Be Quiet!

Today, for the umpteenth time in a million encounters with people I’ve barely met, I was asked the following question:

Are you always this quiet?

And even though I am always preparing myself, subconsciously, for this moment, I haven’t come up with a snarky answer yet. Maybe it’s because I really am this quiet. But in all actual fact, what am I supposed to say? Yes, I am this quiet, but now I’m sort of not because, you know, I’m speaking.

Except, today, I finally had a sort of rebuttal for the world: what is wrong with silence that everyone is so uncomfortable with it? Headphones and cellphones are in our ears more than sound itself. Doesn’t anyone notice that someone has to do the listening while others do the talking? Why do we encourage people to speak when they have nothing to say? What, I ask you in my loudest voice possible, is wrong with being quiet?

Personally, I have never been one for small talk, and it seems to have run in the family. My grandfather, an incredibly successful and powerful man, was incredibly irritated by talk of the weather or of nothing in particular. And so am I. Why try to fill the silence with words that don’t mean anything when you can wait a few more seconds and craft something profound? Why be loud when you can be quiet? Has the Internet, with its pleas and encouragements to divulge what we’re thinking, completely ruined silence for us all?

Without commenting on these greater societal ills, I can only make a stand for my own issues. I am quite aware that my silence stems from a small word that can cause big problems: shyness.

This, mind you, is not the same thing as being introverted (although I am introverted as well). Introverts have been recently championed online as the underrated counterpart of the extrovert. To be an introvert, one simply needs to seek alone time to feel “recharged” and “energized,” whereas extroverts seek people to fill that need. Two sides of the same coin, really.

Shyness, however, is a horse of a different color. (Although, not a loud color because the horse does not want others to notice him, because, you see, he is shy.)

Shyness is simply believing that what you have to say is not meaningful to the conversation. Or, shyness is the general feeling of anxiety when one thinks about speaking in a conversation. Essentially, you would prefer to let other people talk.

Of course, shy people’s lives are punctuated by others encouraging them to “speak up,” when they’d prefer to dig their own grave and lie in it right then and there than draw any more attention to themselves.

All I can say is that there are many, many, many types of people in this world. And there is, and always will be, a place for shy people. When everyone else is too concerned with hearing themselves talk, we will keep the silence golden.

And actually, I encourage everyone to be a little quieter. You may hear something you’ve never heard before because you were too busy talking. In fact, you may hear a shy person trying to finally speak.

Say Your Goodbyes

Fun fact time!

“The Parting Glass” is an old Scottish and Irish song that was traditionally sung at the end of a party, gathering, or regular hootenanny. In fact, it was so popular in Scotland that only “Auld Lang Syne” could trump it. It survives today through traditional Celtic bands and singers like Loreena McKennitt and The Wailin’ Jennys. And, of course, through yours truly.

Here’s the text of the song:

Of all the money e’er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm e’er I’ve done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To mem’ry now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend,
And leisure time to sit awhile,
There is a fair maid in this town,
That sorely has my heart beguiled.
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips,
I own she has my heart in thrall,
Then fill to me the parting glass,
Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh, all the comrades e’er I had,
They’re sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e’er I had,
They’d wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be with you all.

For whatever reason, I am completely besotted with this song. I love the melody, the meaning. (And now that I know the lyrics, I can stop picturing this metaphorical closing glass door when I hear the title.)

But what I think I’m attracted to most about this song is the idea of letting everyone know your intention and how you feel about them. You have to go, but one more glass, one more song will give you the time to say goodbye. None of the “this isn’t goodbye. It’s see you later.” None of the drifting away through unanswered text messages. None of the missed phone calls that get lost in translation, anyway. A goodbye that says if I see you again, that would be great, but if I don’t, joy be with you.

Maybe I have some deep-seated anxiety about people leaving, but the idea of being firm and final with every goodbye actually eases me. “I’ll talk to you later” leaves, literally, so much unsaid. But when you’re forced to say goodbye, you can tell them exactly what you feel and ensure that the person in question knows exactly where you stand. That’s a priceless gift when tomorrow is never promised, when we never know when a goodbye will be our last.

