I dread awkward silences.
Some people love them, but I absolutely hate them. My roommate (who will always be on periphery of these posts) once pointed out that I never last long during a silence — I have a need, a desire, a raucous calling (me, again) — to not be left alone with silence and the inevitable introspective dwelling that comes with it. I, and I’ll briefly quote him here, “am so uncomfortable ‘just being,’ that I’ll say, or do, anything” to draw attention away from the brief interludes that pockmark a discussion.
And he’d be right. I mean, it’s not anything none of us have felt before: you’re out to dinner with friends, or maybe you’re on a date, and the conversation dies. You were talking about kittens and how they’re the furry balls of Satan that will ultimately dominate the planet, and you or the other, also half-listening, drops the ball and says, “yeah.”
It’s the vocal equivalent to getting a thumbs-up emoji midway through a question of existential crisis.
But we’re not just talking about an actual conversation, we’re talking about the awkward silences that pervade our lives beyond a crowded cafe with a stranger you swiped ‘right’ on. The kind of awkward silences that blanket your mind when someone asks you, “so what’re you doing these days,” because the most exciting activity that week was when you and the Target checkout girl accidentally brushed hands when she handed you the receipt.
For me it’s when my family asks, “So how’s the writing going?”
All of the sudden, my mind is a waterfall, a visceral trajectory of white noise meeting hard flashing lights that pulse against my temples. I can’t think of an answer because there is no answer, no lie good enough, no actual truth to share. The closest thing to writing I’d gotten was a fourth-clever tweet that was deleted before the app could even register it as a draft. Annoyance. Bitterness. Shame.
What about the script I’d been working on? No progress.
Articles to write? None, but I would brainstorm some ideas.
Have I seen any movies lately? Yes, lots of those! I’ll go with that ‘change of topic’ for the fifth time.
And what about relationships? I was at a community pool the other night (of which I may or may not actually be a member) talking to a young girl I’d seen there a couple times with her boyfriend. On this specific night she was there with a different guy (a friend), and the conversation eventually turned to relationships, and she said something very interesting:
“I don’t think I’ve ever actually been alone.”
Mind you, she was like 16 or 17, so I’m not sure how much dating she has under her belt (who knows these days), but it struck me that she was aware of her potential — or lack thereof — ‘aloneness,’ and her desire thus far to steer clear of it. It reminded me of my own personal experiences, and how I too have struggled with this sense of loneliness and trying to fill a void, trying to fill the ‘awkward silences’ of my life with panicked, spontaneous, and empty experiences & relationships. And then I wonder how many other people are like this, how many of those we encounter on the bus, or at the supermarket, or of the Target checkout girls, or our co-workers, friends, family.
Just something to keep in mind, I guess.
I’ve always been the kind of person that wears his heart on his sleeve. I know this can be a great, wonderful thing. To feel very strongly, whether it be love, sadness, joy, anger, doubt, or calm, is to be alive, right? But wielding it as a weapon to mask the gaps in your life as often as I have, it weighs on you, man.
I’m reminded of the story about the psychologist who walked around the room during a Stress Management workshop with the glass of water. It’s essentially the same idea, all those infinite ellipses, the inner deadlines and time crunches, of my life. Sometimes Just Being is enough. It has to be.
And here is where I apologize if all of this sounds like messy half-witted jargon. To be perfectly honest, you read some of the articles on this site and it’s just mind-blowing the authenticity, honesty, and wherewithal a lot of these writers provoke with their gut-spilling and bloodletting. Maybe this is my first attempt to do the same.
Either way, at least now I’ll have an answer when my family asks me for the upteenth time whether I’m writing again or not.