In Defense of Being Quiet - A Mosaic
The Muse Letter No. 99
A short recap of long silences in my life
People not talking to me:
my dad (occasional from 1995-2015)
my sister (randomly but especially 1999-2007)
my host sister in Thailand (2006)
Me not talking to people:
my ex-partners (plural: 2007-2009 / 2014-2016 / 2018-forever)
people I meet for the first time and find intimidating (always)
older people, mothers in particular (till 2005)
“I was the shyest human ever invented but I had a lion inside me that wouldn’t shut up.”
– Ingrid Bergman
When I was little I used to have a lion. For most of the time, that lion was called Simba. (I was a very creative child.) But for a short period of time, that lion was called Tobias. Because I was in love with the Tobias in my class and I was eleven and that’s what you did when you were eleven and in love, for the first time, you named your stuffed animal after them and of course you told all your girlfriends about it on the school hiking trip. Because you were happy and why, why wouldn’t you let them know?
I think somewhere around that time I discovered the “right to remain silent”. That it was an option, too. Maybe a better one. Maybe a better option than having your heart broken by three little girls who go sneaking off to your crush telling him all about your most private possessions/obsessions.
After that, the lion was called lion.
He lives in the attic now. At my parents home. In a blue plastic bag. Suffocating.
„And I shall search my soul, I shall search my very soul, For the lion, For the lion, For the lion, For the lion inside me.“
Imagine sitting at a table with your three best friends. There’s wine involved, lots of it. Buckets. If someone wanted to describe a good time: this would be the picture of it.
You remember a game that people played at work. It was not really a game more an assessment one of these psychological mind tricks to make you and everyone else more self-aware. Because it’s not just important to be a good employee it’s also important to know who you are (as an employee). So you suggest this game to your friends. It goes like this: „Everybody one after the other has to describe you with only one word. No cheating. One word.“ You start with your friend on your right and she is: bubbly, crazy, loud. The next one: funny, adventurous, energetic. The next one: a ray of sunshine, warm, charming.
And then you: reliable, stoic, calm.
Thank god that was not me. That’s what I thought when my friend told me of a recent dinner party she went to where this exact thing happened. Nightmare.
„A lion chased me up a tree, and I greatly enjoyed the view from the top.“
Maybe I just don’t want to think anything at all. I like my quiet: talk-free, thought-free. I like it to be radical. I like it to be nothing. Not in opposition to anything. Just pure non-existence of anything. I don’t want to be scolded for not airing any of my views.
You have barely said a word. Say something.
I want to exist and be acknowledged as to how the chair exists and is acknowledged as a chair. Respectfully. Like the food in front of us, the sauce dripping over the smoked salmon, I just want to glide through space and listen and think and not think.
Say something. A little story.
“One of life’s greatest pleasures must surely be sitting around a table enjoying good food and conversation, and I discovered recently that there’s a word for this—deipnosophy. At its best, the participants learn something about one another whilst gathering new inspirations and gaining a deeper understanding of the world. The oil that’s so vital to this process is the knowledge on both sides that to be interesting it is necessary to be interested. But the magic formula can be elusive.”
It is elusive to me. To my host.
I feel the lion rumoring inside of me. The dinner table is vibrating. My family says: I never shut up. But these are strangers.
I haven’t heard a word from you yet.
Is it just shyness after all? Or disinterest? Do I choose silence or am I being silenced? Do I just try to fit in and perform a role women especially young ones are so well trained to play?
I know there is something about quietness that is within me, that runs through me. That isn’t about categorising myself into neat little boxes: shy/introvert/quiet. It’s a need. A real need to have space, to own it, to expand it, and have it be just that.
A moment that is all to myself.
To have authority over it.
To let the lion sleep.
As a thank you to all the lovely people who are supporting The Muse Letter financially and securing its future; I am doing a monthly series, where I will share the things I look forward to, creative tips, inspiration, crown the Muse :: of the Month, and answer your questions:
MUSINGS IN MAY
MUSE :: OF THE MONTH:
Anne of Green Gables
“'it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine”
When I think of spring I think of Anne of Green Gables wearing a flower crown praying to the cherry tree outside her window she named “The Snow Queen”. I think of her proclaiming to be a “bride of adventure”, of her ambition, her love for nature, her curiosity.
The first time I read Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery was fairly late in my teens; I must have been about 15 years old. During the summer while I was doing an internship at the local newspaper, I stumbled upon the book series at the library. I remember being so captivated by the story, her wild character I read all of the four or five volumes till autumn.
There is something about Anne that resonates so deeply and I think it has to do with the fact that she has the ability to create and be fully herself at all times. Yes, she is headstrong and mildly annoying to some people but she is also very passionate and true and a delight to others.
If you have not read the books or watched the not so closely adapted Netflix show, I implore you to do it now. If you feel like you could do with a child-like sense of wonder. This is your call.
“There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting.”
“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I'd look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer.”
“It seems to me that my destiny is to be the Bride of Adventure. I expect you to approve because you’ve sent me on so many now that I’ve quite developed a taste for them. Rest assured, this isn’t a capitulation. Because I’m not…an ideal beauty with many suitors, or even just one. But because of my maturity, I’ve come to the happy, evolutionary opinion that I am unusual and I embrace it.”
THINGS I LOOK FORWARD TO:
watching the garden flourish and grow and be surprised by all of the beauty it is going to unravel
going to Germany and seeing my family and spending some days in Berlin and soaking it all in and hugging everyone extra tight
creating more cyanotype prints and preparing the exhibition I am going to have in June at Typewronger
opening the window at night
first time wearing sandals and not feeling too cold
MUSE :: INSPIRED:
I love bathing. And what I love even more is bathing with bath oil. But because those are quite expensive and I always seem to run out, I looked up how to make them myself. There you go, thank me later.
I feel like spring has this weird sad quality to me sometimes. Everything is growing and opening, and at times I just feel even more of a slob. What to do?
Most people think that November is the saddest month of the year but contrary to that belief statistics show that suicide rates actually go up in spring. Putting this dark fact aside, I do believe that sometimes progress especially when it feels so sudden it literally springs in your face can feel a little overwhelming. Especially when you’re not there yet. Or when you’re still recovering (from a pandemic for instance) and feel like wanting to dip your toe in the water while everybody else is already jumping in, splashing around. spring forces you outside, it forces you to acknowledge change and that can be exhausting. So what to do? Ignore the sprouting flowers and weeds? Ignore the sunshine and the idiocy of not knowing what to wear? Ignore the fact that another year is in full force and that time is just continuously moving forward? – I don’t think that you have to accept spring. Because spring doesn’t care. But you have to accept yourself for being a bit of a slob these days. That’s okay. We all have our interior clocks and if yours is still on winter snooze that’s perfectly fine. Go slowly. Focus on yourself. Ask yourself what you need right now and remember there are lots of seeds in the soil still dormant, still perfectly happy, knowing their time is yet to come.
You have a question for next month’s MUSINGS or something you want to get off your chest? Just respond to this email or send me DM on Instagram.
"Things I Have Noticed - Essays on leaving / searching / finding” is a poetic memoir I wrote in these weird pandemic times, about the process of finding ones own voice.
IN CASE YOU MISSED LAST WEEK’S MUSE LETTER
In Case You Feel Like Your Life Amounts To Nothing – Letter in an Emergency
““Don’t get stuck in the woods” Margaret Atwood said about the writing process. A quote that I had written on a post-it and stuck to my desk for a while. You know that the only way is through. You know that this is just a shitty day(s). But you also know that this day is a little bit less shitty than the ones before because you are not where you were when you started.”
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