On Learning To Shut Up (& other impossible tasks)

Sometimes I don’t know I dislike something until I hear it from my own mouth. Recently it's a way of speaking. Something I've fallen into because more and more I feel I have something to prove. I know it as it is, all nerves and noise, a spew meant to fill the pause in conversation, in thought, in memory. Places where I should take a breath. But I can’t stop. I’m a prisoner to that tone of voice, the one that’s all about airs, about seeming like something more than you are, or worse—less. I’m a master at spinning that tone into any context: my job, what I’m “working on,” where to eat, why the long face. I’d rather choke on an attitude, self-pity or self-pride, feel shame at the way I’m speaking, the way I’m painting myself to be, than accept that perhaps I have nothing to say on XYZPDorQ. 

I talk in circles because I think something must be said. Or because I don’t know what I feel or how I think, because I haven’t put in enough time to figure it out. Even now I’m doing it. Trying to get to my point, staggering. Drawing on commas when this could be a single thought: I don’t know. 

I don’t know, but I pretend. I pretend all day. I pretend to know how to send a professional email. Last week I typed a smiley face after a sentence because before it seemed cold and unaffected, even though it was to be sent through the cold grips of a robot machine that is certainly cold and unaffected so why not apply some consistency. I pretend to understand global politics, but can’t point out Moldova on a map, even though I’ve had wine from there that I enjoyed, and even though I like the way those deep Os force my tongue to the roof of my mouth, even though. Often, I pretend that I’m in charge. Of my schedule. Of my moods. Of anything.

My worst moments, the ones that cause me the most stress, the ones that derail me, are of not knowing. And that not knowing is what forces words, words like tar, to come spilling between my teeth and pouring from my mouth like a trap for white elephants. They're beasts that stomp around, get stuck in the mess, and call attention to my ignorance and anxiety, this while I float off—Dumbo with the blank look.

It's in this, in wanting to know everything and to know it with immediacy, that I ruin what it means to learn. In wanting to jump on top of Mount Know-It-All without making the climb, and probably without an icepick, but hopefully with a Gyllenhaal, I guarantee this landslide of chatter that after-the-fact makes me cringe. And that terrible feeling could be solved if instead of filling the gaps, I let them breathe. I take time to figure out what I mean and what I think. I sit the fuck down. Which is actually really hard because I don't have that many chairs. But for now I'll tackle this. Chairs (and other tasks) next week, thanks. 

In the meantime, here's to dispelling the dizziness of covering my inadequacies in a stuttered shawl. Here's to making eye contact with my lack-there-ofs. Here's to stepping back. Here’s to slowing down. 

Here’s to shutting up.