Kicking ass doesn't always mean getting loud, getting big, preaching the Greater Glory of Me. Sometimes the best we can contribute to the world is a little bit of nothing. Silence can be an offering, an invitation, and a blessing.
When I was a senior in high school and the yearbook polls went out, I got voted "Talks Least, Says Most," which felt like a great vindication at the time. I was totally tickled to learn that the same people who had intermittently mocked me for my braininess, social idiocy, and failures of fashion sense had been impressed all along by this ineluctable quality of my character, this all-too-rare combination of substance and modesty!
Ha. Turns out it was only my insecurity (not) talking. In college, where I was suddenly surrounded by people who found thinking as fun and sexy as I did, all the gabbing that I'd previously confined to classrooms (where I could at least count on the encouragement of my bemused teachers - is this the moment to confess that I also got voted Faculty Flirt?) spilled into the cafeteria and dormitories and open lawns and futons that were almost synonymous with "life" for a short, intoxicating while. Whatever imbalance there had been on my conversational scales between "talking" and "saying" suddenly disappeared, though I don't think it got reversed until I became a teacher. (What closet extrovert can resist a captive audience?)
As must be clear, my habit of speaking my unruly thoughts aloud is now well rooted, enough so that I'm more likely these days to talk too much than too little when I'm nervous. Language sometimes functions like a briar hedge in my life: I prune it into enchanting shapes and forget to notice that it's closing me in.
When I remember, I try to make an opening.
I shut up.
Then write all about it.
p.s. I'm not sure whether it's ironic or apt that I'm writing this just as I've been struggling with an antibiotic-induced bout (she says optimistically, hoping there will be an end to it, and soon) of tinnitus. An innocent word for a nasty problem. The quieter things are right now, the louder the high-pitched static and whine in my right ear. So my love for silence is more than usually intense, and - alas! - totally unrequited.