“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain
(Photo credit: “Peace Born Within” by Jonathan Darby in Za’atari, Jordan)
I’m an introvert (INTJ, the last time I tested). This doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to socialize and make small talk at an event where I don’t really know anyone, it means that I seek my rejuvenation in the quiet.
I love silence and I also love to learn. I am a straight-up nerd, and I’m totally cool with that. Well, maybe not totally cool with it since I would rather look at it this way…
I love living in the internet age and having time enough to explore some of the cool rabbit holes down which I occasionally find myself discovering an artist, topic, or resource that’s new to me. Then I end up spending a lot of time in my head contemplating what I’ve just seen or heard. I want to share what I find, especially if it touches me in some way, but I struggle sometimes with knowing what to say. Actually, that’s not true. I struggle with believing that my voice or point of view on the world is worth hearing. That’s why I blog erratically, the voice inside my head that questions why I think you might want to hear what I have to say sometimes wins and my blog goes dark. And then I pull out of it and pop my head up again. So here we are.
Anyhow, here’s what I want to say about why I practice being silent. A couple of years ago, I started meditating regularly. These days I am in the habit of meditating silently for about 20 minutes each morning. I protect that time as “spiritual self-care”. It is the first thing I do when I wake up, and it has changed and grounded me. It sets a contented, plugged-in tone for my day which translates in real, beneficial ways for me and for those of you who have to interact with me throughout the day (trust me on that). It soothes me. I can’t recommend silent meditation enough. By the way, I started out meditating for 5 minutes each day, and slowly worked up from there.
Another important thing I do for myself these days is to practice not speaking until I’m very clear about what I want to say to someone. I don’t mean about the insignificant stuff. I mean the important, vulnerable, relationship-changing stuff, especially when I deeply care about the someone in question. The only way I’ve found to get clear is to go silent, both in my head and in the world. It helps me find the signal within the noise. I can’t hear it if I don’t slow down and shut off the chatter.
I have Stevie-D to thank for demonstrating this bit of mature communication to me because it wasn’t something that was modeled to me when I was growing up. When he and I get into a big fight, which has only happened a few times in our 23 years together, if he is really angry with me he won’t speak to me for a while. I think his record is 48 hours. It used to piss me off royally, because I thought it was annoying, passive-aggressiveness. The first time he did this though, once he started speaking to me again after the flush of anger or hurt had passed, he told me that he knew the damaging power of words hurled recklessly in a heated moment. He also said he knew he couldn’t unsay something once it was out, and that some relationships in particular deserve an extra measure of thoughtful discretion when communicating. How beautiful is that?! There is real kindness, compassion and generosity in it. As someone on the receiving end of words chosen specifically to be both truthful but to inflict as little pain as possible, I have always appreciated it after the fact.
“Discretion is the better part of valor”, a paraphrasing of one of Falstaff’s lines in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, is as important a notion today as it was in 1596. Maybe even more so given the magnifying power that current technology in an impatient world can have with our words. What I know for sure is that I want what I project into the world to be clear, conscientious, kind, compassionate, authentic and true, and the only way I have figured out to get there is through silence, reflection and discretion. I hope it’s working.
And just so you are certain of my age, bonus points if you automatically knew the song that gave rise to the title for today’s post. Then I’ll be certain of your age too. If not, the video is below, whippersnappers. Yeah, I remember when MTV showed music videos. Good times, those were. I want my MTV back! Kidding, now I have the internet and MTV seems obsolete. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diT3FvDHMyo