The lost art of really listening to people. The secret to it is we communicated with our bodies. Open stances or closed stances, fiddling and looking away, shifting glances, wild gestures or uncomfortable arm crossing. The saying “Actions speak louder than words” is a lot of the time true. That’s why reading body language helps tell us when we are being lied to or how people really feel versus what they are saying. A good listener can see these things. A true listener can start to understand someone better by these things. Seeing how a person responds physically can communicate their insecurities and their confidences, the things they like and dislike, and also whether they are extremely selfish or are relaxed and loving. Someone who really listens can see right through people.
Then sometimes silence (or the lack of action) speaks louder than words. Whether that inaction is someone saying one thing and doing another or being completely passive and not communicating at all.
That’s why I wrote a song called “Silence is death”
I wrote this because the lack of communication is a huge scream in itself. Crying silently, suffering in silence, sighing silently. It’s all a way of showing a burden, communicating pain or indifference. Especially indifference. “The silent treatment” is a way to communicate my pain that doesn’t need words to describe it. Everyone knows what it is. Everyone understands why. It’s because sometimes the amount of weight I’m carrying inside me is boiling under my skin and its turning my eyes red and soggy, its breaking me so much I can’t even speak. Sometimes the silence is necessary because I’m screaming so loud on the inside I can’t bear to speak anymore. Or maybe its the opposite, maybe it’s because the world and people around me are so loud I can’t handle the noise anymore so I stopped trying and shut down. Maybe I’m too tired of this sick mess to speak anymore. Words fall short of the things I want to say.
This is why people say things like this:
“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
― Andrew Harvey
Sometimes its really hard to be bursting at the seems like this always. I take a chill pill and reseed into a happy numbness, which sometimes solves the problems and I start to see that I don’t have to hate and hurt from all the noise around me and inside me. I can let it out and in and breathe and be one with it or separate my self from it. Nothing is permanent. But I do wear my anger on my heart and not on my skin. I wear it on the inside where it festers and starts to boil again and I start my silence.
There’s a difference between serenity and being numb.
Communicating like this isn’t all there is though. Sometimes small talk and social interaction in the trivial pursuits can be a fueling ground for socialites or a draining all-consuming pit of terror. Sometimes I love to gossip and joke with my friends, and other times it tears me apart inside to hear idiotic and pointless words. I get so upset I give a silent tantrum and stop speaking to people.
‘Cause I’ve seen more spine on jellyfish
I’ve seen more guts in eleven year old kids
Have another drink and drive yourself home
I hope there’s ice on all the roads
And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt
And again when your head goes through the windshield
Is that what you call tact?
You’re as subtle as a brick
In the small of my back
So let’s end this call and end this conversation
My first time taking the ACT I was a sophomore in highschool, and its been three years since then and I believe whole heartedly I was a smarter person at that time because of four classes:
1. Latin 2 (Honors)
2. Classical and Medieval History (Gordon College Professor who is super awesome)
3. Classical Literature and Writing (Honors, taught by an ordained bishop, who also consequently is the smartest person I have ever met)
4. Geometry (With my mother who is an Engineer and it rocked)
These foundations are classical Greek and Roman foundations of education (plus add some philosophy and cultural anthropology for unbiased analysis reasons) and this is what I call the perfect lessons to prepare you to write a three page essay in under thirty minutes with organized ideas AND quotes from the literature/historical manuscripts that should be burned into your brain forever.
According to the the syllabus of my Classical Lit and History courses, I now can have a conversation with a student who has a masters in Classics or Literature very well.
I used a quote from Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola (Renaissance, Italian scholar and philosopher) for my essay on the ACT that I tied in to the importance of learning and intellectuality. (…this post is so entirely opposite from my last blog post my goodness.) This quote talked about the different parts of humanity and what they make a person appear like.
“When man came into life, the father endowed him with all kinds of seeds and with the germs of every way of life. Whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow and bear fruits in him. If these are vegetative, he will be like a plant; if they are sensual, he will become like the beasts; of they are rational he will become like a heavenly creature; if intellectual, he will be an angel and a song of God…. ” (The Oration on the Dignity of Man 1486)
So, to the ACT essay graders, I think I looked pretty damn hot 😉
Along with using quotes and being able to accurately tie them into the random subject you were given, you need to have a good idea of how you like to start your essays, or how to get yourself into a good writing mindset.
I usually try to use the page they give you to plan out your essay to write the first paragraph in. It gives you some idea of how you want to format the lay out, but not the entire thing, more the sound and rhythm of your essay. Colloquial or very formal, your essay should reflect how well you can store knowledge and apply it correctly and nicely to anything they throw at you. And they will throw you some strange questions that seem pretty stupid at first glance.
