I haven’t talked in over 48 hours.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I broke my silence yesterday and read a scene I was revising out loud, completely unaware. It actually didn’t even occur that I had lapsed in my commitment until twenty minutes later. I laughed. What can you do?
I decided to take on this experiment for a couple of reasons. I had seen John Francis speak at the Connecting For Change Converence hosted by the Marion Institute. After witnessing a devastating oil spill while living in California, John Francis decided to quit using cars or any motorized vehicle and start walking. Growing weary of arguments and justifying his decision, John Francis stopped speaking. His silence lasted 17 years. His story and presence on Sunday had far more impact than my synopsis, but suffice it to say, he left a strong impression.
I was aware of this concept of austerities. Devoted sikhs in India take vows of silence, as do nuns and monks. Other religions choose to fast. While in Japan, in many ways cut off from our “normal” lives, Kyle and I had the opportunity to examine our actions and behavior in a completely different context from home. He followed a cleanse we referred to as “the diet,” which did not allow sugar of any kind. He subsisted off sashimi (no soy sauce), brown rice, and certain vegetables. When he returned to Boston, fifteen pounds lighter, everyone was concerned.
Sometimes we would agree to spend the day, from the moment we woke up until we went to bed, in silence. This typically would also land on the days we both didn’t need to go to work. That was our day for laundry, for cleaning our tiny living space. The day I would re-twist Kyle’s dreads for him and we would walk, silently hand in hand, to the grocery store. As foreigners we would illicit a certain amount of stares, certainly with Kyle’s gelled dreads pinned in silver clips and wrapped in a bandana, but our silent smiles and mimed communication left many shop owners completely baffled.
Seeing John Francis and attending a workshop he co-led later in the afternoon, I could see how years of austerity paid off. The man knows how to listen. I could see him listening, not just formulating his response or waiting for his turn to speak. He listened, and he spoke with something that I can find no other word for than love.
In my 48 hours of silence, I can see how that love would manifest. In the days prior to my decision I was getting increasingly frustrated with myself. I had everything that I ever wished for, the opportunity to write, the enduring support from my family, the unwavering acceptance and love of the man I also accept and love without conditions. Why, then, did I still feel so miserable? Why did I find myself caught in perpetual crisis?
I decided, enough is enough. I’m just going to shut up for a while and see what happens.
What I have found are these simple truths.
What you worry about is not important. You have all the love you need inside yourself. Anything truly worthwhile does not need your spoken acknowledgement, it cannot be labeled with words. It is bigger than words. The experience of love is so vast it cannot be defined with our limited human vocabulary.
I have felt this idea in recent weeks. I have nothing but awe for the all the experiences I have had– good and bad, they flow completely relevent and never wasted in this unfolding journey. I tried to describe this feeling to Kyle and confessed, “It doesn’t matter how good I get at writing, I will never be able to completely describe the experience of being.”
But that will not stop me from trying.