For as long as I can remember words have held a special enchantment for me, I remember learning to read at a kidney shaped table dressed in a plaid jumper and saddle shoes. “See Spot run,” started a life long love affair with reading and language. I saw how words could inspire change and shape a generation. Words could be used to entice, scold, encourage and reassure. Words were power, power that I’ve always had confidence in.
It’s tempting to believe that the right combination of words delivered the right way can transform a situation and they can. But silence also speaks volumes and I am learning that. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got came to me from a woman known only as Old Blonde. I was having trouble keeping my mouth shut, a fact that I’m sure that surprises no one who has known me for more then twenty minutes. I was involved in a situation where it was obvious even to me that anything I said would only stir up more muck and mire. Yet, I didn’t know what else to do except talk and when that didn’t work talk some more. Old Blonde told me that if it’s not a question it didn’t need an answer. It was succinct and to the point, the way good advice often is. I tried saying nothing and lo and behold it created what all of my talking never did, harmony. However, a life time infatuation with words is not easily let go of. This week I was reminded that sometimes the best thing to say is nothing and I have Andy to thank for that.
Andy is a not very nice banjo player who plays at a jam I go to. He often as not has something snarky to say to someone, usually me. Last week was no exception. I was at jam and suggested a song I like to sing, Up This Hill and Down Again in E please when he started hollering, “No, no, boo, hiss, boo.” I’ve said things to Andy in the past about his comments and all it did was make the situation worse and make me cry. Now, the truth of the matter is that I didn’t care so much about making the situation worse as I did about crying, especially when I had on cowboy boots and good eyeliner. That eyeliner is too dear to cry off so I said nothing and after a few minutes the fiddle player played the pick up notes and the song was born, unfortunately, not very well. The song sucked and I didn’t care. I still had on my good eyeliner. A woman needs to know what her priorities are.
There are times to speak up; times to make your voice heard even when you are shaking in your boots. There are times when the best thing you can do for everyone concerned is speak your heart’s truth in the most loving way you can. There times when you have to say no with the understanding that no is a complete sentence. And there are times when the best thing to say is nothing. Young children and new lovers have always known that. “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.” Roan Keating.
The surprising thing about all that is how much happier I am when I make the choice say nothing sometimes, even when Andy hoots and hollers disparaging remarks. Like the woman said, “If it’s not a question it doesn’t need an answer.” Andy is always going to say something when I sing and it’s not going to be, “How about Rocky Road Blues in E, Deb?” I won’t lie, I wish Andy would hush up and leave me be but that is about as likely to happen as pigs sprouting wings. That’s just not the way he’s made. By saying nothing I am saying everything that needs to be said.