“Among my stillness was a pounding heart.” ―Shannon A. Thompson
At an early age, I noticed I couldn’t get certain words to come out of my mouth. I had thousands of consonants and sentences I needed to express, but they were trapped inside my head like an elevator full of anxious people.
Sometimes, though, I had to be still. I had to be silent. I had to use substitutes for the words I truly wanted to say. For example, instead of informing somebody I lived in Minnesota, I’d say something like, “I live in a city called Duluth.” Minnesota, apparently, had too many vowels, and I just couldn’t articulate the entire state at one time:
M I N N E S O T A
This language barrier caused embarrassment and humiliation for me. In the third grade, we were required to do an oral report on Death Valley. What if the kids laugh? What is I can’t get the words out? What if I fail, God forbid?
I can still hear myself stuttering, “Um, Um, D-D-Death V-Valley is the lo-loest point in N-North Am-m-merica.”
Yes, the kids laughed. They laughed hysterically and despicably until sweet, silver haired, Mrs. Anderson scolded them. “Now, go on, Kim, you’re doing fine.” To this day, even though I’ve not been to Death Valley, I know every single sweet detail about it.
At any rate…
What I couldn’t express completely, I wrote. I took notes and scribbled on tablets until the lined pages were overflowing with paragraphs, stanzas, unrecognizable dialogue, quotes, and short stories about my weird sister, the girls I despised in middle school, the neighbor’s Siamese cat, and my big fat- beautiful Italian family. I remember lying on my bubblegum colored carpet writing for hours upon hours.
And it felt damn good to release all of the crowded, crazy muses from my psyche.
After all these years, sometimes I find myself with A’s and W’s and M’s stuck inside my throat like dried up ink, like an accumulation of the alphabet all mixed up. I stutter and stammer when I can’t get the entire thought out at once. At times, when I’m on the phone, a ballpoint pen is ready to spell out Minnesota. This way, I can write it out as I’m speaking. For some strange reason, writing it out fully and saying it slowly works for me.
What I’m trying to say is this. If I’m quiet in your presence, don’t assume I’m stuck up, or snotty, or unknowledgeable about the subject. In all probability, I’m straitening out the vocabulary inside my jam-packed head so each sentence falls into place before I talk. I’m just being still for a moment.
Yeah, that’s what I’m probably doing.
—–Dear reader, how do you express yourself? How do you remain still?
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