The longest silence

In the silences I find pieces of myself to put together like a puzzle. The silences are like friends you find in a crowd, that give you a sense of comfort when you’re lost, take your hand and lead you out. Few people appreciate the beauty of silence, mixing it up for being introverted or shy. Silences are my favourite conversations, the most receptive kind of conversations. Silences come in broad varieties from short to awkward and excruciating. But a well-placed silence adds more meaning to a conversation than the words exchanged.

I grew up in the silence of my house when nobody would be at home most of the time. It’s why I can only study with music or loud conversations surrounding me. Silences are very distracting and give your mind free reign to roam as it pleases. Children used to see silences as punishments or restrictions. I used to revel in the silences. Luckily for me, my family was the kind where people kept to themselves most of the time and maybe that’s why I am more receptive to silences.

From a very young age, I was attuned to understanding my parents and my sister’s emotions with little effort, I could read silences like some people lip-read. Silences can sometimes determine the temperature in the room or at least it feels that way. But as I grew up, the silences got shorter, because people liked talking to me so I would talk too. But at home, I’d stay silent, and when I was diagnosed with depression my parents ran their own diagnosis linking my depression to the long silences.

Not that I don’t appreciate their efforts, but how can one change what is in their nature? Suddenly my house which had provided me the comfort of silence was taken over by forced conversation. A part of me that was allowed to roam free around the house was trapped. I know if I’d expressed my issues at the right time, it could have saved me a lot of pain and saved friendships. Sometimes I regret my silence but I’ve never found talking particularly helpful, mostly because even though you know what the other person is saying is absolutely true it is not what you want to hear at that moment.

I internalised my silence and became too comfortable in that space I suppose. I know it’s not natural for my parents to be this chatty I know where they are coming from, but it’s just not who I am. Sometimes I wish I was different, some days I also think it’s the silence that was the problem. I let it grow and grow and suddenly nobody could enter it. Everything sounded like it was coming from miles away, any advice, and help, all of it. If I said the silence was the entire cause of my depression, I would be kidding myself.

The silence allowed me to realise my depression and confront it. There are so many reasons for my depression I don’t own enough fingers to count them. I am dealing with reasons one by one. I have found that it’s only in that deafening silence that I find myself. I used to have the habit of sitting in the darkness and just thinking for hours together, something my ever-understanding roommates in college didn’t question but accepted as another one of my idiosyncrasies. I can’t be more grateful to them. The habit used to worry my parents. But I told myself I can’t console everyone.

“Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.”

– The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel (stanza 1)

I took the song, The Sound of Silence by the amazing Simon & Garfunkel, quite literally. Silence can be philosophically debated, but I can’t possibly summarise it here. Writers use silences as metaphors, for dramatic effect and in the case of horror (one of my pet genres) for heightening fear. Silence is so much more than a descriptive tool. Silence helps make great listeners, they give you clarity and are somehow the most expressive moments. You can say a hundred things you don’t mean,  but one silence can give away your entire truth. That is because silences aren’t calculated, they’re organic.

I once shared a conversation with someone who couldn’t speak but I understood everything she said, she heard me without words and I knew. For people who talk silences mean nothing, for some people silences are all that they have. As a person who likes silences, I found it so hard to use all my abilities but my mouth to keep a conversation with her going. We take noise for granted, music is something that has always been a part of our lives. Can you imagine a world where nobody could speak? It’s scary, I know. But for some people, that’s their reality, one that we can never fathom.

Therefore I consider talking a privilege, I wouldn’t be this person if not for the silences and I mean that in every way. I have to talk to my therapist every week and I have to come home and talk to my parents, the whole time it’s an endless effort to explain to them who I am. If only they could read my silences like I can read theirs, maybe they’d know. Drawing inspiration from Ronan Keating, I say it best when I say nothing at all.

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One thought on “The longest silence

  1. Poonacha PG says:

    Thanks for sharing interesting methods you have used for managing silence around you. Using such silence periods to our advantage is an art.

    Two of the most difficult tasks in this world are to silence our mind and to live in the company of
    silent people around us. If we remain silent others get annoyed and when others remain silent we get affected in unknown ways! I like your statement, “But a well-placed silence adds more meaning to a conversation than the words exchanged.”

    Like

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