I’ve taken standardized tests for 3 years with essays tacked on them and it gets old really fast. Also, if you are taking a CLEP exam, remember to CITE the information they give you properly, it’s not just there for you to stare at contemplatively.
Another thing, use AWESOME vocabulary and use it in a tasteful way,
“Swivel chairs are too ridiculous for rambunctious kids who let their glee overwhelm them, tenaciousness can often upset pedantic teachers.” (This sentence is gross but do you understand how silly it sounds to have this many unusual vocabulary words in one sentence?)
You should use them like THIS:
“Good adjectives and adverbs should be used ubiquitously.” (This is a fair example because colloquial and gray words like “good” are not very useful descriptors(adjectives); they are subjective to someone’s biased point of view of “good”, but words such as “unseemly” (with other descriptions of WHY it is unseemly) is an approved adjective.)
If by any chance you are able to use a semicolon properly in a paragraph you will probably get good points. The quote I just used above is a good example of semicolons.
” Colons (:) are used in sentences to introduce that something follows like a quotation, example or a list. Semicolons (;) are used to join two independent clauses, to separate main clauses joined by a conjunctive adverb or to separate items in a list that already uses commas. “(Your Dictionary.com)
And some examples:
“With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say I have a great respect for the semi-colon; it’s a useful little chap.”
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”
I also HIGHLY recommend keeping a journal entry maybe not once a day, but at least twice a week to keep your mind flowing easily in writing; even if it is total nonsensical babble about school and drama it will help.
A young man, about 16 living in the suburbs of Union, New Jersey in the spring of 1969. His father’s a veteran from the great war, his mom appearing to be nothing but a pious Catholic house wife, and his friends an entirely uncharted world of pirates and seafaring adventures. In reality, he’s just another sophomore in highschool who is crushing on his next door neighbor, Annette, and journaling about his foibles.
I jumped out of my window onto what I thought was the soft grass, my knees cracked as I bent them, landing with a thud. I shook it off and walked around the line of bushes between her house and mine. She didn’t attack me in school today.
I looked around the bushes to her yard.
“Shh you’ll wake my ma!” I said and I started walking around the bush crouched down so my head couldn’t be seen.
“Oh shush,” Roozbeh said while he and Luke popped their heads from out of the trash barrels.
“You stink,” I said.
Luke wore a bandana over his nose and mouth. “Affirmative,” he saluted lazily.
“Cap’m, I spy ye a fair maiden, yonder window, twelve o’clock!” Roozbeh whispered.
We stood at attention, I huddled near the bushes behind the barrels.
“It’s Annette!” I said without whispering.
“Get down dammit!” Roozbeh pushed on my head.
She looked both ways out her window, then she look down. A rope ladder swung out from the bottom of the window and her head disappeared.
“She coming down!” Luke said.
“Cap’m! Retreat!” Roozbeh gestured with official battle hand warning to get out of the barrels.
Her legs popped out the window and timidly took the rungs. Then her full body. She was wearing overalls.
Roozbeh and Luke gave up on me and ran to my yard but I stood very still. This was it.
“Annette!” I said.
She jolted, the rungs of the rope ladder thudding against the house loudly.
“Agh, no.” I pulled on my hair and scratched.
She set eyes on me and run off the ladder, slapping me across the face. “Damnit James Madison, do you have any idea what a light sleeper my Pa is? Do you? And what the hell are you doing in my yard?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just – I just- I was out ya know – and then I saw you- so I waited. Why are you wearing-”
She put her warm hand over my mouth. “Shush, come this way.”
Annette lead me by the hand to her back yard which lay at the edge of the woods in the corner adjacent to my yard. A small gap where her fence of bushes thinned and the boards in my wooden fence were rotted off highlighted a little door between our yards I had never known about before.
“In here,” she said and slid into the shack.
She pulled me with her and we stood in the dark cramped space. I bumped my calf against her dad’s ride on tractor and it scraped the skin under my trousers.
She turned a camping light on and closed the shutters.
“Hi,” Annette said, she leaned up against the workbench and crossed her arms.
“Hi,” I said, and dug my hands into my pockets.
“Why were you looking at my window?” she said.
“Why were you climbing out of your window?”
“Because I like going out at night to—to be out,” she huffed.
“Because!” I got a scowl from her. “Now answer my question.”
“I was with Roozbeh and Luke, and they were hiding in your trash barrels waiting for me.” Oh sweet Jesus, that sounded horrible.
“Roozbeh Badie and Luke Winger were hiding in my trash barrels? What the hell were they doing?”
“Well we play this sort of game where Luke’s the captain and—“
“You were playing a game in my trash barrels? You have got to be….” She let out a sigh. “Whatever, keep going.” She pushed some loose hair away from her face. “Uh, you’re staring,” she said eyebrows raised.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, um spaced out. So Luke’s the captain, Roozbeh is Chief mate and I’m Third mate. And we were on a mission, I think, can’t remember why.”
