Music and Silence

Here’s a SoundCloud link so you can listen rather than read.

One of my favorite pieces of music is “4’33” by John Cage. People think that it is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, and that’s minimizing its power. It probably doesn’t make sense on a recording, but live, it’s incredible. The piece is not written so that the silence is the point. No. The music is the environment of the room in which it’s being performed. Every time it’s programmed, it looks a little different.

It also puts classical music on its head. Other pieces require you to be quiet. You still shouldn’t talk, but the music is in movement- dropped pens, unwrapping a cough drop, patting a toddler on the back. I’m generally cold, so my contribution is generally rubbing my hands like it’s the start of Toto’s “Africa.” Admittedly, it is “cheating,” because I am the rhythm section of something that’s supposed to be completely random. I feel like the ringer in the crowd. Again, silence is not the point. I have had people tell me to stop. The problem is that I am not a ringer on purpose. I really am that cold. More than once have I been called “Leslie No-Blood.”

Cold, though, is relative.

I will take being physically cold a lot better than someone being emotionally cold to me. For instance, caring about your reaction to my feelings more than you care that what you’re doing is hurting me. At that point, I don’t care what anyone thinks. It isn’t right for me to keep saying I’ll go along with thinking that your feelings are more important than mine. Then, it’s not a relationship. Healthy ones mean that sometimes my problem is more important than yours, and sometimes your problem is more important than mine… but no matter, we’ll attack either and it’s easier when both minds are on it.

However, if one person puts the other in the position of “your feelings don’t matter,” the relationship doesn’t deserve to survive. Until now, I have been the person who already thinks her feelings don’t matter. I will never again let it be reinforced by another. I have let people (particularly women) emotionally vampire me for years. They use me as their dumping ground because I’m willing to listen. I seemingly have a jackass magnet on my forehead, because nearly everyone I’ve ever met has wanted to tell me their life story whether I was interested or not.

One of my friends told me that I should be CIA because I was good at gleaning information. I’m really not. I’m just empathetic to the point of losing myself and people naturally let it spill because they feel safe. I don’t create an environment to be The Little Gray Man. I’m just capable of saying “there, there.” I have a feeling that if I *was* CIA, it would be under Napoleon’s instructions: “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Why go out of my way to get information out of people when they’ll just give it to me?

20-30% of the time, it’s great. The rest of the time, people are quite invasive of my space and have no problem stealing my emotional energy without thinking I might want it back. People allow me to refill when I can talk to them in the same way. It’s just that most of the people who have talked to me (generally on the bus or train when I’m in public, anyway) have no idea that it’s been 20 minutes and I haven’t said a word. Not only that, they haven’t even taken a breath long enough to give me an opening. It’s “hello,” big emotional dump, walk away. I allowed it because that’s what I’ve always been taught. Being good was not needing anything. Taking up so little space was a bad thing.

Now, I feel like there have been some instances of overcorrection, but I have learned something important. Extremely important. The only people that will test you on needing anything are the people who have benefitted from your silence. If they were getting something out of you being a friend, yet never speaking up, they’ll be so mad. Let them be mad. They’ll either get over it or they won’t, and that’s not up to you.

Brene Brown says that vulnerability is showing up to a conversation without being able to control the outcome. I haven’t allowed many of those people in my life because I didn’t think I deserved them. It was natural for my feelings not to matter, so why wouldn’t I let people steamroll over me as if I don’t exist?

I “all of the sudden” seem very selfish for needing anything at all. It’s not that. It’s that when you ignore me, I’ll get louder because your ears are clogged. If you don’t listen even then, it’s time to pack up. I can only do what I can do. The one thing I have never been able to do before now is stop the bleeding. I would just let other people use up every emotional resource I needed to use for myself because obviously, they were more deserving of it.

