Sep 19, 2014

A Silent Challenge

Yesterday, I read the combined blogposts written by Cody Kennedy and Timmy Ashton—and they blew me away.

And when I leaned back and tried to get my bearings again, I knew, deep inside, that I had to take Timmy up on his challenge to not speak for a whole day. At all. Just use pen and paper, body language, and/or sounds, but no words.

You see, they both wrote about not talking. Not having speech as a tool. See Cody’s words here, and Timmy’s words here—more eloquent guys are difficult to find, which makes it all the more amazing to try to step into their shoes, if just for one day.

Now, I know full well that I can never understand what it is like to not be able to speak to the people who surround me. To only be able to write or sign (to those who understand sign language). I will never be able to step into those shoes, because, let’s face it: when I need to talk I can just. Talk.

So what happened with this challenge? 
After eighteen hours of this silence I am exhausted.
And so very appreciative of what Cody and Timmy and lots of other people go through every day.
I still have six hours to go, and I can’t wait to be done. I am sad, and feel insecure, and I just want to go to my bed and pull my blankets up around my nose and wait for tomorrow.
And yet. Everyone I met was nice, more or less. Some were a bit obnoxious, like the woman who started to speak LOUDER at me, when she read my note saying that I didn’t speak. As if that was any part of the problem.

Let me take you by the hand, and lead you through my day. 
It started with me writing good morning to mr anna and then scribbling Have a good day, see you later. It felt completely empty. Mr anna is a good sport, so I got a kiss and a smile, and then I was on my own.
 I am a technical translator, and I work from my home office, but I had to divert four business phonecalls to texting Skype chats instead of speaking with my clients directly, and three were okay with it, the fourth said he had no time for bullshit, and hung up. Well, goodbye, buddy, I don’t want to work for you anymore, anyhow.

Procrastination. Why, yes.
Then I realized that I was procrastinating, trying to find things to do in the office, to avoid going out and interacting with people. And this was the first sign that something was different, indeed. I have never hesitated to go out and seek contact before.

“I do not speak” 
I got in my car, and drove to a mall nearby, I was thinking McDonalds, some fries and a coke. I can honestly say that I have never been that nervous waiting to order anywhere before. Lunch hour rush, and there I was, standing in line with my note pad and pen.

My first scribble was “I do not speak”. 

I showed the young woman this, and she smiled, and said “Sure thing! Hello!” That seriously made me tear up a little bit, she was so nice. Casual.

“PREGO: You’re welcome”
Then I showed her my note for the food I wanted, ending my order with, “Please.” She turned on her heel, took off and got my stuff together, told me how much it was, gave me my money back, and then asked for my note pad.

She wrote “You’re welcome” at the bottom of my order.

I smiled so wide I thought my face was going to crack in two. After finishing my snack, I waved at her, and got a smile back, even though she was very busy.

But that was a false start
to my challenge. The next stop wasn’t going to be that much fun. At the cosmetics shop (OMG, right? I never go into those) the girl got very nervous when I showed her my note that I don’t speak. It made her speak louder at me, as if that was my problem, that I didn't hear well. At first, she wanted to help me, and then she just ended up ignoring me. At the checkout she didn’t make any eye contact at all, filled my small bag up with samples without any explanation, like she wanted to give me all the stuff if I would only get out of her store.

It was deeply unsettling.

Fashion store and Anna—not a good mix
I took a deep breath before entering a fashion store next. Two clerks circled around me at once, all smiles. I gesticulated, to let them know them I just wanted to look around, and then showed them my note saying that I don’t speak. The both dropped off like I was contagious.
Not even a smile.
No small talk.
No, “Look around and let us know if you need any help.”
No nothing.
Not even a wave in response to mine when I exited the shop. They ignored me completely.

It made me really, really angry. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to that store.

“A tepid cappuccino, please.”
Time for coffee
Thinking I might be ready for a coffee at that point, I headed over to the corner bar. Same procedure, I showed her that I don’t speak, and then scribbled “A tepid cappuccino, please.”
I got it, and together with the change she gave me an Italian “corno,” a stupid, little, red plastic horn, which supposedly brings luck to the superstitious. I guess she really thought I needed it.

My cappuccino was steaming hot, and I burned my palate. Made me very upset.

I was changing
I was just done with the mall. I noticed myself changing, with every minute of this Not-Speaking-thing. I noticed I stopped making eye contact, to avoid having to answer a potential question. Or, not answer it, as it were.
I became shy, avoiding, wanting to go home.
Not me at all. Scary thing is, it took only about an hour to get me to this point.

At the stables
So I pushed myself to go to my stables, to friends, and my sweet horse, Moro. The one close friend I have there already knew that I was going to do this challenge, so that felt good, like I’d have an ally there.
Of course, shit always happens, it blows up in your face, because she wasn’t there, and the people who were there, are the ones I don’t much like to interact with even on a good day. So when they saw my note, there was endless riling and giggles, and one of the older guys (of course, one of the men) said to the others, “Well, that was to be expected, stupid foreigner that she is. What an idiotic thing to do, stop talking just for fun.”

I was fuming. But nothing I could say (even had I used my voice) would have made any difference what so ever with those guys, so I took off, out into the paddoks to see Moro. He saw me from far away, and came running. I think maybe I cried a little bit in relief. There are many emotions hidden in the manes of horses, safely guarded.
We took a walk together where he could get a bite of fresh, green grass, and I could feel connected again.
Thank DOG for horses.

After an hour with Moro, I was feeling more like myself again, because this is one soul who never expects words from me, who never wants my voice, who just is happy to be by my side. It is healing to be with him. As I drove away from the stables, I thought about my two cats waiting for me to come home, and again, thank DOG for cats.

Six hours left
Now I’m waiting for mr anna to get home in a couple of hours, and a silent dinner and evening. I know he has an online game lined up tonight, so me, I’m probably going to be chatting with YOU guys!

So thankful for you all. So thankful for my voice, because this has been one of my worst days in a long time.

I cannot even begin to say how much I admire you two, Cody and Timmy, for living this, for surviving this, day in and day out. And I am more than ever determined to be the voice of those who have none.

It is also my responsibility to make sure all voices are heard.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How about you? Are you ready for a challenge like this?