when there are no words to fill the silences


We got one of those nothing assignments today. Write a couple of paragraphs about your plans and your dreams. Startling fact about me: I don’t have dreams. Maybe because I’m not a planner.

Yes, I have vague ideas of what I might like to do. Sometimes I have to sit down and think about it because there are decisions that have to be made. But I don’t plan. I’m impetuous and uninvested in the future. That’s why I don’t clean well or eat well or sleep enough. Because honestly it’s hard for me to conceptualize tomorrow, let alone work it into my decision making.

My whole life I had it firmly in my mind that I would not live to see sixteen. I couldn’t tell you where that came from, but it was there. I remember we stayed up all night until my birthday arrived, in that wickedly hot and humid room at science camp, of all places. And the numbers flipped on my phone and I had the thought “well what do I do now?”

I had no plans for that. And I still stay up more nights than I let on, not sure what to do as the clock bleeds into another day.

“We thank you for another day, not promised” She used to start all of her Sunday morning prayers that way. And when she died, I remember it meant so much. I hung on to it, and I whisper it often at three in the morning. The first part occasionally comes out almost sarcastic, or like I’m talking myself into it.

Sometimes you’re not ready to write the book. I get a new journal and I hyperventilate a little because there are so many pages. I have never filled a whole book. I probably never will.

It makes me think of Dolores Umbridge and her pen that writes with your blood. And it all feels like blank pages and it takes absolutely everything that is inside of me to fill them with words.

Is it worth it? That’s what I’d like to hear. I want to know that the drunken words I’m scrawling on this page can become something.

“with ink welled from divine veins”

And it’s Propaganda again, reminding me that the cost didn’t have to be mine.

But right now. I’m not even trying to write a book. Or a journal. I need a paragraph. Dreams. Plans.

I have a dreamcatcher on my window that I made when I was six. We wrote down a dream and wove the cord around it. Mine said, rather boldly “I dream I will lose my other front tooth before the weekend. It is loose”. Aim high and all that. Maybe I can write this paragraph about how I am hoping to recover from this cold.

There is a slight lightening at my temples as the Tylenol PM kicks in. The words swim for a second and then I’m checking my email for the first time in a week. And the inbox is screaming at me with bold black and little red exclamation points and my head is lighter than I remembered. It’s one more thing I didn’t plan for, I didn’t do. It’s a whole semester of little boxes in a planner that are asking me to fill them with life and joy and meaning and purpose. And it feels like it will cost me everything. Without meaning to, I fall asleep.

The nap makes me late for the Steve Jobs movie. Which is so full of dreams and meaning and motivation. I’m smacking my head against the wall and wondering if I’m hiding in this degree. If I’m trying to force things into my days because it keeps the absence at arm’s length.

And I don’t have answers. I write a paragraph about kids and PT and I can picture it as a chapter in someone else’s life. I write it that way.

But sometimes the little boxes in the planner feel like a ghost town, and I cannot fathom a situation in which I will actually inhabit them.

 She died, the one who used to thank God for another day not promised. Did I mention that? Out of nowhere. It was really sad, and we all wished it could have been someone else. Because she had plans and family and this life. I wrote her a letter, and put it in the box at the funeral home, the one on the fake fireplace. I think I apologized that it was her and not me. It’s hard to remember. But Good Lord, she had so much to live for.

I hate the silence. It’s heavy and it tends to press. It needs to be filled with words.

The future is a silence. Some days I think I will lose my mind…




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