“I am going to go home and write,” said the tearful woman in the hospital bed. I didn’t catch her name, but I understood her feeling. Somehow, the woman had just faced something frightening, her own mortality. Now, she was about to use her own written words to reclaim herself.
It happens all the time now — people saying they will try writing to express feelings that for so long have been silent. In this case, the woman’s husband had spent many years at her side. Now, it was possible that he would be learning things about her that he didn’t know — her words capturing a story untold.
I spent much of my life that way, feeling disconnected from people who spoke louder and more powerfully. I was the timid one, keeping my thoughts to myself. I was unheard at our family dinner table, unheralded in my high school classes, increasingly disconnected from a world of discourse. I feared it would always be that way for me, a loser in life and in love, because words were not easy for me.
Then on my own, I discovered that my words identified hope and fear, helping me understand the adolescent chaos around me. I realized that I had important things to say, even though no one was listening. To give names to my feelings was to validate myself, whether or not others understood. That part of the equation — connecting with others — came with practice.
It took my first radio job to teach me that principle of connection. I had a crush on singer Julie London and often played her vinyl records. The problem was that I had turned down the volume on my own microphone. The consequence was endless streams of Julie’s song interrupted by lapses of silence.
“Are you trying to say something, boy?” a listener inquired.
That is when I discovered my technical mistake. No microphone volume meant no Dave. Turnng up the volume on myself, I could give context to the beautiful singer.
“Coming up next on Valley of the Flowers radio is the velvet voice of the mistakable Julie London singing, “Cry Me a River.”
I realized that I suddenly had the power to say something relevant about her, though I was somewhat uninformed. The point is that I had just learned the power of communication through the force of broadcasting.
It applies as well to everyday life. Through my writing, I have identified the many shadows of my life that as a child had frightened me. Now, there are no longer those foreboding pockets under my bed. I am happy, because I am whole.
That is why I told the woman in the hospital to go home and write. I would love to see what emerges from her mind. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter. She has claimed a part of her own being that he had not recognized before.
So, I wish her years of good health and beautiful words. I am sure that both are within her.
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, www.davespeople.com.