It’s a Monday and, as with Mondays, I’m feeling the pinch of what needs to get done and hearing the squeal of my reluctance to do it. My book needs work. No one is reading the Sway Essay blog. I need to take some kind of compelling picture for my Sway social media posts. I need to update Toasted Tomato. I need to edit a student’s personal statement. I need to bring William his lunch. And my parents are coming soon (yay!), however that requires a head-to-toe houseclean before their arrival.
But gently creating a calming environment conducive to creativity and progress is the house fan that fans all the day long. It’s especially loud in the basement, where I’ve been working for the past months, and I’ve come to rely on it like an old friend.
Sound ridiculous? Oh, it’s ridiculous, all right. But, and I’m ready to admit this, I am a White Noise Addict. I need it to go to and stay asleep. I need it to write. It helps me focus. It keeps me grounded. It makes me calm.
My husband William, on the other hand, is a firm anti-white noiser. As soon as I turn off the fan we have in our bedroom in the morning, I can hear him exhale with relief. To him, whether white or not, it’s just noise. There is no sound-conditioning effect. It accesses no well of calm within him. To him, only deep quiet is soothing, whereas, for me, while I like quiet well enough, I don’t trust it to stick around.
I remember realizing this a long time ago when I was at a sleepover at Sandra Barton’s house. We were about 8 and camped out in the den of her house, which had, I’m not kidding, green shag carpet on the ceiling.
After an evening of watching movies, Sandra cuddled up under a pile of quilts and fell peacefully asleep. I, on the other hand, struggled, listening to the foreign noises of the house. They were unpredictable, these noises, coming from unknown sources, liable to get louder, liable, like snoring, to get annoying. The quiet couldn’t do anything to protect itself from being impinged upon; in fact, it was so helpless, it was as if it were just waiting to be invaded.
But then some type of fan turned on and drowned out all of this unpredictability. I’m not sure if it was from a fridge or from a furnace, but the even, soothing noise immediately whisked me off to sleep.
All night long, I remember slipping into and out of sleep in tandem with the workings of this fan. And by the time I left Sandra Barton’s house, I knew there was just one way to stay asleep. I promptly asked for a bedroom fan for my birthday and, by golly, I got one. There are pictures of me ripping open the box, happy as a clam with my strange gift.
I think for William, it’s the relentlessness of white noise that gets to him. All day long, all night long, never quiet, never done, just the hamster in the wheel never getting a break. I get that. Interestingly, the sound of snoring doesn’t bother him. And he actually likes the ticking of a clock, whereas both of these things drive me up the wall. I’ve even put clocks in dressers before just to get away from their tick. I have one buried in my closet right now.
Would it be more convenient if William and I were like-minded in this department? I’d probably be amazed just how drastically it would change our lives. But alas, you can’t switch teams in the White Noise debate, any more than you can about Hellman’s or Miracle Whip, dogs or cats, Pepsi or Coke.
And so it’s white noise for me. All day long. All night long.