My 2️⃣4️⃣ hrs of silence began with relative ease as I navigated the morning, by myself, with my three young boys. I had guided them through the challenge the night before and made cards to help my sons and others understand why I was not speaking. My boys are aged 7, 5 and 3. I chose to do the exercise on a Saturday so that I did not have to upset any clients at work and I would have the support of my husband. It was the first time I had ever set about doing a vow of silence so wanted to ease into it.
I quickly found out I am not that great at charades!
That particular day we had decided to go crabbing onboard our boat as a family. We had agreed together that we would try our best with my non verbal communication.
As the day progressed and preparations for our adventures began it become trickier to communicate safely on board the vessel; so we decided I had to break silence. I had 4 hours where I could speak. The rest of the 24 hours were to be in silence. If I had had any idea of the impact this challenge would have I would have completed this long ago.
My biggest takeaways
I accidentally let out a No! Within the first hour.
It’s hard not to say no, not to answer the questions flowing from my naturally inquisitive children.
I feel very calm. I think they sense it and they like it. My eldest even said so.
I wonder if that’s because I use touch more or that I’m not yelling or snapping or nagging as maybe I do normally? I reflect on this for a very long time as I stare out at the ocean.
It’s a good thing I can’t use words with with my husband this morning as I feel they may not have been the right ones. It gives me pause, time to get clear on my thoughts and switch perspective.
I found that when I let out a noise or go to speak it’s usually because I’m frustrated or angry.
I took lots of deep breaths letting each frustration go; sifting through the why’s until I softened.
I notice people’s words more. I think to myself “I hope that mine don’t sound as harsh.” But maybe they do.
I’m more empathetic and much more aware of my touch and how it visibly comforts.
As time went on the kids became increasingly sad and sometimes frustrated that I wouldn’t speak.
It would be harder, perhaps impossible, without my husband here.
I don’t say all that’s on my mind, obviously, and that’s sometimes a good thing I believe. I am one that usually overshares in conversation. I pause and if I feel it’s important to say I’ll write a note or I’ll just let it go hoping that it would come back to me later if it was indeed that important.
I touch more. Way more.
I have to really look at people to see if they are ok. I have to meet their eyes. I wonder how much of that I have really been doing in my life?
I have to make sure the person is looking at me when I try and communicate.
When I’m back at home I realise I can’t yell out to find someone. I have to go and look for them. When I eventually find them, I try not to disturb what they are doing, realising they are engrossed in their building; crafting or make belief. How many times have I interrupted this flow by calling out and getting them to come and see me?
If I do this again I will need a “how are you?” card and I wonder if I will get more than just one word?
I also need a “be kind” card!
I don’t have to say excuse me when I burp; which my family thinks is outrageous?! Are they for real?!
I feel more tired than usual; perhaps this is more energy draining than I thought.
Noises seem louder but easier to cope with; like kids screaming.
My children (especially the oldest) push the boundaries more. They think because I can’t speak there will be no consequences.
I notice something in my most sensitive child. I believe I may be disrupting his world and he doesn’t know how to react. Maybe he feels “unsafe” and that makes my heart hurt a little because I am causing that.
I was told very early on in the day that my voice is calming. I reflected on this comment all day and regard it very highly.
I noticed when my husband angered because of stress during a task, he blamed my silence, even though my words would not have helped him. It was in that moment he realised through the absence of my voice how important it was even if what I said was of no “real value”.
When I allowed myself to use my voice during the 4 hour break it was for safety and I “barked” orders. My voice was stern, my thoughts changed and had become stern. I noticed that there was less thought processing when I knew I could speak freely.
It was pretty much impossible not to say the words goodnight and I love you to my family.
I learnt some people share conversation easily and others don’t unless you question or prompt.
I felt my heart rate more and I noticed how sensitive it was to stress.
It’s not so easy to micro manage without words. That was an interesting realisation and a goal of mine has been to be less “controlling” so perhaps I have uncovered a tool to help me.
It was hard not to text friends back to give them love; I had stipulated that I was not to use my phone for communication during the 24 hours as that felt like cheating.
I enjoyed listening without the need to think of a good question in response or conjure advice or resonate with a remark.
I believed the practise made me a better listener and I knew I would need to take up the challenge again to keep mastering that skill.
Overall it made me realise the important of pause in conversation. When I began to speak again I practised that and found it just as challenging and awkward as the vow of silence itself!
It is something I still practise and thanks to this experience I have even bigger appreciation for my voice and the consequence of my words.
Remember some words cannot be unspoken.