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Even when there’s no noise, there’s no silence for me.

I’m not one of those people whose brain is always running down the list of what’s next, what needs to be done, whose post needs to be liked, how to fit in all the many people and tasks that a day requires.

I have a brain that multitasks. All the time.

I’m typing this post while I’m listening (inside my head) to one of the songs from this morning’s worship set and (outside my house) to the cars passing by. My mother used to wonder how I could watch afterschool TV while doing my homework while (intermittently) crocheting granny squares. “I guess I just have an eight-track brain,” I told her.

My brain becomes more quiet when I have a task outside myself that engages more of its channels. The best is physical activity with a purpose. Gardening, for example. When I garden, one brain channel is deciding what needs to be pruned or raked or cut down or weeded, one channel is directing my hands and feet and maybe my huffing lungs (if the job requires heavy hauling, as the best jobs do). Another brain channel is measuring the project’s current status against some anticipated outcome: beds clear for winter, rose bushes free of strangling vines, lilac shrubs in beautiful bloom because I’ve taken down with a handsaw the five 20-foot maples that overshadowed them.

Work — hard, physical work — is where I find silence. With all my channels fully occupied in the task, there’s no place for my brain to run. It can focus on what it is doing and nothing more. Silence.

I suspect that others with a bipolar diagnosis have discovered the same thing. Silence doesn’t come with a meditation discipline. Thoughts that seem to run in four or five separate channels simultaneously can’t be quieted by trying to become quiet — or even by trying to follow the standard instruction and simply letting the thoughts pass. A brain built for radical multitasking keeps running on all five or eight cyclinders until it’s exhausted. That exhaustion can begin a serious downward slide. Other choices are essential.

Gardening works. Dancing works. Trying to play the piano — even just practicing scales — works. Playing music requires me to read the lesson book, to move my hands ways that are not easy for me, to keep track of each finger’s correct position in relation to the scale, to hear what is right and what is misplayed.

I don’t find silence in quiet. I find silence in big occupations — occupations big enough to require all the channels I can play at once and far enough outside me to make any of the yammering internal channels become irrelevant.

I am happy with the silence I find. I hope you find the kind of silence that suits you.

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday linkup: this week’s prompt is Silence.

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