Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
Silence is golden… Suffer in silence… Silence speaks when words can’t… It is not words that kill, it is silence… Silence can break your heart… Silence is a source of great strength… Silence is a girl’s loudest cry… Silence is the most powerful scream… Silence calms my soul… Enjoy the silence… Silence creates either distance or comfort… Silence is the virtue of fools… The sound of silence… These are but a few of the many things we’ve all heard regarding silence. A quick Google search will give you hundreds, if not thousands, more that continue to contradict each other.
Why do we look at silence in such contradictory ways? It comes down to our own feelings, whether we are the silent one or the one on the receiving end of the silence. If we are feeling down or angry we will take another’s silence as being a bad thing. Sadly that tends to be our natural reaction, to automatically think the bad before considering the possibility of the good. We also tend to think things are about us when they aren’t at all. How many times have you read someone’s Facebook or Twitter post and thought why can’t they just say that to my face rather than plastering it all over social media? People are sure to know they were referring to you aren’t they? Never? I doubt that. We have a natural instinct to be liked and accepted. Any action, real or perceived, threatens that. I wish I could say why.
I have a friend who often goes through periods of silence. Sometimes they will be just a few days or a week long, other times months. It has taken me quite a while to understand that those silences aren’t about me, they are about him. He needs to shut the world out, to silence the noise and chatter, and no matter how supportive I am or how good my intentions are, I also contribute to that noise. That doesn’t mean that he all of a sudden forgets about me or throws me away, It doesn’t mean I am not worth his time or attention either. It just means that he needs something else at that time and I need to give him the space required to embrace the silence. That hurts, or it did hurt, until I took myself out of the equation and let his things be about him rather than making them about me. Now his silences, though still not one of my favorite things, don’t send me spiraling into a hole of self doubt and misery and when he is ready to let the world in again he knows I will always be there.
Sometimes one’s silence betrays the chaos that lives in their mind. If not chaos, a mind that is constantly full of thought. That is what often happens to me. My mind races with ideas for stories or changes I can make at work. A never ending story board that has not been able to make the leap from mind to page of late. This has frustrated me to no end these past months, having a multitude of ideas swimming around but not being able to get them out. It clutters my mind even more. This has happened to me before. I spent over a decade not writing a thing. My frustration lead to me ignoring the thoughts and driving them away. I don’t want that to happen again. This year has been more than long enough. And it’s not because I think I’m a great writer or anything. I know my words can lack style and imagination but they are a way for me to express myself, to let those inner thoughts out, regardless if there are hundreds of people reading them or just me. It’s the getting them out that matters to me, not the acknowledgement of others. Whether someone else likes them, hates them, or doesn’t care either way is of little matter. When what I do write resonates with someone that is simply a bonus.
When I was younger and my parents were still together silence was a bad thing. It meant my mother was pissed off about something or other and we knew to keep our distance. We would spend meals in painful silence as my mother sat there fuming (thinking that none of us noticed when of course we all did) and my father sat blissfully unaware. Everything would be quiet as we tiptoed around them until my mother finally had enough and the yelling would start. I knew long before it happened that they would end up getting divorced. I thought it was obvious. She would bottle everything up and he had no idea. Blissfully unaware would be a good description of my father even now.
I should hate the sound of silence but I don’t. I hate the pretending and the fake banter that people use to mask the silence. I love a quiet home. I love coming home to a silent house and spending hours in that silence. Spending a day with little more than the sounds of nature, a kettle boiling, or the clank of dishes as I make myself something to eat. I seldom get to enjoy that pleasure now that I have a 6 year old running about but I do greatly appreciate the times when I do.
Thankfully I am not like my mother when it comes to my use of silence. It is never used as a weapon against someone, nor is it a way of expressing anger or dislike. There are times I am silent simply because I don’t know what to say, but silence tends to be my way of processing things. Even when I write it is my inner voice that is speaking, I still appear silent to the world.
What drives your silence or your quest to avoid it?