Words are violence, Break the silence, Come crashing in, Into my little world , Painful to me, Pierce right through me, Can’t you understand, Oh my little girls.
All I ever wanted, All I ever needed, Is here in my arms, Words are very unnecessary, They can only do harm.
– Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence
Words from one of my favorite bands. I thought of writing these thoughts after I asked myself what it is I enjoy about trail running, road running at 4AM and my Sunday drives to a park in Niagara Falls with my dog. It is the silence which I enjoy.
As we drove yesterday, returning from the park; I wrestled with the notion of stopping to see my parent’s. Guilt, then my love for them were my motivators.
I have been very busy lately and while I dislike excuses, this is a fact. Twelve hour days have been my norm and when you are an Introvert you must find your silence somewhere. I had called my mother the previous week to “check-in” and see how her and my father were fairing. I apologized, more out of feeling guilty for not being able to stop and visit on other occasions. On this day when I was greeted at the door I was met with a hint of sarcasm. My mother said, “Well, very nice to see you!” This sounds benign I know but one must understand the nature of my mother’s fear. A fear which she manages poorly and wishes to share with those in her presence.
We sat and talked, or more accurately my mother talked. She does this when she feels there is a void which must be filled. I have never been much for small talk. I find the expenditure of such energy senseless. I am also perfectly comfortable with silence.
We went through the list of superficial questions, “How are the kids? They don’t call here.” How’s Nancy? We don’t hear from her. Is she angry with us?” In the past one would have found me plying a defensive posture, answering the questions in what I hoped was an even tone, then once I had left I would have exploded and found the remainder of my day going down in flames like a fighter jet on the losing side of a dog fight. These days my response is grounded in solitude and respect. I know longer “blow up” but now sit quietly and meditate on the words handed to me as if carved from a block with a dull knife. I suggest to those involved in such conversations if it is accurate responses which are desired, the questions should be posed directly to the individual about whom the question is centered. As you can imagine, this is met with frustration followed by silence as the other parties attempt to ascertain some deeper meaning in my words. Do not look deeply for there is no deeper meaning.
Shortly after the simple pleasantries were exhausted we found ourselves sitting in silence. A quick glance around the room identified the level of discomfort felt by the others. My father and I have always been able to converse and discuss things. He is more open minded than my mother who holds very strong convictions and finds no difficulty sharing her thoughts with you. Her discomfort is noticed when she finds herself rising during the conversation to engage in some form of idle busywork. This is her way of disengaging from the conversation and letting you know she is right and thus the conversation can end.
In the past, my conversation, as much as I enjoy my father’s way of participating, was unfortunately more like that of my mother. I found myself leaving conversations feeling exhausted; as if I had accomplished nothing. These conversations are not debates, some elected office is not held in the balance.
Today, I find it much easier to listen, for this is a skill which is practiced not nearly enough. The naturalist John Burroughs wrote in his book, “The Art of Seeing Things”, “The art of seeing things is not something that may be conveyed in rules and precepts; it is a matter vital in the eye and ear, yea, in the mind and soul, of which these are the organs.”
In as much as there is an art in seeing things, there is as great an art in hearing things.
I enjoy the silence.