So, say goodbye whenever you leave and actually mean it. (You don’t have to sing “The Parting Glass,” but it would be nice if you are in my presence.) Just never leave people hanging on a word that won’t come. Say goodbye as if you will never see them again, and hope against hope, that someday, you will.

I Wish I Had Something Different to Say

When I was a teenager, I had two thoughts. How am I going to hide this pimple on my face? and How am I going to hide myself?

Now that I am an adult, I also have two thoughts. What the hell am I going to do with my life? and I don’t have a life to do anything with.

You see, that first thought governs much that I do. Well, plagues me, really. I struggle against it frequently when I am trying to blog because I have an open forum to voice my opinion. If you look at past posts, you will find that I do not often win the battle. I do not often tell myself to put my own life journey aside, so I can write something pithy and engaging for a blogging public. But by most accounts, I am completely consumed with deciding on my passion, my calling, AKA what to do with the rest of my life. When I’m not writing this blog, I’m researching, calculating, and planning the next 50 years.

But it’s strange because I started out this blog post by telling you how I felt as a teenager and as an adult, but in reality, I still feel like a child. I see someone working construction, and I suddenly feel the need to put on a hard hat. I watch someone treat a patient, and I am convinced that I should be healing the sick. And yes, an astronaut may have been out of my reach as an actual kid, but I suddenly feel like the stars have never been closer than right now. So, am I ambitious or indecisive?

I don’t know. But the only thing I can say for certain is that I wish I had something different to say. I wish I had my life planned out. I wish I could say that I have the courage to pursue whatever I am “meant” to do. I wish I wasn’t worried about making the right decisions. And truly, I wish I had something different to say about my future.

The only thing, and I mean the only thing, that stops me from having meltdowns daily about all this is one simple quote whose origin is heavily debated. But let’s just say Abe Lincoln said it because, you know, it’s a good quote and he’s a good guy, so he deserves it.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

I feel like a cork on a champagne bottle when I read that quote. It doesn’t matter what I am. It doesn’t matter if I’m selling out. It doesn’t matter if I don’t pursue my passion. It doesn’t matter if I never “make it.” I just have to be good at what I do, whatever it is. Hopefully, it isn’t axe murdering, but you get it. I just have to give 100% to whatever it is that I am doing. And I am about 95% sure I can do just that. (Did I say I was indecisive?)

And that’s all you can hope for, too. You should give yourself a little wiggle room to be good. But you should never stop striving for it.

Back That Thing Up (Often)

So, as most of you know, I was down one incredibly expensive computer this past week, which made blogging quite difficult. But thankfully, it is now back, shiny and new with a functioning keyboard and battery.

Except for the fact that most of my files are gone.

Yes, somewhere between last May and right now I decided that it would not be a good idea to back up my files so that I could enjoy them at a later date. So, that means old resumes, cover letters, new drafts of an old book, and a few writings are completely gone. A huge price to pay for a new keyboard and battery (plus the astronomical price I actually paid for repairs).

And I can’t lie. The panic set in when I realized it. I couldn’t believe that I had thought my files were safe enough and that I could resist backing up my current progress. Like many millenials, most of my life is on a computer. Pictures, old assignments, senior thesis, music, all on one fallible device. You feel helpless when you find that it is all gone, your presence in the world wiped clean. And then something absolutely selfish crept in, convincing me that my outrage for not keeping a recent backup of precious documents somehow mattered in the great scheme of the universe. People are dying all over the world but me? I have to rewrite my resume. Boo hoo.

Well, you can sense my outrage over my own outrage.

Because it’s incredibly frustrating to lose all of your progress, but it isn’t life threatening. To discuss one of my favorite books of all time, You’re a Badass, Jen Sincero spends time talking about failure and how to cope with it. One of the stories that stuck with me was from a friend of hers. Her friend had worked hard to create her own recording studio, buying all of the equipment out of her own pocket. Only a few days after the construction was complete, the entire studio was engulfed in flames. That’s right, her brand new recording studio gone. Do you know what she did? She didn’t tear her hair out. She didn’t cry over the ashes of her headphones and mixers. She simply built another one, a more state-of-the-art one. And she created mad, sick beats.

