Tag Archives: silence

I Am In A Room

8 Feb

I Am In A Room

I sit in a room that is silent.

Yes, there are cringes and twinges of floorboards

and pipe songs and even the echo of someone upstairs,

but the cosmos is always ringing a little.

It is silent.

My mind makes its war in the room –

plastering memories along the molding of the floor

and hanging dead hopes from the high ceilings

and using the walls to buttress itself as it catapolts

its knives and leers and cocky little smiles,

knowing that I on the couch could have done better.

There is no noise in the room;

I am breaking.

The ground is a minefield.

I cannot move from this spot for fear I shall explode

one of its tricky little pitfalls,

and trip the explosion it’s loaded in my brain

with the fire of one toe placed wrongly.

It’s not a dance.

It’s not a limp.

I do not move.

I am silent.

I breathe.

The one defiance against death,

this slow, meaningless rise and fall

that is the only assertion that I still am

within this tired, still un-noise.

I make no sounds.

But I make change with the room.

A dollar-fifty oxygen,

a 23-year exhale.

Or something like that.

The math’s never really made sense

and I am too quiet to ask.

Maybe I am being shortchanged.

I really don’t know.

I am in a room.

And the room and I are silent.

The cosmos is ringing.

But this room has no door.

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Silence

1 Aug

dwindling fade

Life is a hard thing when you go numb. When soul dies, hopes dissipate into nothing leaving not even a shadow of an imprint.

Silence is a terrible thing. I hate it. I fear it. I fear it, because I fear me. Silence means I’m left alone with myself. And that’s terrifying.

Silence means I only have the chatter of my brain to keep me company. And when that chatter comes in the form of verbal knives and memory punctures, those internal conversations can hurt a lot.

It wasn’t always this way.

I used to be able to sit alone with myself and dream. I’d spend hours thinking about problems I wanted to solve, things like biology research and magnetism projects. I’d turn the information I’d learned earlier over and over in my mind, looking for new angles or remaining questions to tackle a need with. I’d process things for hours, while I was swimming, or walking through a grocery store, or driving, or scribbling in a notebook. It was fun. I was content.

Or I’d think about stories. I’ve written entire novels in my head, always meaning to transfer them to paper later. I’d flesh out scenes and plot, playing them out in my head like a movie while I was showering, or sitting in an airplane, or bored in class. I have had worlds spun into being inside my head. I loved the feeling. That’s who I was.

It’s part of the reason I love art museums. Wandering through galleries, staring at canvas after canvas, the paint on the picture starts speaking stories in my brain. I love art that I look at and immediately think, “there’s a story in that.”

I love doing art too, in and of itself. It’s almost like I’m creating some kind of secret. “Here, let me draw you this picture” – it’s got a fairy tale behind it. Or at least, it does in my head. Who knows the stories it may speak in yours.

The better I’m doing internally, the better I do at art. If I fall into eating disorder patterns, I stop being able to create proper scale in my drawings, especially when it comes to people. The more stable I am in terms of ED, the more accurately I’m able to draw humans. The more there I feel inside, overall, even if it’s a hurting sort of “there,” the more I’m able to do some sort of creation. Even if it’s just sketching out eyes. Simple, closed eyes.

That’s what I did, when depression and suicidality first hit me in the clinical sense my senior year of high school. My school planner is full of eyes, blue pen sketches of what’s really no more than a glorified eyelid, covering almost every page. Eyes, everywhere. Closed.

There’s probably some symbolism in that.

But now… now I can’t even draw eyes. Even short poems, little bursts of anger or hurting or hopelessness, the ones that I used to be able to throw onto a page in a blink, they’ve become harder to write. There’s no voice left in me.

There’s only the silence, with its terrible chattering.

And I hate it.

There’s another spot, another corner of content curation that I decided to take a stab at, here on the internet. I hear there’s a thing called Tumblr. I still don’t entirely understand it. How it works. What the fuck it’s even there for. But I’ve got one – decided to call it “Mad Woman Blinking.” (Oh hey, more eye symbolism!) And I decided that it’s there for my art. More so the visual kind, though I’ve got a fair amount of word spew on there too. You can check it out or not, that’s really not the point. I bring it up because yesterday, I also wrote a post called “Silence” there. It’s a shorter version of what I’ve written here. But it’s differently phrased, and I feel like the language has more art to the wording. It’s the more compact, drip-coffee version of what I could squeeze out of my soul. Looking back, I’m glad that there was some poetry to it.

