Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Noises That Ruin My Concentration

Oh, there's a noise over there? Really? Okay, let's look. Oh, another noise? Wait, that one was only the door closing, not that important. Thank you for being so attentive, but let's concentrate now... I said let's concentrate! Yes, I know something else just happened in the corner, but it's not important either - are you listening to me? I said, are you listening? Come back over here! No, I don't know what that noise was, but I don't care - stop! We have more important things to do! All right. Thank you. Sit down. We are reading this book right now, and - yes, I know someone just coughed. At least, I think it was a cough - no, we are not looking! We are focusing! Hey, come back and sit down!

This is the way my CI makes me feel in the library. After four months, the noises that most fascinate my brain are the small ones, the rustlings in the corners and the muttered conversations far away - just the noises that, unfortunately, most distract my studies.

I used to think libraries were quiet places. Wrong. In principle everyone is working to keep the silence, but that doesn't stop the constant influx of sudden noises: floorboards creaking, doors clicking shut, pages rustling, people coughing. Aaargh! How am I supposed to think like this? My brain becomes hyperalert, my thought processes shatter. Never, never has studying been like this. In desperation to shut out all the clutter, I'm driven to music - which in itself can be distracting. (The other day I sat staring out the window and listening to Ravel's "Bolero" for ten minutes before I realized I wasn't reading.)

Forget the library! I'll try other places instead. But, even in my room, the sounds of the house creep in. The heaters and pipes and fans, plus who knows what else. Last week I went nuts for several minutes before realizing that the voices I was hearing (which I'd been worried I was imagining) were in fact wafting up through a crack in my window from the patio outside. There, when I looked, two people were talking in normal voices twenty feet below. Wow, and I heard that?

Even in a public place like a bus or a train, my mind is not completely my own. It keeps cavorting off to investigate murmured conversation many feet away, or the sounds of people heaving sighs and shifting in their seats. I'm reminded, moment by moment, that I am not alone or in isolation, but surrounded by others who are as functioning and alive as me. That's reassuring, in a way. But... but I like cutting the world off sometimes and sitting inside my own mind!

Too bad. Everything that moves makes a sound. That's been the rule from day one. Now - focus, focus, focus!

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