The Sounds of Silence

"Fie, fie upon her! There's language in her eye, her cheek, her lip, Nay, her foot speaks; her wanton spirits look out At every joint and motive of her body." - William ShakespeareIt is Sunday morning and William Shakespeare’s birthday. Yesterday Washington was host to a passionate march for science. Though I support the cause, I am extremely uncomfortable in crowds so I observed from afar while tweeting solidarity.

I began today with a three-mile walk. Still brisk out, barely 50°, few people were up and about as I made my way to the Adams Morgan neighborhood, ending at Tryst, a coffee shop I particularly enjoy. There was a time, not too long ago, I would have avoided Adams Morgan and all the memories it evokes. It is where my ex-wife and I lived the first five years of our marriage, where we magically metamorphosed from a couple to a family with the addition of two daughters. (Number three came two years later.) Tolstoy wrote “the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” True dat. While I still mourn much of that which is no longer part of my life, I’m now able to mourn without being overwhelmed by soul -crushing sadness.

I’ve made mention of the fact that I often notice what is being “said” without words. I devoted two different posts to specifically to the subject, Hearing Aids and Listening, A Visual Art. My point being, I feel like I have a gift for the subtle.

My gift was not the result of hard work, book-learning, or some other effort on my part. It is just who I am. Interpreting nonverbal signs can be rewarding and risky.  When it is purely observational, where I have no vested interest it is a fun exercise. Watching a cashier and her conversation with the guy in front of me, for instance. Even then I have penchant for mind-reading, i.e., hypothesizing beyond the evidence available and deducing what is really going on. Harmless fun with strangers. Not so much when it matters.

The danger slash challenge is my affinity for projecting how someone will react to what I am thinking, based on how I’d react if I were them. One of my deepest sources of shame is feeling I’ve disappointed the people most important to me. My father, my ex-wife, and daughters. It is that shame which led me to feel “broken.” With the disappointment filtering my perspective, my interpretation of nonverbal signs becomes less a gift and more a curse. Mind-reading is a tricky business as it turns out.

So, the balancing act I am now engaged in is to break the mind-reading habit without ignoring the different ways people express their feelings. I hope this doesn’t sound too abstract. A good example may be children who are extremely adept at reading nonverbal signs. Often when entering a stressful situation they sense stress and respond accordingly, without a word spoken.

I don’t really have a neat, tidy way to end this post. When I started writing I was going to contrast my attention to the subtle with  my feeling I often miss the obvious, an ironic emotional conundrum to say the least. But then I got so wrapped up in mind-reading and decided to jjust let it flow.

Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.

P.S. I Love Lucy on the art of nonverbal communications

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