A Clean, Quiet Life: Part Two

Not talking has made me feel sick. As in, if I’m being so quiet I might as well just go lay down for a while. And, if I’m just going to go lay down for a while I met as well not feel very well. And, if I don’t feel very well, I must be sick. You know, the stay-in-bed kind, not the nodule-on-the-vocal-chord kind. An odd logical progression, perhaps, but one of the many strange feelings I’ve had in my efforts to obey my doctor’s orders: two weeks of “vocal rest.” Today is day eight. I give myself a C+ so far.
I have three children. They thought it was funny and mildly interesting on day one. Now, they’re just confused. On the upside, there’s been no yelling but, boy, have I perfected some intense, highly-directional facial contortions, not to mention the absolutely expert finger wagging, waving and thrusting. I have a whole new disciplinary vocabulary.
Did I mention there’s been no yelling? That is, except for my wife. She’s been “yelling for two” as she calls it. Parenting for two, really. Aside from my facial expressions and finger pointing, I’m really not much more than a pair of hands. I can help put shoes on, get teeth brushed and give a bath, but not much more. The parental equivalent of ditch-digging. Quiet, focused, get it done and move on. No fun. And, I know my wife feels alone. My being quiet is an isolating thing, for both of us. In some ways, I’m less a husband and more of a “dependent” who needs taking care of. Another child in the house.
One upside is that I’ve taken to laying with the girls when mom reads books at bedtime. For the first book, I’m with one daughter, for the next, I’m with the other. I found out that Avery really likes me to scratch her back during these brief sessions. An even better use for that “pair of hands.”
I mentioned isolation. Keeping quiet has made me invisible in a way. In some ways, by my choosing. I am and always have been an expressive guy. I process verbally. I say most of what comes into my head. When I can’t do that, I’d rather just fade into the background. Not a very creative response to the circumstances, but I’ve never done this before. I’m learning. And, I realize I’ve been more focused on getting to next Monday than on sorting out ways to make the “quiet period” a fun, if entirely different way to parent, husband, and so on.
Work isn’t much different. I talk for a living. I listen too, of course, but part of the deal with listening is that once you’ve done so the other participant in the interaction is expecting something in return. I can’t give that right now so I’m pretty much staying away. At first I thought it would be easier to work from home; more acceptance, less weirdness. Then I went into the office after home got a little constraining. Acceptance there, too, but what’s the point, really? I shut my door so no one will be tempted to engage, including me, and I pound away on “projects” and “initiatives” and “all that work we’re supposed to want to get caught up on if only we had some time to ourselves.” That may be for others, but it’s not for me. I don’t work like that. I need variety. Just grinding away on “stuff” is soul-sucking, deflating and exhausting. People energize me. I energize people. And pantomime is frowned upon in the workplace.

The greatest gift of this “quiet time”? A new resolve for writing. Not just the blog, something bigger. It’s provided me with some space to begin to piece together the very fragile first thoughts of what even a small book might be. I’ve been writing this blog for two years as a practice in expression, transparency and the discipline to “just write.” These past eight days have given me a chance to recognize how that practice has awakened a confidence to do more.
As with being quiet, there’s a lot to learn. As ever, I am a beginner.

© 2010 David Berry

(Image: Sculpture by Cliff Baldwin. Fulton Ferry State Park, Brooklyn, NY 1991)

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