“Silence usually means I’m not okay. In life, when I fail to stop by a friend’s dorm room, or stop contacting my people in all their little chat boxes. In art, when I just stop doing it.

My art habit fluctuates wildly. I’ll go a couple of months where I do art every day, or at least every week. Then I’ll have a year of not even scribbling on a napkin.

I’m not okay when I’m not doing art.

Because if I’m doing art, it means I’m stable. I’ve got the time to sit down with pencils or acrylics or whatever. I’ve got soul enough inside me to pin dreams down on papers in their many colors of imagination. I’ve got sense of self enough to still make my fingers etch out a story, whatever their medium.

When I stop drawing, it’s because I’ve gone silent inside. And that means I’m not okay.”

I’d really like to be okay.

Slumber

17 May

A poem from the memory of grade school birthday parties,

and a current sleep pattern that’s never quite matched up with the other twentysomethings’.

 

Slumber

I am always the one in silence.
I am the first one asleep,
and the first one awake.
I sit in empty rooms with sleeping bodies
while the morning breathes quietly.
Hugging my knees,
perhaps reading a book,
and waiting for the life around me
to remember that it exists.
That I exist, too.
Slumber parties
were always a particular kind
of torture chamber.

Quiet

23 Feb

quiet finger

Quiet and I have such a strange relationship. I came across an article recently – well, actually I came across Time Kreider’s NYT opinion piece on the original article’s topic – about how Amtrak will (eventually) be offering residencies to writers in their Quiet Car. For me, a lover of train riding because of the unique ability of railroad tracks to send creative thoughts through my brain, the prospective chance of a residency within the Amtrak Quiet Car was simultaneously incredibly appealing and absolutely terrifying.

There is a magic to quiet. You can finally feel your mind settle into the lump of flesh that carries around the rest of you. There’s an integration of your consciousness, as it sits there together, all in one place, no longer drawn in dozens of little fragments to the noise in front of you and behind you and to the side of you, to the flashing lights and motion blurs all about the full range of your peripheral, the beating and banging and humming and whirring and shouting that divides our thinking capacity into a million different focal points.

No, in the quiet, suddenly your soul can hear itself again. And it’s a beautiful thing, as the voices that have been bourn within you by the stories and novels and letters and daydreams of your past mingle and birth new ideas for your mind to mill over.

It’s also a terrifying thing, if your brain also happens to host certain voices like mine.

They’re a bit louder, a bit harsher than the rest. They may not always all-out scream at you, but the small persistent whispers are just as distracting.

They are the voices of a mind used to abusing itself. They are the voices of mental lashing developed over the course of a young life in order to keep a yet-developing brain one step ahead from every other one around it – because if you can anticipate doom, anticipate fault, anticipate anger and criticism – then you can prevent it. It’s an entirely useful set of voices, when you are stuck in an environment that will kill you if you do not either learn to dodge or strike back.

But if you are one of the so-called lucky ones who manages to escape that environment, the brain that kept you going now becomes the enemy itself.

It’s much more difficult to dodge something that makes all the same movements that you do. It’s incredibly difficult for a hand to strike itself. It becomes a bit of a paradox, you see. The answer is to get away from yourself.

But, in that all too horrid cliche, wherever you go, there you are.

And so noise becomes your new coping mechanism. You surround yourself with stimuli – if you can feel the pressure of the world on your skin then perhaps you will not notice the perpetual lump in your throat. If you can blind your eyes with a TV show on a screen, maybe your brain won’t have enough sight left to envision all the terrible future scenarios that used to actually be legitimate threats but are now only figments of an anxious anticipation. If you can occupy your ears with the blaring electronica or chatter of a Youtube reel or the friendlier-toned (usually, at least) sounds of conversations about you, perhaps the wailing in your mind will not start. Or at the very least, perhaps, in a relative position, it will no longer seem so loud.

But to put yourself in quiet – that is to invite your mind to hear itself. And while you know that dreams and worlds and heroes have been born from the quiet that happens just as you slip from consciousness right before you fall asleep, you also know that when you are instead in the full-frontal awareness of agitated midday, and silence falls…

Well, sometimes the mind doesn’t have very nice things to say when you’ve shut it up from the world for a while.

Quiet is where the best thinking happens, in the still of a place where you can hear again the merest exhale of the soul’s breath. But unfortunately, it’s also where you can hear every last gasp of a soul that’s been crying.

Talk

21 Jan

isolation

Talk

I want someone to talk to me.

