radio silence.

my first car was a 1973 dodge dart. her name was phoebe.

i guess not everyone has an emotional attachment to their first car. but i did. man, i loved that car.

my parents decided that it would be constructive to buy an older vehicle and refurbish it for their youngest child [which i was at the time]. so, the dodge dart was bought by leaving a note under the windshield with my mom’s phone number on it. i believe it said something along the lines of “hey, if you want to sell your car, call me.”

and that’s how phoebe came to be.

i was 15 years old, but i still remember helping my mom re-upholster the car seats. they were bench seats, the kind that teenagers love because you can sit in the middle right next to the driver. somehow they physically came out of the vehicle, in the yard on the side of my parent’s house. i didn’t think this was odd at all.

we sat on the grass and i hammered and stapled new upholstery onto the front seat of the car, and then muscled it back in, making sure that all the bolts and stuff were reattached [safety first].

then i recall going along to the auto painting shop and being allowed to pick out my own color. i chose this burgundy shade with a nice dose of fleck in the paint to make it sparkly.

[the guy told us afterwards that while he was mixing the paint, he tossed an extra dose of fleck into it. he said, “you seem like a girl that needs a little extra sparkle.” he was so right.]

i started driving that car the summer i turned 16.

and it was really awesome. i loved it.

interesting fact: it had no radio.

now, the car radio was certainly invented in 1973 when the car was built, and i’m sure that at one point, it had been fully functioning. however, by the time i got my hands on this car (in 2002), the radio was long gone.

so i drove in silence.

honestly, it didn’t bother me. i was 16 years old, i had the windows down and a smile on my face. silence didn’t scare me.

i remember giving a friend a ride in my car, and the first question she asked was “where’s your music?” when i told her that i didn’t have a functional radio or cd player [this was in the era of the compact disc], she was horrified.

“how do you drive in silence?”

it was clear, by the way she said it, that silence was scary.

do you agree?

i actually ended up finding a handheld boombox at a thrift store that ran off D batteries, and placing it in the front seat of my car. the antennae had to be fixed just right, or it wouldn’t work. and the batteries died quickly and cost a small fortune. but . . . when it worked, i had music. i discovered that my friends were right, silence wasn’t a good idea.

[and yes, folks. people made fun of me for my Lloyd Dobler style tunes in my car. let’s just answer that question right now.]

time passed.

phoebe, sadly, didn’t make it. it was late summer of 2009 that i recognized she was no longer a safe option, and she went to car heaven. i got kind of emotional when she got hauled away, but i’d been stranded on the side of the road enough times that it wasn’t really that difficult to say goodbye.


now it’s 2014, and i have a new car that is fancy.

i have an iphone chock full of music and everything is wireless and bluetooth and i can crank up any tune that strikes my fancy at a moment’s notice.

in the morning while i’m getting ready for work, i put on music. in the car while driving to work, i put on music. at work there is noise and talking and stuff to listen to all day. and then i either go to class or to internship and i listen to other people talk. on my way home its usually dark and i listen to more music.

am i afraid of silence?

i think that i am.

and i think that if you’re honest with yourself, you might be, too.

maybe that’s the reason why people say that they lay in bed at night and can’t sleep. because it’s finally silent.

maybe that’s why people [myself included] carry earbuds in their purse or pocket. to avoid silence.

why is silence so scary?

when i was a kid i used to lay on the grass in the summertime for hours, looking at the clouds and letting my imagination make up stories. it was fun, it was safe, it was innocent.

now, as an adult, the kind of stories that my imagination creates are much more real. what if i can’t get this responsibility handled properly? what if i let my family down in this way, or in that other way? how am i going to pay for that thing that i need? what if something happens that is entirely out of my control?

i was inspired to think about silence by a song i heard recently. “car radio” by twenty one pilots echoes many of these thoughts.

I ponder of something terrifying
‘Cause this time there’s no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it’s that we’re all battling fear
Oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here
Oh my,
Too deep
Please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound

i think that’s why we are afraid of silence.

because it allows us to think. and when we hear our own thoughts, it’s scary. the fears, the insecurities, the regrets . . . there’s nothing to hide behind. and that level of honesty is something i don’t always feel ready for. it’s so much more tempting to create this syndicated version of my own reality, where i can focus on the things i like and not let my mind dwell on the harder stuff.

because music can drown it out.

am i advocating for a world without music? absolutely not.

i love music and i listen to music and i play music because it gives me joy and it’s beautiful.

but i want to be comfortable with silence. i want to be honest with my own thoughts. the thoughts that are telling me, “hey janelle, you made some mistakes today. you were kind of harsh with that person. perhaps you could show more compassion next time. and maybe you should apologize.” or the thoughts that are telling me, “the world is not the way it should be, and there’s a lot of need out there. you have something to offer that you’re not. why?”

am i right in thinking that sometimes we need to hear our own thoughts?

because sometimes, there’s a key piece of truth that we are trying to hide from.

and a catchy song with an addictive rhythm can effectively mask what we don’t want to think about.

now, i’m not suggesting to sit in silence for hours and get inside your own head and overanalyze everything. that’s what makes people get twitchy and shave their heads, like the guy in this song’s music video.

but don’t be afraid of silence. i’m learning to let myself be quiet.

in those moments of silence, i hear my own thoughts and sometimes, a still small voice that was waiting for me to shut out all of the other noise and be willing to listen.

yeah, i’m talking about God. the conviction in my heart that comes in those moments of silence . . . i’m pretty sure that’s whose voice it is. praying is not always about talking and being heard. sometimes, it’s about being quiet and hearing.

and being quiet? that’s a discipline.

it’s hard.

silence is much more challenging and requires a higher level of maturity than sound.

thanks for listening.

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