25 Cents of Silence

A challenge was issued: Let’s play the silent game for 15 minutes. If you do it, I’ll give you a quarter!

I remember sitting in the living room of my great aunt Pat’s house, restless, picking at the dark carpet. I’m guessing that I was six-years old, maybe seven. I’d probably talked the ears off of the adults, until ends of wits had been reached and frayed. I started talking late in life (my mom was worried I’d never speak) but then, apparently, didn’t learn to shut up. At least not for a really long time.

25 centsA whole shiny quarter? Yes. In those days, that meant a ride on one of the mechanical horses, or a tiny fistful of candy from the red machines lining the windows at the super market.

Think I made it? Not a chance.

As I sat, squirming, I played with my old-school, knee-high tube socks. This pair I wore didn’t quite match, having different color rings. In my 90 seconds of silent introspection, I got completely enamored with the stripes, rolling them down into donut socks, then back up to mismatched tubes. I was pretty sure other people needed to know about this wonder, and before I realized it, I blurted, “Hey, look at my socks!”

Game over. No quarter. Silence challenge completely and utterly failed. I’ve never re-visited a slience challenge again, nor given much thought to it.

Today, my husband is practicing a day of silence. In this strange quiet during our morning routine, this vision of my six year old self, so naive, so fascinated by the world, came rushing back. After processing this dusty memory, I was suddenly hyper-aware of the mindless chatter that fills the day. My own voice, a strange interruption. Silence. I haven’t given you enough thought of late.

Decades later and sans tube socks, I still don’t always know the right times to be quiet. That’s something I imagine will be a life’s work in progress. But I am at least asking: is this worth saying? Some days I get it right. Some days I quietly notice.

  • robbyslaughter

    I use silence all the time in conversations. I let people talk, and it’s amazing what they will tell you.

    • http://saramcguyer.com/more sara mcguyer

      I agree – the ability to stay silent is an important skill to master – it’s so key to interviewing, in getting participation in meetings and in life!