Most folks think of me as some combination of the following: loud, outspoken, bitchy, opinionated, judgmental, and aggressive. I can’t fault anyone for thinking of me that way. Unfortunately, that is a pretty accurate picture of how I used to be. As I’ve said before, my grandfather’s summary of my character was “You know Lisa. If it comes up, it comes out.” That’s who I was.
The key word in that sentence is “was”.
I have done my best to change that person that I was into the person I want to be. I don’t think I always get the benefit of the doubt because folks tend to slip into old familiar patterns with me even when I resist. It hurts me to think that anyone would consider me a bitch. I’ve always preferred the word “assertive” to “aggressive”, because I am a strong person who goes for what I want but I’m not nasty about it. I have been working on my tendency to judge first and ask questions later. That’s a character flaw I’ve longed to get rid of for a while now. I do have rather strong opinions and I am not shy about speaking up, but I am learning to wait a beat (or a few beats) before I respond. Old Lisa reacted. New Lisa tries to respond. Old Lisa had a hair trigger. New Lisa still gets angry, but new Lisa thinks it through to the end and tries not to let feelings be confused for facts.
Of all the adjectives I listed above, the one that upsets me the most is loud.
I get it, I can be loud. I get excited. I get animated. I get enthusiastic. I love love LOVE loud music with the bass turned all the way up (thanks, Daddy). Having the volume up in life is part of who I am, but not all of who I am. In fact, there’s a side to me not many people see. There’s something I love that most folks probably won’t believe.
I love silence. Stillness. Quiet. It is so soothing to my frayed nerves. Remember, I teach and play music for a living, so sound is literally my life. In music, I was taught early on that silence is just as important as sound, that silence is what gives sound its meaning. This is true in life as well. We all have so much noise going on all around us, and sometimes in our own heads. I have a brain that is difficult to shut off. It takes effort to get me to stop thinking or working. While we were living in NYC, I was always on. I never had the chance to slow down and breathe. I truly believe that another ten years in NYC may have killed me. I was a nervous and stressed out wreck. A body can only sustain that level of stress for so long before it explodes. Even though I did try to do little things to relax, I just couldn’t. I didn’t even realize this was true until I left NYC six years ago.
Once I was here in Ohio, the silence was deafening. I was alone most of the time. I had no job and few friends. I filled my life with things and people that weren’t necessarily good for me. I made bad choices and I ran from the silence because I couldn’t face what the silence made me do — look at myself. I couldn’t run away from me anymore. I had to take a long hard look and choose to change. Could I? Did I have the courage to change?
It took time, and it was painful, but I have changed. I’m really not the Lisa I was in high school, college, grad school, early career, or even after our move. I’m not saying that I’m perfect — far from it. But I’m happier with my life overall, even when life is stressful and kicking my ass. I have learned to find those moments when I can enjoy the silence that once frightened me. I can rest and be refreshed. I can pray or meditate. I can just be.
What could possibly be better than getting to just be?
I hope that I can better show others how much I’ve changed and how much more change there is ahead of me. I hope I can be a better person and that folks can see and acknowledge me as such. If not, I will keep trying to be better anyway, for myself and my own good. I will keep enjoying the silence and not let the noise overpower me.
Silence is my symphony of peace, my song of joy. I delight in it every chance I get. It is a great gift.