I rant and rave, tweet and type

and make all the noises I can think to

in this world of ours.

I even say some words out loud.

But usually,

my only responder is silence.

I am tired of having conversations

with shrugged shoulders as my partner.

I wish that you would make some noises too.

At least then while we are lovemaking,

I will feel like it matters that I am there with you, a person.

Instead of just my shadow in the dark.

Or, at least in the afternoon,

you could say hello when I walk into the room,

or tell you something.

But there is no one to talk to me.

My words only sit across from silence still.

And so I will fill this table with my laptop screen,

and seek to douse this loneliness in the chatter

of a world out there having its own conversation.

I go online to have the world talk at me,

so that maybe all the buzz will help me feel okay.

I wish someone would talk to me.

On Silencing

8 Sep

face in hands

Hello lovely readers. Today, September 8, is the start of National Suicide Prevention Week.

So, let’s do some talking.

I’ll likely write a slew of articles this week. Book reviews, rants and ravings, maybe a poem or two. But to start it all off, I thought I’d start with a more personal article.

Because for me, suicide is a highly personal topic.

I cannot point to a single day, a single moment, and say “that’s when I first became suicidal.” I cannot even say when I first learned of suicide. It’s one of those things – and perhaps that is sad – that I have just always seemed to know about. I can remember being six or eight or maybe even as old as ten (though I think that is less likely), sitting on the couch of my house’s “play room,” surrounded by the trappings of a middle class American childhood, and wondering about running a knife from the silverware drawer downstairs across my throat. I don’t remember what in particular I was wondering – perhaps how much it would hurt, or what it would feel like, or how long it would take to bleed out – but I do remember hastily shoving the thought back to some dark corner of my mind and thinking no, that’s not a good thought. Jesus wouldn’t like it, because suicide (according to what I’d been taught somewhere along the line by my Catholicism) was a sin. And because suicide was a sin, it was out of the question. Period.

Again, I don’t know why I was thinking about suicide at the age of six or eight or less-likely-ten. Perhaps my father had gone into an alcoholic rage at my mother again. Perhaps there had been yelling. Perhaps there had been crying. I’m not really sure. You see, at that young age of six or eight or just-maybe-ten, the thought that something might be “wrong” with my household hadn’t really registered in my consciousness yet. Things like parents’ having separate bedrooms and the sound of yelling echoing upstairs after bedtime – that was just the way things were. That, for me, was normal.

For years, all I had was the occasional twinge of a particularly painful cramp in my soul that made me wonder if the constant vague sense of unhappiness that colored my life was, perhaps, something out of the ordinary.

Why do I go into so much backstory? To make the point, perhaps, that when over my junior and senior year of high school I progressed from “vaguely unhappy” to “clinically depressed” to “self-injuring and suicidal,” it was so much a progression of the natural order of things for me that there really are no milestones to remark at. One year I’m unhappy but still counting on that future tense. The next I’m going home every day after school wondering if it will finally be the day I kill myself. Try to rewind or fast-forward or pause somewhere between those two, and it’s all just a blur.

I suppose I mention all of this to give grounding to my opinions when it comes to suicide. No, I cannot speak for everyone on this point. But hey, I’ve had a fair amount of first-hand experience (not to mention second-hand experience in the way of mental health counselor training and acting as a peer mentor), so I do know a thing or two.

If you really want to know more about the nitty gritty of what my experience has been like, I suggest you look into my memoir, Drop Dead Gorgeous (more info here). But I suppose that what I want to say in this particular thought stream is that if I were limited to making only one statement about suicide, it would be this:

We need to talk about it.

Suicide should NOT be lauded, but neither should the dead be scorned. I know it’s scary as hell to say “I want to kill myself” and scary as hell to hear, but the taboo that so pervades most society and leads people to die silently so they don’t have to face the disapproval and disgust that appears all too often in other’s eyes – THAT is unacceptable.

I know suicide and depression are excruciatingly tricky to tackle effectively. I’ll write more on that later. But hey, practice makes progress, right? Parents and friends and doctors and teachers and police and janitors are never going to develop muscles capable of supporting someone if they never try to use them.

So first off, let’s ditch this condemnation of people with mental health struggles as “weak” or “weird” or “incompetent” or “lazy” or “untrustworthy” or “to be avoided.” I know that suicide is horrible and awful. But that doesn’t mean that people thinking about it are, or that talking about it is.

So let’s talk, people. What do you have to say?