Why Bother To Be Quiet?


Why Bother To Be Quiet?

There once was a popular song that often played on the radio of my mom’s Volkswagen, the car I’d borrow and drive around the city streets as a teenager. One of the lines from that song still sticks in my  head, “silence is golden.” But those words did not take on any meaning for me until I married a man of few words.

I’d grown up in a household with a lot of noise and not much silence unless everyone was asleep or Mom was mad at you. When angered, Mom went into silent mode. You never knew who had been the one to cross her since she’d apply the silent treatment to the whole household. She’d ignore all of us for a good while and we’d tip toe cautiously round her until she was no longer angry. Then she’d resume acting like her regular self, as though she’d never been upset in the first place. Her  behavior always left us feeling wobbly about our relationship with her. We never knew what we’d done wrong, so it was hard to know what we needed to do right. 

On the other hand, the way my brothers’ handled their anger was a much more productive method. One would wrestle the other to the ground and then pound on him until they apologized for their wrong doing. The offender then swore to never do it again. After that, there were no hard feelings lingering in the air. Unlike the silent treatment method that could last for days and make one wonder what they’d done wrong, wrestling and pounding on someone got the offense out in the open and an apology was always delivered.  

Silence Does Not Equate Anger

But with my husband, silence did not equate anger, which at first threw me off. His silence only meant that he had a different way of sorting through his thoughts. His way was quieter, something I was not used to, something I’d not seen while growing up. 

What had attracted me to my husband in the first place was his calm, quiet demeanor. He kept his cool all the time, never forcing anyone to apologize when they’d wronged him. But that same quality that had attracted me to him also caused some turmoil in our relationship until I learned how to talk less and listen more. 

Early in our marriage when I’d ask him a question, his answer never came quick enough to satisfy me. If I wanted an argument to clear the air, he’d refuse to argue. If I gave him the silent treatment, his silence outlasted mine. In exasperation, it finally dawned on me that I was the one who needed to change. If I wanted to hear him, I had to be quiet. If I valued his perspective, I had to give him ample time to share it. I had to let him process in his way; alone and quietly before hearing any answers from him.  Now I know that silence is golden. It does not signal anger or danger. It’s just the signal of a man, my husband, who is in the process of thinking things through, quietly and alone.

Why bother to be quiet? It is worth it to be quiet so that the ones who are otherwise silent can be heard.

Why Bother Lending An Ear?

Why Bother Lending an Ear?

Not everybody likes the holidays. Not everyone thinks “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year.” For some, happiness is not a common theme any time of the year and Thanksgiving marks the beginning of harder times ahead for them. 

For some, holidays bring more stress than cheer, grandioso expectations from themselves as well as from others and haunting memories instead of Norman Rockwell images.

In light of the holidays, joyful spirits are supposed begin soaring just before Thanksgiving and come in for a graceful landing in early January. This is known as the Christmas season, the holiday season or the festive season. Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and Halloween, the holiday season is long one. 

In addition to maintaining an upbeat demeanor, other presumptions fall into our laps whether self-imposed or from family members. Traditions are a family’s trademark. But some see them as heavy, cumbersome, outdated, yet unchangeable. 

For the one who volunteers to host the family gathering, preparing the menu alone is daunting. Turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and cranberry relish, all homemade of course. And don’t forget, someone has to make the famous family batch of rolls, or melt-in-your mouth dessert. 

Moreover, there is the table to set. The special china, Grandma’s crocheted tablecloth, Mother’s silverware and a festive centerpiece that represents the season. 

Seating people around the table can be tricky. Everyone may indeed be related, but not everyone may relate well to each other. Like unseen ghosts, an unresolved conflict may hover between two people. Hurt feelings from some altercation in the past is not forgotten by another and differing opinions about the latest news topic will abound. 

In addition to the food and relatives, there is the probability of a moment where everyone holds hands to say grace or  someone makes the suggestion that everyone name one thing for which they are grateful. It can almost feel like a lie, but everyone plays along. 

In reality, not everyone feels jolly during the holidays. Some of us have family members who struggle every day of the year with anxiety, or depression. This time of year may  only bring out the worst in them.  

Why bother lending an ear? Listening is almost as complicated and time consuming as cooking the perfect Thanksgiving meal, yet its effects are more satisfying. 

Despite the effort it takes to understand someone else’s sadness when your personality bends toward happiness is not as daunting as cleaning up the kitchen after a holiday meal. Bending an ear toward someone who struggles to muster up cheer can be a heartwarming and enlightening exchange.

 It’s worth it to keep one’s ears open during this season. A shared load is a lighter load.