by Diane Rogers
I’m vacationing aboard a sailboat in the Caribbean with my husband and a handful of others. Pristine, the environment invites stillness. Nature is poetic in her spaciousness. Surrounded by the splendor of crystal clear turquoise water, voluptuous green hills and white sand beaches, I feel I can breathe—possibly even hear my inner voice again. The abundant outer silence in this heavenly location opens a portal to reflection. It’s the kind of place a writer images she could write great prose.
Paradise is perfect until the tranquillity that might have been is shattered by the ceaseless chatter of someone who believes the sound of her own voice is better than bliss.
Every time this particular traveling companion opens her mouth, I feel like a felled timber log strapped to a conveyer belt bound for the jaws of a 24-tooth carbide circular saw blade. I cringe. If she keeps speaking, I fear I will splinter into pieces. Words fly out of her mouth—jagged and reckless—like molten sparks from metal. I could bear it if her voice just sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. What I can’t handle is the careless, hollow clamor of words that clang like rocks being chipped at rusted tin cans by someone who’s bored. The sheer volume of her utterances strips away any potential meaning.
It isn’t the woman herself I object to, it’s the negligence with which she uses language. I can’t see her through the exhaust fumes of her words.
Instead stepping out of day-to-day stress into peace and relaxation, the sudden outbreak of verbal dysentery leaves me anxious. Tossed heedlessly into a shared space without thought or intention, the onslaught of words morphs into a smothering, inescapable sand storm. I’m on a boat. I can’t just go for a walk to get away from the situation. She and her voice are omnipresent. Hell is being trapped with a relentless over-sharer who’s had too much to drink.
My inner dialogue turns to supplication.
Please, stop talking.
PLEASE. STOP. TALKING.
Dear God, I want to like this person.
Please help her to stop talking so I can see the best in her.
I beg you, Lord.
Stop talking, lady.
Oh, Lord help me…she won’t shut up…
Words Are Gems
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an extrovert. I like conversation, but we all know people who talk too much, people who speak with reckless abandon while saying nothing at all. What bothers me most is the thoughtlessness. What makes it okay to invade quietude with running commentary and mindless chit chat? If there were a DMV governing verbal communication, some people would not be granted a license to speak. Not e-v-e-r. I don’t believe in talking just for the sake of it for the same reason I don’t think it’s prudent to drive for the sake of driving.
On the other hand, everyone should be taught the craft of writing. Writers, like mystics, understand the power of words; they use them with care and precision. If the overly verbose learned to write, they might come to understand that words are precious gems to be mined and polished. If they thought of words as diamonds rather than objects, they might cherish their value instead of tossing them randomly in the air.
One can dream, right?
A Refuge in Paradise
As many times as I thought I would lose my mind on this vacation, I also managed (strangely) to gain something invaluable—an even deeper respect for writers. And headphones.
Even if nothing can prevent this woman from talking, I can (and do) find refuge in the stack of books I brought with me. Right now, every page of every volume is worth its weight in excess baggage fees. Reading makes me appear purposeful. Busy.
“Oh, this book is a page turner,” I say, removing my earbuds temporarily. “Forgive me,” I smile sweetly, “I just can’t put it down.” In go the earbuds and back I go down my socially acceptable escape hatch.
The written word is not a one-way dialogue, it is a writer’s personal invitation to reflection and discovery. From the moment I turn the first page, I am transported into timelessness. Page by page, paradise is mine again.
So, consider this an open letter of thanks to writers and publishers everywhere. Thank you for the magic you weave. For some of us, books can be a lifeline.
By the way, next time I plan a vacation, I’ll be packing more books and leaving people at home.
After retiring from a corporate career in business transformation and change management, Dr. Diane Rogers brings her expertise in social psychology to classrooms and families.
Her first picture book, Stand Tall, made its debut at the 2008 Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. A week after the book’s release, the State of Washington selected Stand Tall as an official teaching resource for compassionate education. Diane’s other published works include Emerge, A Story of Confidence, and When We All Stand Tall. To find out more, visit www.drdianerogers.com.
A self-professed global nomad, when they aren’t traveling on or jumping out of planes, Diane and her husband Kevin triangulate between Sydney, Australia, Newport Beach, and their sailboat in the Mediterranean.
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