Trashcans + Crumpled-up Thank Yous

As we get older we get really good at realizing how dumb we sound. It starts with a quiet whisper that grows to an all-encompassing white noise static filter.

When you’re a baby, toddler, child, you babble mindlessly. Word vomit uncontrollably. Your mind is a leaky bucket that keeps emptying into the garden of the world.

That is until someone tells you to quiet. To silence the non-stop ADHD energetic restlessness and SIT STILL.

Why do we tell kids to keep quiet? Why do we stop their music?

I think at a certain point we stop listening to ourselves. We stop talking. We stop saying what’s on our mind. We’re scared. We worry what others think.

There’s a small psychological experiment I love called the Sally-Anne test. Kids take it when they’re very young. In it, two puppets are introduced (Sally and Anne). Sally hides a marble in a basket and goes on a walk. While she is away, Anne takes her marble and hides it in her own basket. When Sally returns, the children are asked where she will look for her marble.

Most children under age four answer the question by pointing at Anne’s box, not knowing that there are things that they know, that Sally doesn’t know.

It’s a beautiful thing to think that the world will always know what you know. That it will understand you. That the things you see and do become a part of the fabric of everything.

The first time someone tells you to stop, you keep going. The average toddler hears the word “no” nearly 400 times a day while they ask 228 questions on average each day.

We start telling ourselves no. We start editing, crossing out entire sections of thoughts like censors with dark black markers. Loose lips sink ships and conversations are always boats in a storm. We’re just ships passing each other in the night, so worried about pirates that we don’t put out any lights.

Maurice Sendak once told a story about a fan of his, a little boy.

Our favorite things are internalized, consumed, hidden. We don’t dare show our secrets, our thoughts. Instead like the journalists that mocked Muhammad Ali, we eat our words.


Something else we learn as kids may yet save us. You see, because we start out believing we’re all connected, we don’t know to say thank you. It’s not rudeness, it’s as Anis Mojgani says — the two year olds who cannot be understood because they speak half-English and half-God.

To connect, I’ve taken those crumpled up poems, half-eaten mothballed words from the trash can, and I’ve been sending them as thank you notes. Putting my words to wing and delivering through the dark. People-to-people we’re all different works of art.

I want to show you that I’m not afraid. Burn these scraps of paper or frame them. At least someone else will breathe them in. The word “no” is hard to find in my vocabulary. My ears and heart, as always, remain open. Let me know if I can send you something to help.