Learning to Shut Up


The other night, I was upset by something someone had dropped into a phone conversation, and for hours afterward I struggled with the impulse to demand an explanation or retraction.

By struggle, I mean I actually had to stop myself repeatedly from sending an email to outline my hurt feelings and question the person’s motives.  Why bring that thing up? Why are you being hostile? What was your goal in saying the mean thing?

I needed my husband to talk me down; I stopped feeling agitated and accepted that for the greater good I could just let it go.

For me, this is a real triumph. My whole life seems like a series of embattled relations with someone or other due to the fact that I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I just remembered that my dad used to call me ‘bigmouth’ when he was mad.  He also called me ‘dummy’ but bigmouth felt like a worse insult.

When I was a kid, I loved my book of Aesop’s Fables. The illustrations were nice and the morals were easy to understand. But there was one story called ‘The Turtle Who Couldn’t stop Talking’ that I felt was directed at me personally:

There’s this really talkative turtle who wants to travel across the sea. He asks a pair of swans if they will carry him across by holding a stick in their beaks. He can just hang on by his teeth. The swans warn the turtle that if he opens his mouth, he will fall. Half way across the ocean, the turtle has a comment to make and can’t contain himself. He starts to speak and falls.

I guess the moral is Keep Your Mouth Shut. Who the fuck thought of that moral, Stalin?

In any case, my stubborn belief in freedom of expression has brought plenty of unhappiness but I persist in shooting my mouth off at the slightest impetus. I hate rules that threaten my so-called efforts at honesty and frankness.

Revealing myself is easy. It just comes naturally. Shutting up is hard.  But just shutting up on this one occasion has been so positive!

The power to shut up is worth developing. We’ll see if I can keep it up.

No You Shut Up- small


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8 Responses to Learning to Shut Up

  1. gerald thorp says:

    a comment was disgorged, can never be retracted….it’s out there…….

  2. Suspended says:

    I know that pain. Someone made an underhanded comment towards me at a dinner party. I say ‘someone’ but it was a friend. It was then backed by a really condescending “but that’s why I love you” and then a pat on the back of the hand. At the time, I dealt with it diplomatically, almost making excuses for her criticism. Inside I wanted to tell her she was a Sugar Coated Cunt, but that “I loved that about her.”

    It didn’t bother me that much at the time but then as the week went on it niggled and niggled. Fathoming why she felt it necessary to make such a comment is beyond me. It felt passive aggressive. Everyone at the table heard her and it was the type of comment that was potentially embarrassing and she didn’t care about putting me in that position. We’d all been having a lovely evening and were a bit pissed….I’m chalking it down to being pissed, but I still have difficulty letting it go.

    She had on hideously lesbian footwear and I didn’t even comment. That’s how good a friend I am.

  3. Suspended says:

    I have to add, Sister, I think holding this sort of stuff in gives you cancer. Quite often, I don’t feel good about being the better person. Staying true to oneself has value, even when you know it won’t end well.

    People shouldn’t light fuses if they don’t want bombs to go off.

  4. Sister Wolf says:

    Suspended – Hahahahahahahahahaha! I love you so much! Not in a “that’s why I love you” way but in an “I fucking love you!” way.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Now will you get the “Shut up” tattoo?
    I’m still aching to do it.

  6. Suspended says:

    Well, the feeling is mutual Sister. I stand with you in solidarity. Shout with me, Expression, not Repression!! xx

  7. suzanne myers says:

    Sometimes shutting up is freeing, although I have a hard time with it, too. A few times when I’ve let someone’s asinine remarks flap in the breeze of my silence, I sense that that
    person gets what a shit head he/she is being. So hard to do, though.

  8. Dj says:

    Silence can be deadly. I have had “friends” like that and my thing is to just look at them, no comment, no in on the joke, no feeling. Ice. Freeze. They get it.

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