activities).
I realized I had been glued to my computer for the afternoon, in full-on “work mode” even after he arrived home. I had not done my usual “shut down ritual” for the day, creating space between work brain and home brain, and taking my work stuff out of the dining room (adjacent to the living room).
His request was reasonable. I asked him: “when I do talk mindlessly or forget that you need some quiet wind-down time, what are ways you can remind me of this in a non-shaming way?”
We decided on something humorous. A former co-worker of mine used to stand at my cube on Friday afternoons and chat with me while I was trying to wrap up the week and leave. This used to drive me crazy, because I did not know how to politely ask her to leave me alone so I could finish and go home.
Hubby is going to call me by that name when I’m not sensing that he needs quiet. I shall refrain from naming the person. I am pretty sure they did not do this on purpose, and may just have been lonely.
The irony of all of this is that one of the values my coach, Elizabeth Dickinson, had helped me uncover was that of “personal space.” What that means to me: plenty of time for solitude, quiet and “deep work” time, along with time and space to listen to my podcasts and shift my energy as necessary to a just right stimulus. It is harder to achieve that in cubicle-land when we do not have an office with a door.
Soon I will return to a setting where I will have a cube again, and have been trying to consider how to access personal space. I am hoping that in an academic environment at a University, some closed-door time and deep work will be honored, even for staff who are not professors. Maybe in a conference room? But I am not sure. If any of my readers have advice and/or thoughts on this topic, I welcome your feedback. Clearly there will be a part 2 to this reflection, as I have just scratched the surface on this topic.
Is silence or solitude golden to you? How do you carve out those spaces in your workplace if you do not have an office?