“What’s Third mate?” Annette asked and looked at her dads tractor between us.
“It’s the guy that does the navigation stuff on a boat,” I said. “He’s the one that gets to drive the ship and command people where to pull the rigging when he has to do a maneuver in the water.”
“Oh right, cool.”
“Actually, I’m pretty sure we have to complete our mission, you wanna come?” Jesus Christ she is gonna think I’m like a fifth grader. I can’t believe-
“Sure,” she said and started around the tractor towards me.
“Oh. Okay,” I turned and we bumped into each other trying to get out of the shack.
“Sorry!” I said as I accidently pushed her into the other door, rattling it.
“Ouch, you jerk.” She pushed my shoulder and I hit the other door and tumbled outside. I got up and brushed myself off.
“I really am-”
“Shut up, now where’s your ship?”
I straightened and soluted without thinking. “Aye aye, this way.”
She looked at me sideways and shook her head, but followed me.
We walked across the street and through the neighbor’s yard over to the other street parallel to ours, entering into Luke’s back yard. His tree house had a small light coming out of it.
“Up there,” I said and pointed to the ladder.
She started climbing. After she went about 4 rungs up, I started to climb behind her.
“A hoy!” Luke said out one of the windows. He gasped. “You brought her!”
“It’s bad luck to have a woman on board!” Roozbeh popped out of the opposite window.
“Too bad,” she said “I’m already up.” She brushed off her overalls and went through the door into the small house. I went in behind her.
She sat on the bench in the corner and I took my chair around the stool we used as a table.
“Now gentlemen… and lady, this is a trust test.” Luke had a paper napkin sticking out of his left nostril. “I’m going to light this, and the first one to blow it out before the fire catches my nose will be the new captain!”
Roozbeh and I sat on the edges of our seats but Annette burst into laughter on her bench. “You have got to be kidding me. You are gonna burn your face off!” she said.
“Not if Roozbeh and Jmad do their part!”
“What if they don’t?” she said.
“They will, one of them will,” he adjusted the paper napkin in his nose.
“What if I do it?”
“You’re a girl! You can’t be captain,” Luke said. “Only men can be captain.”
“We’ll see.” She sat back, and waited. “You gonna light it or am I gonna have to?”
“I got it, I got it.” Luke flicked the lighter, but his hand shook. He flicked the lighter on the napkin, it caught fast and started burning. “I’m not finking out, promise.”
I sat still, waiting to grab it. Did I want to be captain? Third mate isn’t exactly a powerful position on a boat, but a third mate who has mutinied is a dangerous person on a ship.
“Grab it! Someone!” Luke was sweating, and clenching his fists.
Roozbeh lunged, but I took my chance too and both of us butted heads and toppled over the stool between us.
Luke shrieked and Annette pulled out the flamey napkin and stomped on it. “There, I’m captain, now go get some ice and vaseline Luke. You’re all show and no go,” she said and went for the door.
“You can’t be captain!!” Luke wailed and cradled his burnt nose.
“Beat feet sucker!” Roozbeh yelled. He looked back at Luke and saw through his fingers at the burn. “Damn that napkin really laid a patch on you man.”
“Stop your lip flapping and go ape on that girl!” Luke yelled.
“Sorry man, but I ain’t wasting my time on that paper shaker,” Roozbeh said.
I looked at the ashes on the floor. “I’ll find her.”
I climbed down the ladder and saw her run through the woods. I ran after her and easily caught up.“Hey, stop!” I said. She didn’t.
“I’m not on the hook for this one, Jmad, now go home.”
“I am going, we both have to go this way.”
She slowed down then, breathing heavily. I steadied myself to her speed and we walked in silence till we were in front of our houses.
“I’ll see you at school,” I said.
She looked at me in a way my sister would when she thought I did something stupid. “Goodnight James Madison.”
“Goodnight Annette Parker.”
I am really not myself.
I miss me from back in 2010 and 2011.
I was so happy, carefree, and I had so much clean fun.
I didn’t care what people thought of me at all. I just loved myself and loved people and never gave second glances to things.
I wish it was like that now.
People affect me and change me and I feel like I’ve lost a lot of myself from this. I lost some of my wittiness. I lost my individuality even though it still looks like I got it.
All this integration has brought me away from who I am. Who I used to be. Who I want to be.
Maybe its just teen angst. Maybe its just me changing? Maybe I am just fucked up?
I don’t know.
At least I can be proud of myself for having A LOT of self-control. I still haven’t gotten into addictions or any hardcore bad experimental stuff that could get me into deep shit.
Pretty wise statement. Especially when you realize that giving yourself fully doesn’t mean it’s going to be accepted or reciprocated.
A lot of unrequited love about these parts….
Not even close, say my sources.