Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ramblings from my attic #97

From the mouth of babes - Lindsay to me as she sat at the computer reading historical blurbs from the American Girl web site: “Mom, we got our independence in 1776. That’s close to when you were born!”

I’m a silence hypocrite. While I often inflict my un-modulated babbling on my family and the world at large, I increasingly cannot tolerate it from them. While some need the whirr of a fan, the distraction of a TV or radio to silence those nagging voices from within; I wish to hear them. I need to hear them.

As a teenager in Richmond, I went to sleep with the radio on, usually tuned to WRNL or WLEE, to drown out my bewildering thoughts. As a college student alcohol accomplished the same thing…so I’m lucky to be alive to have any thoughts at all. I understand the need to shut down.

Life now seems so hectic, yet so vital, that I need quiet to have any thoughts at all. Sometimes I wonder if my wiring has gone haywire. Is my brain so disorganized now that I require silence to think when I used to write on deadline in the most chaotic environments – fires, city council meetings, racetracks? My favorite places to scribble poetry in younger days were crowded doctors’ offices or city buses, absorbing energy from the masses. It’s true that writing focuses my thoughts. I imagine words careening madly around my brain until captured and funneled into straight lines down the interior of my arms through my fingers into the pen or keyboard.

I feel truckloads of guilt when I find myself commanding silence from my little one. I mercifully am able to choke back the damning words, “Do you EVER stop talking?” A friend reminisces about quietly reaching over to her youngster and placing a hand gently over her daughter’s little mouth to gain a moment of peace. My family labeled me “Chatty Cathy,” a label that stung later when I struggled with shyness; and I remember Brooke bursting into tears as her second grade teacher affectionately called her “Babbling Brooke.” But it is silence I crave.

After some blissfully quiet and companionable time with my book club at a friend’s farm last weekend, my thoughts keep circulating around the concept of fear. I turn off the radio now and try to pin down this new obsession of my inner voice.

Are we afraid of, embarrassed by fear? Fear is a necessary element of survival. In balance it lends caution to our passionate, curious selves. Childhood fear of the dark, adolescent fear of embarrassment, young adult fear of failure and loneliness – all propelled me forward in their own way. My risk-taking thirty-something self all too quickly confronted mortality upon giving birth. Suddenly, my being here on the earth, in one piece, had significance. I had children to raise. My health suddenly had value.

It’s strange to think of motherhood shadowed by the grim reaper, but for many women, I think there is a bit of a specter lurking in the shadows. Fear of disserting our children through untimely death becomes a fear that leads to positive measures. Survival through preventive medicine: mammograms, skin checks with dermatologists, chlorestoral testing, better diets, and attention to mental health. But I think sometimes we are afraid to admit fear. We are strong, resilient, the rocks of our families and friends. It takes guts to admit that something scary has us by the throat. To admit we’re vulnerable and need help. Our adult fears are often quite rational…unlike the invisible monsters under the bed. And it is these rational fears, amplified by all too much information from the medical community and our own genetic pre-dispositions that conspire to immobilize us. That’s where we must help each other. Help track down constructive information. Hold hands. Reassure ourselves that living each day to its fullest means sometimes acknowledging fear and sometimes kicking it into a box and claiming every grand and humbling moment of life.


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