And that’s how you need to approach each setback and failure. You should never think that when you are made to start over that you should stop altogether. Just the opposite. You should begin again and try even harder. Me? I’m ready to rewrite the drafts I had (from scratch) because now I don’t have to be hampered by what could have been. I don’t have to edit what’s there. I can start completely over and create something great.

So, do me a favor. Do not view any step back as a failure. See it as a chance to start again, fresher and better each time.

Oh, and back up all of your stuff. Like now. Seriously. Save your future self so much frustration. I’m not kidding. Go.

It Would Be A Beautiful Day Out if it Weren’t for the Wind

I wrote this poem the other day, on a windy day, naturally:

People often say,

“If it weren’t for the wind,

it would be a nice day.”

And I laugh because

this acknowledgement

and dismissal is so very perfunct. 

So, I reply, 

“Yes. And if it weren’t for life

we’d all be dead.”

Oh, to strike at the heart of something

with only half a heart.

The truth is we can no more call off the wind than the wind can dye itself blue. Why do we allow for such thoughts? We can’t change the circumstances or the situation, so why do we spend time wishing things were different? Why do we ask the wind to stop blowing so that we can have a nice day?

And certainly, it would be nice if some things were different. If humans could live in peace. If passion were a check payable to all of us. If chocolate cookies were not so tempting. But you don’t often hear someone say, Oh, if only they would destroy all of the chocolate chip cookie factories in the world, then I wouldn’t have to deal with this vice.

So, why do we do it? Why do we wish for circumstances to be different when we know (either consciously or subconsciously) that they will not change?

We wish for things to be different when we believe that we do not have the power to deal with our issues, when we haven’t prepared for them. (We forgot to bring the patio furniture inside and now all of the chairs have been blown into the neighbor’s yard, kind of thing.)

But that is (and never will be) completely true. We always have the tools to deal with our current situation. Because really, if you simply accepted something as an obstacle to overcome instead of an inconvenience to gripe about, you would figure out how to hurdle past it in the same amount of time you would take to complain about it. And you always have that choice.

The wind is not something to be wished away. And to be honest, it is not always something to be marveled at. (It’s blustery, intrusive, and fearsome.) But at worst, it is something to be accepted. This is the same attitude through which you must approach life, especially the days that are hard to swallow. Like wind, life can either be a breath of fresh air or a strong gust to blow up your skirt. You must decide how to view it.

Taste Life

Author’s Note: Still without my computer, but I am hoping to chug along and pretend everything is normal! Sounds like your life too? Then welcome!

Have you ever been so thirsty that you don’t even care what you’re drinking? Like, this prune juice is seriously slaking my thirst. At that moment, at that level of thirst, the liquid does not even have a taste. You only experience it as a sensation, the chill, the slipperiness down your throat, the shock as the cold finds its way into your warm stomach. And so you drink more because if you could taste it, you might balk at downing it so quickly.

It’s the same with a meal. Have you ever been so excited to go out to your favorite restaurant that when you order your favorite dish you end up inhaling it? And don’t get me started about fitting in food breaks so that you can get back to the 5 bajillion other things you have to do before you can sleep soundly at night, shoveling in crackers and shakes to keep your energy level high but chewing at a minimum.

If this sounds familiar, I’d like to remind you to stay present and to make sure you are tasting your life, every crumb. You need to promise yourself that you will stop woofing down the minutes at work just so that you can get to Friday night. Quit racing home only to sit on the couch. Say no to looking forward to the next year when you haven’t even started this one yet. You’re cheating yourself by not appreciating what you have on your plate right now.

So, slurp, chug, gulp, nibble, suckle, sip, lick, chomp, inhale, and eat your life. But taste every single morsel and minute. Be present and be at peace. Because your next meal is not guaranteed.