To me there are three things we should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special...”Jim Valvano
I often get tongue-tied and at a total loss for words. There have been occasions for which I have rehearsed lines I would like to say, and then, at the right time, when I have to say them, the cat gets my tongue. That speech which I had thought up, yet, I am at a loss for words. I just can’t articulate it when I am overwhelmed and I have to speak.
That’s speech which my mind has put together and not borrowed rhetoric that I should find it hard to recall. But, reticence, nervousness, anxiety, fright, or any such immense emotions play on the mind and tangle up speech. That’s what happens very often to me. Yet, communication doesn’t end there. When words become inadequate to express feelings tears do the job!
I am moved to tears by happiness and extreme joy. I am moved to tears by anything beautiful; an experience, a piece of exquisite music, emotional verses, a story or movie, happy memories, funny things… and also, copious tears express anger, frustration, helplessness, grief. Loneliness seldom moves me to tears, but the memory of good times in sad or lonely moments makes me teary yet happy. I’m moved by gratefulness for those precious moments.
When the mind fails, the heart speaks…through tears. Happy, joyous, funny, tickled, angry, helpless, ecstatic tears speak as eloquently and effectively as words.
These are those silent moments of release…of tears or unshed ones, which may or may not be understood.
“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ”
It brings to mind our dining table talk. I would be the one chattering on the most. The talk was mainly light, and also about the silly/funny incidents that I heard about or that took place at school. I’d ask questions about something to involve the others, my hubby and the boys. But, mostly, it was I who was doing the talking.
I didn’t realize how much my news, anecdotes, jokes about my daily experiences meant to the family, especially my hubs.
On an odd day, I’d be too tired or preoccupied with an overload of school related stuff that I had to see to, and I’d be quieter… not absolutely quiet… just less talkative than other days. It was on one such day that I got to know how much my chatter at the table enlivened our meal time together.
I was chewing my food contemplatively; I must have spoken the few usual words – Have some more of this or that. Do want more rotis? Like to have some rice? How was school? How was work? Did you…this or that… I was engrossed in my schoolwork plans and totally unaware of how the sound of silence hung over the table gloomily as the three boys chomped on their food.
“Are you okay?” The question broke into my thoughts.
I looked at David with raised brows and question marks dancing in my eyes.
“I mean, you are so quiet today. Did something happen in school? Is everything alright? Are you feeling well?” The questions poured out one over the other. And he did look very concerned.
“Yes,” I answered giving him that quizzical ‘what’s wrong with you’ look. “Why do you ask?” I continued.
“You aren’t saying much. You are unusually quiet. Tell me, did something happen in school?”
“No, nothing unusual or horrible happened in school. It was a normal day. It’s just that the Annual Function is coming up and I’m totally in charge of the whole thing and I have some ideas to change the way they’ve been presenting the show for the past so many years. I also have a play I’m directing which is absolutely different from what they’ve been doing. What’s more I’ve decided to do a Hindi version of the play Snow White and the seven dwarfs. I’ve got to get it translated by the Hindi teacher, check if it’s done the way I want it, simple everyday Hindi which everyone can understand, and then select the cast etc. Props need to be made. Opening presentation which I want to change too…so many things!”
By the time I was done with this explanation, I noticed he was laughing his silent laugh, his eyes were dancing with joy, and he was enjoying his food.
“What?” I said knitting my brows though a smile played on my lips.
“Nothing. Keep going. What else do you have to do? Can I help? Just keep talking.”
“What do you mean? What’s tickling you so much? Have I missed something?”
“No. You haven’t “missed” anything, but I was missing something… the joy you bring to the table with your small talk and laughter. It’s not the same when you are quiet. The whole eating experience changes when it’s not garnished with conversations and laughter; your stories and humor.”
I beamed a radiant smile as the tear ducts opened. I blinked the tears back. I had no idea how much my chatter lent to the family meal and what it meant to them… especially HIM! I was drenched in the sunshine and warmth of family love and joy!
“So keep talking sweetheart. Keep regaling us with your stories and jokes, don’t keep quiet, please.”
I couldn’t say anything… the smile and the withheld tears said all that I wanted to say – I was overjoyed.
However, I wanted to say something more… I needed him to know that I need my silence very much. I needed him to understand these silent phases. I wanted to ask him to understand my silence too. Not just for issues at work or on the domestic scene. I needed to be quiet within myself. For myself. With thoughts that had nothing to do with the outside world. I needed to be quiet for my soul. I wanted him to understand this. I wanted to say –
But if you don’t understand my silences, how will you understand my words?
– but I couldn’t.
I let myself drown in the pleasurable warmth of a family sobremesa. Ours starts not at the end of the meal but at the start and carries on through the meal! I’ll break my silence here.
I will be silent another time. I’ll silence the cacophony in my mind. My silences are for me as much as it is for my home and family. I will be silent for myself.