Today's fortune: Your kindness is surely to be repaid.
It's difficult to be kind when you're silent. It's difficult to be a human being when you're silent. The real world, the world of communication and gas stations and restaurants and cursing and chit chat, relies on talking. There's something seriously difficult and frustrating about not being able to speak out in the real world. Now I know why monks take vows of silences while living in monasteries, those lazy bastards.
I took a weekend-long vow of silence beginning at the stroke of midnight, and I've been silent now for eighteen hours. You wanna know the truth? This has been awful. This vow of silence is by far the hardest thing I've done associated with this project. No kidding.
Last night, Jamie and I saw a late-night movie. We knew the stroke of midnight would happen while the movie was still playing, so we checked our watches often to keep track. At 11:50 I kissed Jamie, and the last words I said were "I love you."
But after midnight, when the vow of silence began, something strange happened. My mouth began to hurt. My jaw ached because I couldn't speak. I didn't have anything at all to say, but I knew I couldn't say anything. The realization caused me physical pain.
It's been going downhill from there. Less than forty minutes after midnight, Jamie became exasperated with me. She pointed out there was a huge bug on the windshield of my truck., but I couldn't see it. I tried to ask her, using only my hands, if the bug was on the inside or the outside of the window. I couldn't get my point across. We came to an agreement shortly after that. "Don't try to mime anything to me if it's not absolutely necessary," Jamie said. What I wanted to say, but couldn't, was, "The necessity of my gestures would depend on what kind of bug that was."
During the night, apparently I talked in my sleep. Jamie reported that I said the word "Okay" out loud. I'm a little upset at myself for this, but hey, my subconscious didn't sign up for a vow of silence.
As we do most Saturdays, Jamie and I spent the afternoon with my parents and brother and sister-in-law. My brother Marty was relishing this day. He made a list of conversation topics based on the fact that I couldn't respond to them. He wore all the ugly clothes I always make fun of him for wearing, including the sneakers that look like bowling shoes. I just wish there was some way I could get back at him.
But everybody had a lot of fun with my vow (mostly at my expense). They all laughed at me when I had to point at the restaurant menu to order lunch. When the bill came, Marty said, "Matt, thanks for paying for everybody's meal; if you don't want to do that, just say so." Back at mom and dad's house, we played Pictionary, which works pretty well if you make the mute the designated drawer.
All in all, silence really sucks. I couldn't do all the little things that make the time pass more easily. I couldn't say all the dumb thoughts that came into my head, like "When they built that new Hy-Vee grocery store, why didn't they put in a gas station?" I couldn't point out the sign on the side of a landscaping truck that said "SCHRUB TRIMMING." I couldn't tell Marty he looked liked a dufus for wearing those shoes.
Even writing this post is difficult without talking. Usually whenever I write a sentence, I'll read it out loud to myself to see how it sounds, then I massage it and re-work it to make it flow more smoothly. Can't do that today.
But there are, of course, benefits to silence. At the beginning of this post I said it's difficult to be kind when you're not speaking. But when you don't speak, you can't interrupt someone. You can't put your foot in your mouth. You can't make someone feel small. Perhaps I avoided some unkindnesses today with my silence.
"Your kindness is surely to be repaid." The repayment for me today is the silence itself.