This post may seem odd to the handful of people in my life who have been saintly enough to listen to me process my pain while devising plans for my recovery and rebirth. I’ve been anything but silent as far as they are concerned, though I do hope they appreciate me pausing to consider their feedback and oftentimes incorporating it into my journey. I didn’t always agree, but they each contributed greatly to my quest in numerous ways both big and small. This is a game of inches now.
I’ve been teaching myself over the last several months to respect the silences that allow people to compose their thoughts before they respond. It started as a way to make sure I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth at my new job and lose a golden ticket. I needed to slow down badly and it all started with my brain, by way of my mouth. Not everyone processes information the same way I do. Most people don’t process information the way I do. Constantly filling the empty spaces with my mechanically-precise musing was the single best way to ensure actual communication never happened.
I’ve spent plenty of words describing the things I didn’t like about my marriage and divorce, most of the negatives found in the smoking ruins on my side of that equation. What I didn’t share is those bad memories make up perhaps 15% of the moments we spent together in the last 14 years. The vast majority of that time we were the couple that people “admired” with envy. I didn’t realize just how much I loved and missed being married until I spent the last several weeks examining our life in fine detail. I was surprised to find when I started writing this post that I desperately miss the comfortable silences.
Just hanging out on the couch, watching HGTV or Big Bang Theory. Not talking. Just being together. Comfy and in love. I miss the long road trips where several hours would pass with no real need to speak. We’d sit there in the comfortable silence, radio providing a soundtrack, watching the miles roll by outside the windows of our Prius, our puppies doing the same behind our seats in the hatchback. Sometimes we’d hold hands across the center console while we drove. Heavy sigh.
If we do get a chance to rekindle our relationship, I am looking forward to saying nothing at all while H finally gets a chance to say everything she never could before. I miss the sound of her voice. Badly. I’m beyond sick of my own. I’ve spoken more words than most “normal” people use in several lifetimes, many of them counterproductive to conveying understanding. Time to surrender the mic, step into the background and give the rest of the world a chance to speak. I’m curious how this new frame of mind will change my life beyond the immediate impacts to work and home.
It’s already making my writing way better. By quieting my brain’s running color commentary about every fucking thing all the fucking time, I’m gaining white space. Any designer will tell you that the white space almost always makes the whole way more effective. Without it, the piece becomes chaotic and hard to follow. Seems like a good description of my “communication” methodology for several decades now. I think most people kept quiet because my verbal pace was exhausting. Like jogging with a Kenyan.
I discussed my new job previously and how it’s been a night and day comparison to every job I’ve had until now. The organization itself is amazing to be sure, but my new outlook is mostly responsible for hitting the ground at a more measured pace. I’ve been able to retain the best parts of my personality and experience without any of the drawbacks. Anyone who worked with me previously comparing that guy to who I am now would do a double-take. They’d literally have no idea what they were witnessing or how to process it. A grizzly in a tutu.
My emerging silence is a huge win. The less I speak today the easier it is not to speak tomorrow and the day after that. I’ve found my brain isn’t even prompting me to talk all the time anymore. This blessed silence extends to my interior monologue. It’s amazing to feel the “bees in my brain” quieting down in real time, to finally have control over myself and the words coming out of my mouth. I am beyond excited to see how this shift plays out in the years ahead.