by Ado Aminu
Silence is golden, they say, until it staunch the tide of welling emotions that will otherwise have trickled manageably, drip by small drips, bringing delicate release and no more.
I have been silent for most of my growing up and then grown years. My nanny (rest her soul) will tell it if she were here; of how I could not close my mouth long enough to swallow a morsel and have it land in my stomach, I was back to talking the millisecond that morsel is past my airways, so my silence came later, in my early teens. At a time when most children were finding their voices, oft-rebellious, I closed off, not because I’d said all that I needed to say, nor because I’d exhausted my interest in speech, but because for the first time I’d come to appreciate the delicate balance between the right to self-expression and inevitability of bearing consequences for said right being exercised in a way deemed untoward by a majority.
My childhood ramblings had solidified and taken the shape of strong contrarian opinions that would have made me no friends, so I chose to shut up instead. But it was a disingenuous remedy, like a band-aid over a shattered bone, it made show of staunching something, but did in reality no more than hold back for a heartbeat the inevitable gushing release that will color my early twenties.
I would subsist on silence for 9 years, with occasional outbursts of emotions at the most inopportune moments. But I would discover speech again, and in so doing destroy the dam that had held back a billion festering words.
When I came back to speech it took hold of me like demonic possession, and I would ramble for the first few years, lunging from a conversation about the weather into the entirely unrelated topic of female underwear and bikini line razors!
For the longest time I made spaces awkward when in an attempt to contribute, I drop an off-topic point so foul it shoots the conversation off kilter for seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity. It was all the words that begged to be spoken for 9 years suddenly finding release and falling out in cascades under the weight of other words that had been pushing against them from the back of the line of speech held back by fear, cowardice, and a dollop of shame for taste.
Same things I’ll find out, happen with emotions. It took me years to stop being the odd one in the room, and reclaim control of speech, the what and when; in what doses and at what pace – once I did and could balance the good and the bad at my discretion, things started to make sense. I am not some brimming vessel of jarring opinions, no more than any other person really, I have just held back for far longer than the average person, and my voice was aching for release. Same thing happens when you hold back negative emotions in an effort to be an all-round good-to-be-around person, your negative emotions will find their release in the most awkward of places, at the wrongest of persons, and over the flimsiest of reasons. Like a puppet in the hands of a puppeteer, you will be twirled and whirled around at your long-stemmed negative emotions’ whimsy. And what a way to live!
The best thing I have found, is to allow yourself release. When you are hurting, let yourself feel the hurt with self-compassion. And when you’re happy immerse yourself in the happiness with grace. Life is too short to be lived shrinking ourselves into shapes we think best appeal to people. You are people, do you appeal to you all shrunken and shuddering?
Think about that.
Joy, Inc. is a teaching and media company mainstreaming the research and evidence on human flourishing and positive emotions to transform the culture and build a new generation of Africans focused on the greatest happiness for the greatest many.