Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sound of Silence

I have a number of potential blog posts swimming around in my head, but none of them are getting written right now because of the remodelers. What do remodelers have to do with blog posts or lack there of? The remodelers are making me tired.

I'm not even really talking about the noise or having to keep Abbey from focusing on the fact that the house is full of strange men (though that is getting pretty old) or the periodic water and power shutoffs. It's their mere presence that makes me exhausted. It's just more stuff I have to attend to. On weekdays, I typically have the house to myself from 7-ish in the morning to 6-ish in the evening. Now I have remodelers from 8 to 3. It's not the remodelers' fault; having my family around on the weekends makes me tired, too, it's just that weekends are only two days out of seven and, after all, I do know them and like them. (My modus operandi with the remodeling crew is to pretend I don't exist, which is not a strategy I adopt with family members.) Other than trying to keep the dog from growling as men go in and out of the house and up and down the stairs, I'm not spending my time differently than I normally do, it's just that they're here, and that little bit of extra noise and just AWARENESS I have of them at all times is taxing. That stress, in addition to the general fatigue, is causing migraines, slowing down my thinking, and is responsible, I'm sure, for a mood drop I had the other day.

The advantage of being at home full-time is that I get to control my environment and since I function pretty well (at least in relative terms) when the house is completely silent and I have the lighting set up in my favor and my surroundings are familiar enough that I can tune them out a bit, I forget how busy and noisy and exhausting stimuli--which most people call the ordinary world and don't even notice--can be. On Monday, since I had some checks to deposit and thought it might be nice to get away from the house for a bit (the remodel was in the destructive phase that day), I went on a little outing to the bank and then to the post office to pick up some new postcard stamps. I think most people would agree that waiting in line at the post office is one of life's more mindless and boring activities; from my migraine brain's point of view, it's also so very BUSY. There's just so much to look at: the racks of cards and postal supplies, the center island with shipping forms, the people in line with their packages, the posters of stamps on the wall behind the counter, etc. The particular post office I went to has brick and wood paneling on one of the walls and I find brick and wood grain both to be visually exhausting. (And that, my friends, is why I never go in a grocery store if I can help it: when wood grain wears you out, shelves of brightly colored products will annihilate you!) Then there's the sound of customers making their purchases and the automatic door opening and closing and various clanks and bangs emanating from behind the scenes. I was second in line when some large cart was rolled across the floor offstage and BAM! I got a migraine. I'm sure the post office isn't on most people's list of places that are headache-inducingly noisy, but it's too wild and crazy of a place for my poor brain to handle.

All in all, now that the destructive phase is over, the remodelers are making less noise than there was to be had at the post office or even than my family makes when they are home on the weekends. It's just that compared to the silence that normally reigns during my weekdays, those men going up and down the stairs and in and out of the house and garage are an incredible distraction. For me, distractions are a stress that not only breaks my concentration, but physically exhausts me. For the ordinary person, it's probably comparable to having heavy-duty road construction--with lots of jackhammering--going on in your house.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my migraines are so debilitating. It's not the pain, though pain is decidedly tedious and, well, painful. I've managed to set up my life in ways that minimize the amount of pain I'm in. It's being so sensitive to any type of stimuli that I'm unable to manage even the PRESENCE of other people in my quiet zone that is where the real disability lies. My interaction with the remodeling crew over the last four days has been limited to saying "hi" to one of them in the hallway once, so it's not even the stress of interacting with strangers that's the problem; the problem is being aware that they are in the house and sometimes walking up and down the stairs.

I'll not begrudge my parents' desire to make improvements to their poorly-designed master bathroom. That thing has been a mildew trap for the last thirty years and I fully support the end result! I knew that it wouldn't be easy on me, but I figured that noise would be the problem and that's what earplugs are for. I wasn't expecting to be so drained by the mere presence of people I don't interact with or even see.

It's nearly three in the afternoon, so the remodeling crew is cleaning up for the day and about to go home. I've used up all of my energy writing this post, so I expect that I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon in bed. I'm hoping that writing about these things will have some benefit to me, though, perhaps in helping to keep my mood up. If nothing else, I can look at this post as a concrete accomplishment! My to-do list has been woefully neglected this week; I have been unequal to doing much of anything aside from wishing that the internet could magically make everything better. I know that this remodel will not last forever and that I will recover once it is over. I just hadn't expected it to be quite this hard!

The house is silent now, a beautiful empty silence that is different to me than the silence of a house with others in it, no matter how quiet. Not so long ago, though in a very different life, I would have wanted to fill the void with music. Today, nothing seems more revitalizing than the velvety hush that has fallen at last over my migraine kingdom.

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