Tuesday, July 22, 2014


At the end of April roadwork began outside my workplace. Every day, for six weeks, we were subjected to the cacophony of construction. There was continuous thumping, beeping, shouting, roaring, grinding, scraping and jackhammering. 

In addition to the constant noise there was dust and inconvenience. Some days the road was closed. Some days the sidewalk was inaccessible. There were occasions when the entire block was without water. 

Strangely, the chaos didn't seem to deter our customers. While other businesses suffer when the roads are ripped up, our loyal clients kept coming... and commenting. It seemed like every single person had some remark about the activity outside our door. Some behaved as though I had personally requested the roadwork, and they felt I should have answers about, and control over, the situation. Others behaved as though I had no idea that there was roadwork happening, and they felt obligated to let me know. There was a steady stream of questions, comments, observations and complaints. 

While my work life was nothing but noise, my after-work life was consumed by "Quiet". I had been on the library waiting list for months, so the arrival of Susan Cain's book about introverts was a well-timed coincidence. 

The book led to several personal insights. One of the first was an awareness of the impact of my environment. I was cranky at work, and exhausted at the end of the day. At first, I didn't think to attribute my mood to the noise from the construction. Then came the day when it was so loud I worried about the impact on my hearing. I popped in some earplugs. Tension and anxiety eased immediately. My shoulders released. My neck softened. I was surprised at the difference the earplugs made. I was also surprised that I noticed. Prior to reading Cain's book I'm not sure I would have been aware of the difference that moment of quiet made.

Unfortunately, there was just that one moment of silence. The earplugs were a very temporary solution. My job requires constant interaction with customers. It usually helps if I can hear them. Usually.

That the noise was having an impact was one insight. I also realized that customer interactions were wearing me down. I'm not comfortable with small talk, and it seemed like everyone I spoke to wanted to engage in discussion about the construction. There were days when I felt completely unable to respond to their comments, so I didn't. I must have come across as surly. Or deaf. 

Realizing that I'm not the only one who struggles with small talk was a relief. I'm not dysfunctional. I'm introverted! Eventually I developed a strategy that worked for me. Every time someone commented on the construction, I tried to say something positive. It didn't seem to matter that I used the same observations again and again and again. Having something to say made things a bit easier. 

Of course, I was still exhausted at the end of the day. Nothing was getting done around the house. I wasn't writing. I wasn't connecting with friends. All I wanted to do was sit on the sofa and read. So that's what I did. And I felt bad about it. Once again I felt that there was something wrong with me, then I realized that this was my way to recharge. Work was loud, and customer interactions were difficult. I couldn't avoid or change those things, but I could give myself permission to look after myself when I had the opportunity. Many, many books were read during those six weeks. 

Not only could I give myself permission to recharge, I could ask for what I needed. I could ask Hubby if we could leave the television off after particularly chaotic days. Small thing I know, but recognizing and asking for what I needed was new to me.

As the weeks went on I found other strategies that worked for me. The radio stayed off in the car. I found a place to park that allowed a lovely, peaceful walk to and from work. I went for long walks on my lunch break. If I was too tired to cook at the end of the day, we went out for dinner. 

Over those six noisy weeks, Cain's book allowed me to learn new things about myself, and about introversion in general. Not the least of which is that it's OK to be an introvert. Who knew?


  1. i feel relaxed and calm from reading your post. thank you sooo much for sharing your experience.
    from introverted sher

    1. Thank you so much for reading to the end, and for commenting! Hugs back at you!

  2. Serendipity that your book was made available to you when you needed it most! Glad you found your way to silence. I crave silence and seldom have the TV or radio on. Unfortunately I have tinnitus, and I long for the day when I'll hear only silence again! Nice to see you back!

    1. Thanks Sue! I'm with you on having the TV and radio off. When I'm on my own those electronic distractions collect dust. I'm also with you on the tinnitus. I never achieve complete silence, but there are times when close is good enough. Ironically, I discovered that I had tinnitus while wearing earplugs. I was always aware of the buzzing in my ears, I just didn't realize that others didn't have it too.

  3. I think that once again, a book has saved someone a bundle on counseling and pharmaceuticals. Well done you! Glad the writing flow started up as a result.

    1. Thanks Eva! I'm glad to be back too. It's like someone inspired me to get my pen back to paper. I wonder who that could be?

  4. I feel so sorry that you had to put up with all that for six weeks. At least you found some guidance on coping. I think silence and calm are under-appreciated - and rare these days - but something that most people need.

    1. Thanks Val. In the grand scheme of things my problems are pretty minor ones, and I'm grateful. I only mention them here to help illustrate what I learned over those six weeks. And to explain where the heck I've been.


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