Solace in Silence

I am a person who fills silence with words. People fascinate me and if I happen to be in the same physical space as another person, I tend to ask them questions—even if I don’t know them. A lot of questions. Strangers have asked me to shut up on more than one occasion and not always in a nice way.

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Recently, a friend and I had a spa afternoon. Afterward, I told her how fascinating I found my aesthetician. She had a graduate degree in chemistry and was first generation American with Caribbean parents who had recently moved back to open a hotel. My friend explained she barely remembered her aesthetician’s name, because she had promptly gone to sleep as soon as her treatment started.

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I adore gatherings of people but suffer from sensory overload. I’ll spend hours in the middle of the crowd enjoying every minute. Afterward, I need complete isolation. At writing conferences, I refuse offers of roommates no matter how much money I will save. If I don’t, I can’t process the talks and workshops I paid to attend. On girlfriends getaways, I laugh and talk until I’m hoarse and then insists on a room by myself. Otherwise I am an irritable and rude douchebag by day two of the trip. Even if the person sharing my room never speaks, just their presence blocks me from completely relaxing.

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Because of a chronic back issue, I get preventive deep tissue sport massages at least once per month. My first visit with my current therapist happened after multiple sleepless nights and I fell asleep on his table. On the second visit, my attempts to get to know him better were met with monosyllabic answers or grunts. This therapist has treated me for almost two years now. I know nothing about him except for his first and last name. His massages are the most effective I’ve ever received.

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My mother wields silence with the skills of an experienced swords woman. Her unspoken disappointment and hurt echoes loudly in my ears when she unsheathes her blade. When I was little, that weapon cut deep and made me blather apologies even if I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. As a teenager, I parried her strike with my own sullen silence and then retreated to my bedroom, slamming the door as a loudly as I could.

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A few weeks after I first met my husband-to-be, we went backpacking in the Sierra Mountains for several days. On top of a smooth glacier-formed granite ridge, I saw the Milky Way for the first time. There were only the two of us in a vast wilderness topped by an arc of stars and planets. Wondrous nature filled the silence between us and no words were necessary . That night, I slept in a small tent next to my husband-to-be and woke up rested. He is one of the few people with whom I can be quiet.

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