One of the chief changes between Colleen of the Past and Colleen of the Present is a dramatic reduction in the Noise Tolerance Threshold.*
I’m not sure what this is about, exactly. The younger me spent copious amounts of alone time, but definitely liked commotion: city noise, constant soundtrack of AM commercial pop radio, thrum created by hordes of people, anywhere. I grappled with loneliness far more back then, so maybe the hubbub helped with that. Most definitely, it did: when I’m feeling blue, I still find myself slipping an old movie into the SuperDrive to keep me company on the few lonely nights I have.
If I had children, I’d definitely understand where the need for quiet comes from. The little bit of time I spend around other people’s kids I generally find enjoyable, provided the kids aren’t intolerable rat bastards, but I’m always, always depleted afterward, craving the quiet of total lockdown. (God help the parents of extroverts who are themselves introverts: that’s a pretty fair example of hell, I imagine.) But I have no kids around me 24/7, nor, now that I’m spending more time at My Country House than the Fabulous DivorcÃ©e Pad, do I have the kinds of ambient noise issues I had living in an area of dramatically increased population density (which is one of the biggest, as-yet-unnamed psyche killers this recession has brought about, I’m convinced. We went from a relative paradise of mainly solo-apartment dwellers to a post-collegiate-in-NYC-levels of bodies per unit. And from the sound of things, the same bidness is going on to the north and south of us, as well.)
It may be the sharp uptick in reading and writing that’s happened over the past six months. When my life was more of a balance between my writing life and my dwindling designer life, there was room for all kinds of sound. I worked better and more efficiently at sketching and composing visually with music, albeit mostly from my “lyric-free” playlists, music without words, or at the very least, without words in my native tongue. The right kind of sound engaged just enough of my monkey brain so that I could be non-self-critical (or less so) during the conception phase; it also did something kind of magical in the composition and execution phases, but that was more like throwing on some great tunes to pump you up when you’re running or cleaning house. That kind of sound, I get.
What I’ve tiptoed around without examining too closely is the possibility that as my brain ages, it needs more space to focus. I’m already noticing the disk spinning longer when I try to access certain data like names, although to be fair, that was never something I was especially good at, and I suspect that this skill in all of us has been somewhat diminished by our increasing reliance on the Great External Brain, a.k.a. the Internet. (If you have hard data on causality, lay it on me; I’m sure it’ll be temporarily depressing, but in the long run, I’d rather know my brain can get back in shape at the gym than that I have 5 years to squeeze out what’s left of it before I resign myself to a life of gardening and airport novels.)
Finally, there is the hope that this is temporary, some kind of phase. In the throes of a Crohn’s flare, when all available resources are being directed toward a damaged organ, there’s not a lot of spare blood available for brain bathing. You get fuzzy; you get sleepy. It becomes hard to focus for long periods of time, and your thoughts aren’t as sharp as they are when your gut is in the pink. I may yet cave, but I’m doing my best to pull out of this flare without meds, and that means getting down with the short windows and mad prioritizing and quirky conditions, lots of sleep, lots of rest, lots of quiet, my body is demanding. I’m not complaining (much), both because there’s little point (no higher court to take this one to) and because I’m hanging on to the hope that as my body bounces back, my brainpower will, too.
That’s a slender thread of hope at 48, but it’s my thread, and I’m clinging to it…
*Except where watching Hulu-is-my-TVâ„¢ is concerned, anyway; there, the sound is creeping up to the ear-splitting levels I remember at my grandparents’, in their declining years with their declining ears.