I am not saying that I am always blameless for everything. It’s impossible. At times, I’m excellent at being the world’s biggest asshole with a God complex. My only point here is that I come by it honestly. If I tell you in plain voice how I’m feeling and it’s ignored, if you don’t mean anything to me, I’ll walk away. If you do, I will repeat what I said until you acknowledge. At this point, no matter how much I care about you, I’m out. If I am putting myself out there as someone who is taking care of you, I will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure we have equal airtime. If your idea of equal airtime is that we both spend the majority of the time thinking about you, I will call it early.

Before, I would just stuff everything down. I would spend years being unhappy because that’s what I thought I deserved. With the set of relationships I’ve been talking about in the last few entries, they are all people to whom I have spilled my guts. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a place to go with my feelings. The entire problem with all of them is that when I expressed the fact that there was a problem in our relationship, they wanted to minimize, move past it, or institute a monster avoidance policy.

It’s just not worth it to go into the minutiae of who did what to whom, but I will say that all of them benefitted from me listening to their problems, but when I spilled mine, there couldn’t be a discussion. All the time they spent talking about their problems was good and wanting them to talk about our problems was bad.

All of the music would get sucked out of the room, leaving me in absolute quiet. I could think about our problems on my own. Laying them out was also problematic. Most people are intimidated by the depths to which I feel emotion. Most people don’t know how they feel as easily as I do, and are not capable of putting it into words off the cuff. I have compassion for that, because INFJ personalities are only 9-15% of the world’s population. Very few people deal in emotions the way I do…. Meaning I am not arrogant enough to think that I am more emotionally intelligent than others. I can bring the receipts, but you wouldn’t know it unless you’re asking for them. People do think I’m arrogant, though, just for being me. I know how I feel and express it well. I am also female, which lends itself to my arrogant reputation whether it is true or not.

….because men are visionaries whether they have the letters to prove it or not. I just have resting bitch face. Best not interrupt a man who can’t tell shit from Shinola. He needs all the brainpower he can get.

Speaking of my arrogant reputation, it is non-existent to everyone except the people I’ve let have power over me and now want to be an equal…. Especially those who don’t feel there’s a balance of power issue at all. Why would there be? If you already have it all, why would you give it up? Why would you complain when there’s not a problem for you. Both of us love you to pieces.

Women taking back their power always looks like arrogance, even to other women, because they’ve all been programmed to think we shouldn’t need anything. Someone breaking out of that mold is not to be trusted. I think it’s a large part of the problem in female leadership. Men aren’t used to women demanding things, especially when their performance is poor. They’re not bad at their jobs, you are a threat. It’s amazing how often HR thinks the same way.

I think the reason women in lesbian relationships are less willing to play is that they don’t have to deal with men’s shit at home. They are all at once the problem and woefully unprepared to deal with it on two levels. The first is that they don’t understand why things are the way they are. The second is that they are powerless to do anything about it.

Even if I was the CEO, some of my male employees would think I was worthless at it because I got it through some type of nepotism, whether from my husband or the collection of men I had to sleep with to get the job. I like the second option better, because I’ve had so many relationships with women that the idea of “sleeping my way to the top” is just too ridiculous not to laugh. They don’t put enough women loving women in power for that to be an achievable goal whether I was interested or not (I’m not).

Speaking of women loving women, someone called me out on my straight girl crush when I said, “don’t think I don’t know what I lost” by saying, “she’s straight. You were never in the game.” I’m glad they called me out, because that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean that I lost a romantic relationship, because it was clear from the start that was never going to happen. I meant the complete idiocy it was to lay it out there in the first place, because then I was an untrusted entity and all the work we’d done previously was down the drain. You would have to know how important friendship is to me to know how seriously I mean that. My platonic relationships aren’t less important than my romantic ones. I feel deeply no matter what, which is why I only have two or three friends. I don’t have the emotional capacity to lay out that kind of energy for everyone, so I don’t.

What happens is, in effect, putting on a recording of 4’33 and grabbing onto the music in the room. It’s always there, humming, pulsating, rhythm on fire…. But fire is quiet when couched between music and silence. I have to find it, though. Else I’ll just rub my hands in the cold.


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