What does serenity mean to you?
For me, serenity is a vague word. Similar to the word good, it has all these connotations and it’s freighted with all the different ways it gets used and thrown around. At least in my imagination.
After some reading and contemplation in the past month, I currently think of serenity as a word with many different levels. That entry-level serenity means nearly always speaking at or below a decibel level of 60 (conversation in a restaurant, office, background music, air conditioning unit at 100 feet) and speaking around 120-150 words per minute.
Side note: the decibel scale is a logarithmic one. When a sound is perceived to double in loudness, its decibel level increases by roughly 10 dB.
Using the Decibel X App, I discovered my normal speaking voice is between 50-55 decibels. I also discovered through recording myself reading out loud that I’m most comfortable and relaxed when speaking between 108-130 words per minute. The test for entry-level serenity though is, can I maintain my decibel level and words per minute rate when I’m stressed, frustrated, or angry?
I’d like to try my best because of my wonderful friend, Catan. He speaks at or below a decibel level of 60 and probably speaks around 120-150 words per minute. From the start of our friendship in 2009, I don’t ever recall Catan speaking loudly or fast to anyone. Catan’s mom, Catan’s wife, Mark, and Catan’s co-workers, all say that they don’t recall ever hearing Catan raise his voice either or speak a mile a minute either! Instead, I’ve noticed that when Catan is frustrated or angry, he states his feelings out loud rather than yell or scream them.
I’m incredibly grateful for Catan modeling a real-life example for me to emulate. He shows me repeatedly through his actions that it’s possible for people to communicate in a healthy and respectful way all the time even during the most difficult of situations.
I also want to note that speaking calmly and slowly was a deep desire ever since I realized that screaming and yelling at others is a form of verbal abuse. That for many years I screamed and yelled at Mark during conflicts because verbal abuse was normalized for me as regular communication between families and couples.
Starting in 2017, I decided to try to break the cycle and made improvements every year since. In 2022, I recall maybe raising my voice (not to yelling or screaming levels) more than 5 times but under 10. Mark agrees with my estimate, but we both don’t know for sure because I didn’t keep track of this metric in my daily journal in 2022.
In 2023, I will keep daily track of voice decibel level and spoken words per minute rate as part of my Goal Check Sunday Goal #5. With the help of my therapist, I realized that growing up, I lived in deep fear of being screamed at and yelled at daily. That the only way I could still believe my parents and relatives loved me was to believe them when they insisted that screaming and yelling at each other or me nearly daily is normal. That it was for the person being yelled at for their own good.
I now understand that I was deeply traumatized by it. And one of the most important reasons, I’m monitoring my voice level to speak around 60 decibels or under is that I want to avoid possibly traumatizing someone else. Other reasons include wanting to conserve my energy for writing my Nine Provinces Era Quartet and avoiding regret. Any time I raised my voice in past, I regretted it.
Every life contains many millions of decisions. Some big, some small. But every time one decision is taken over another, the outcomes differ. An irreversible variation occurs, which in turn leads to further variations.Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
I’m curious to see how my decision to embrace entry-level serenity in 2023 will affect my life going forward!