Biting Your Tongue

Sep 26th, 2009 11:22:00pm

In my last column I spoke of silence. The sweetness of it; its benefits and its rarity. This column too is about silence, but one that is nothing like what I have just described. It is not sweet. It is not beneficial. And, unfortunately, it is one of the most common things in the world.

A wise and amazing person once said, “Hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.” Another such person started a blog in which she wrote all the things she’s never said to the people in her life. Why? Because they were never said out-loud, and they have to be let out somehow, in some way. Hence the blog; hence the quote.

There are times when the only thing to do is keep your mouth quite firmly shut- just grin and get through it. Then, there are times when things just have to be spoken out loud, even if it’ll just make it worse, for your own sanity. We don’t do that. Not all of us, at any rate. We keep things bottled up, or just say it in our heads while either imagining throttling the living daylights out of the person involved (in the case of those who got on your bad side) or imagining holding them in your arms and never letting go (need I even say I mean your loved ones?). Words that are left unspoken are like acid on your tongue- bitter, burning, yearning to be released from your lips. It amazes me the amount of will-power it takes to hold them back. Why do we? Why can’t we just say what we want to? What we think? What we feel?

I look around, sometimes. At people passing by. At my family. At random strangers on the street or in the mall. And I wonder, “What are they not saying? What are they going through, right now, in this moment? What are they thinking? And why can’t they just come out with it?” Now, I am being completely hypocritical. I am the first to admit that when it comes to “making with the words”, I am not exactly what you’d call expressive. I really do taste acid sometimes, and it makes me think about all the other people who do. People like me, who go day after day not speaking up, speaking out. Speaking loud, speaking proud. There are such people, yes. People who are not afraid to divulge what’s on their mind without shame. I am not referring to those who have no tact whatsoever, but those who know the right time for the right words. For people who don’t hold back unless they realise they might needlessly hurt someone. I admire them. I look up to them. I’m sure everyone who’s like me has. Yet I keep silent.

And so do my fellow sufferers.

We live in an oppressed world. There is no such thing as “freedom of speech”. Some things are not permitted to talked about out loud. Whether this unspoken ban is in one’s home, in one’s school or workplace or even in one’s very own government, there will always be that little weight pressing down on you: “You can’t say this. You can’t. You’re not allowed. It’s not appropriate. They won’t like it. Keep quiet. Keep quiet. SHUT UP!” Everyone’s heard this voice in their thoughts. Some people ignore it, and some people submit and begrudgingly taste that bitterness. Swallow it down. Move on. Not. You might swallow it down alright, but there’s no moving on from those things you didn’t say. They fester in you, and as the quote goes, “Hearts are often broken..”

Guess what, my readers? Someone needs to defend the rights of us people to say what we think. Tact is important, yes, but keeping silent all the time isn’t healthy. It isn’t right. Relationships are torn apart. Some never even begin. Innocent people are killed. Men and women are sent to needless war. Yes, sometimes action is the only way. But find out why. Ask questions. Speak out. Speak proud. Say something someone might not like, if it needs to be said. Let your feelings out. Let it out. Stop biting your tongue and speak. Scream. Shout it out.

I truly hope I live to see the day people don’t taste acid on their tongues anymore.

I hope I become one of them.

Golden Silence

Sep 18th, 2009 5:36:00am

We have the Stone Age, the Middle Ages, the Bronze Age, and so on and so forth. This age is, though I am probably wrong, considered the Technological Age. Personally, I think it should be referred to as the Age of Noise.

We live in a time where there is always some sound or the other playing in the background. Whether it’s the tap-tap-tapping of one’s keyboard or the hum of the air conditioner, the rushing of cars driving by outside or music blasting inside, there’s always something. I believe very few people nowadays know what real, proper silence is. After all, there are few places in the world nowadays where there is such a silence; one so penetrating, the only things you can hear are your breathing and the steady beating of your heart. However, in my opinion we need that kind of quietude sometimes. We are so surrounded by clamour that our thoughts are drowned out, or more accurately, repressed, distracted with the noise of this and that. What would it be like, not having so much buzzing in our ears?

I had the opportunity to have this question answered slightly less than a week ago, and it was in fact the inspiration for this column. Life got in the way, hence the lateness, but I digress. As I was saying, last week we were faced with a power outage. I was asleep at the time, but upon hearing the sudden “zing” of the electricity disappearing into nothingness I was startled into wakefulness. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. No CD playing, no humming of the air conditioner, and none of that hidden noise associated with electricity running through the walls of our building. It was like all the energy had been sucked out, leaving only silence.

At first, this newfound hush was oppressing, pushing itself against my unaccustomed ears. But then, as I started getting used to it, I rather liked it. It was this lovely feeling of calm that washed over me. Sounds that were normally nothing compared to the other noise we had going on were amplified ten times, making me realise just how loud they were. The legs of my loose jeans brushing against each other as I walked, my footsteps on the tiles, these were all things I would not have thought anything of in usual circumstances, but was forced to pay attention to. It was like my hearing had zoned in on whatever sound it could find. It made me realise just how much noise is in our lives.

When the power came back on, I was both disappointed and relieved; after all, four hours without air conditioning in the middle of a blistering hot afternoon is not exactly comfortable. I did, however, miss the silence. The contrast was almost staggering. Its memory was quite fresh in my mind, and I found I could think clearly the entire day. Amazing what a little bit of peace can do, isn’t it?

So, next time you think it’s just too quiet, avoid turning on the TV or turning up the music. Instead, listen.

Hope Floats

Sep 12th, 2009 3:19:00pm

Expectations are strange things. They are those ideas you have formed in your head about what a certain someone or something or someplace might be like, before having seen the real thing. I call them strange because our assumptions are usually nothing compared to reality, and yet we constantly make them despite how many times we have been either pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised.

Case in point. A relative of mine, one whom I have not seen in more than a decade, came to visit last night. Now, I am not one of many words – not in person, at any rate – and couple that with the awkwardness one feels after ten odd years apart, you may have rightly mistaken me for a mute. It was apparent I was not what he expected. I do believe he thought I would still be the same chatterbox I used to be, and that we would have many a glorious conversation talking about this or that as of old. Sadly not the case, as guilty as that made me, and his notions of renewing the close relationship we once had were dashed to pieces.

So why do we continue to suppose, presume and conjecture? Why do we continue to hope things will turn out the way we’ve imagined them to in our minds? After all, an expectation is a form of hope. So why do we do it? We are let down time and time again, with occasional reward, but still we hope.

The way I see it, it’s basically because we are only human. We need something to look forward to, something to keep our spirits alive and afloat when the rest of the world keeps pulling them down. When you have lost hope, you have lost any will to keep fighting, no matter what battle it is. It is that light at the end of the tunnel that everyone of us, however you may deny it, keep moving towards. It’s what keeps us going. Even the most cynical of people dare to do it sometimes. They’ll deny it when you ask, I promise you, but they do. It can’t be helped. It’s a part of all of us, this thing, our little whisperer that says maybe this time things won’t be so bad; this time things’ll turn out okay.

So when we make those assumptions, have those fantasies and raise our expectations, it’s because we hope that sometime soon, we won’t be disappointed, regardless of how many times we have been before.