Danielle Laporte is awesome!
I’m new to her camp, although I’ve known about her for a while. I’ve read her stuff and have been on the fence. That is usually what happens with me. I’ll read someone’s blog and consider it and them and then step away. Mind you, I don’t read many people’s blogs to begin with. I barely edit mine, which means I’m hardly reading anyone else’s thoughts, but still, every once in a while, I’ll come across someone who writes and writes passionately and from the heart and we click. We join forces, unknown to them, and I read and read and read. I may not post or share my opinions on their writing, but I’ll read and share among my friends and on facebook, hoping that those same words strike a chord with them, too.
Anyhow, Danielle Laporte didn’t resonate with me at first. Not to mention, I was still floating on my Chris Guillebeau high, and couldn’t add more to my brain and heart at the time. But recently Danielle has popped back into my world. I’ve been reading bits of her blog and I follow her on Twitter and well, today, I signed up for her newsletter so that I don’t miss a beat. I think that she, like Chris, have gotten to my core. They have reached that place where I will take time and read their words because they are like lotion to the body after a shower. They are a salve to my soul. They get me.
In a first, I am going to respond to Danielle’s “Burning Questions Series” question from last week, “What’s Your Relationship To Silence?”. She provides some great quotes about silence and they definitely got me thinking to the point where I want to answer the question myself because I learned an important lesson about silence a few years ago and it relates directly to my business, S2 Stationery and design.
I am a great communicator. At least I like to think of myself as one. I like to communicate and over-communicate. In fact, I have always preferred over-communication to silence.
That fear of no communication has always been an amazing thing. It keeps me curious (how is that for a positive spin?). See, my need to communicate has led me to outlets that communicate my need to communicate. It has introduced me to countless new people and activities that I might never have explored. In my youth, there was more than now – belly dancing, Bhangra Indian dancing, and kickball. It lead me to my brief stint with guitar lessons and eventually into marathon running – but I do still find myself signing up for classes and activities to not just learn, but to continue communicating.
In every activity that I’ve done, I’ve asked my friends to join me. I’ve invited them to kickball games and drinking afterward; marathon cheering (NYC) and fundraising events, not to mention the emails I sent weekly asking for donations; nobody saw me Bhangra Indian dance, but I did invite friends to belly dancing shows, when I was part of one. In all of this, I also made friends, many of whom are still good friends to this day, even with separation and various life stages, and so communication continued.
And then something big happened.
My dad died. For the first time I felt loss in a profound way and I didn’t know how to handle it. So I communicated. That night, I sat at my computer and wrote an email that stated my dad has passed away, but glossed over it and instead focused on the marathon and raising the last $800. I should have known then that I was in denial.
Anyhow, the outpouring of condolences and concern from friends, not to mention the donations, was overwhelming and it let me know that I was not in fact alone. But I still felt alone and it pushed me toward silence. I would sit in various places around my mother’s apartment sitting with my dad’s sweatshirt covering me in tears, but silent.
When I returned to NYC after his passing, I was a mess and I never wanted to be alone. I would seek out my aunt and cousins to be surrounded even though I would end up sitting in the room alone, crying. It wasn’t until one afternoon, after brunch, where I called my cousin in a fit because I hadn’t wanted to be alone, but I didn’t want to go anywhere either that she said to me, “take a nap and when you wake up see how you feel. Then you can come over.” I ended up reading an amazing article about allowing yourself to feel instead of filling yourself with ways to avoid your thoughts and feelings and then falling half-asleep on a bench outside of my apartment. I listened to the kids playing basketball and the people walking by and the birds chirping and I cried and breathed and was silent. It balanced me in a way I needed and it allowed me to go home and bake and cook a feast for myself. It reminded me of my 15 days traveling around Italy where I truly learned about silence.
I spent almost the entire trip to Italy alone – days on trains, walking through cities I did not know, hiking volcanoes that are still deadly and even riding a ricady swing up a hill, thinking I was going to fall out and die- with my thoughts and feelings. Yes, I ran the marathon with friends and met people and talked to them and developed friendships that still three years later are friendships, but I learned for the first time to listen to myself in the silence. To turn off the ipod and my brain and really listen to how and what I was feeling. By doing that I found my strength and purpose.
I’ve shared plenty of times my story about how my business came to be – the dream in Cinque Terre, Italy – and it bears repeating because S2 Stationery and Design owes it’s origin in silence. It was the silence of the night, but the voice of my dream that has me three years down the road as a risk taking entrepreneur and a stationer. On a personal note, I owe my appreciation for silence to my dad and to the loneliness and silence my heart felt and still does feel even now.
There are moments, three years later, where I’m carrying to much, or feel too busy and I take note that I’m not getting enough silence. It drives me to madness! The girl who three years ago couldn’t stand silence, is now the woman who craves silence; who needs it more than communication.
In fact, my communication now is with intent. I want to still communicate my feelings and yes, I do still over-communicate, but I want to make sure that I’m communicating the full meaning of my feelings. I no longer just want to communicate to communicate.
Which brings me to the greatest lesson of all – silence is sometimes the best communication. It is the greatest and the hardest. As an over-communicator, when I don’t hear from someone, especially someone I WANT to hear from, I take it as negative, but the truth is sometimes it’s nothing more than the best. Sometimes it means that that person, that friend, doesn’t need to share everything with you. I have learned that sometimes silence says it all. It is the unspoken bond between two people. For many who have never experienced this, or don’t quite feel comfortable with themselves in silence, they won’t understand and they may even fight you on it. Those who have felt loss and know the importance of soul searching and seeking and having the phoenix rise from those ashes know that silence is not just a great form of communication, but of learning and comfort, as well.
Of course, it can also be negative, but I think the words the other party and you exchange when you do communicate verbally will tell you that the silence you receive on the other end is not the best kind and does in fact mean you should move on and away. Yet, even in that, there is a positive. It means that you can soldier on toward the next adventure striving for the balance of communication that is both gently spoken and silent.
So Danielle, the short of my answer is that silence is my relationship with silence is comfortable. It is when I feel closest to myself and humanity. It’s also when I feel the most whole and balanced. It’s when I think the best and feel the most free.
I encourage everyone to embrace their silence. You may just discover your best relationships and the next best business idea! If not, maybe you’ll just discover who you are as a person and that’s the best gift silence can give you.