A Judicious Use of Silence

Today’s prompt got me thinking about how I’m trying to learn to BREAK silence, rather than keep it. But in an effort to lighten up a bit, here’s one about staying silent.

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Ma-MAAAAAH!! HE HIT ME!!!”

Before the pandemic, this cry would elicit an almost immediate response from me.

“Don’t hit your brother!” for minor infractions.

“Go to your room!” for slightly more serious crimes.

“THAT’S IT, I’M TAKING AWAY [insert favorite toy here]!” for the most grievous offenses.

But as the pandemic wore on…

I became inured to the call, impervious to their cries.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things I will not tolerate (just ask me how I dealt with a biting habit).

But when it comes to the whiny, peevish cries of, “He pushed me!” “He hit me!” “He took my toy!”… At this point, I am basically deaf to them.

A Newborn’s Cries

You know how parents learn to understand their newborn’s cries? One for hungry, one for sleepy, one for fussy, another for gassy…

It’s actually pretty easy to tell when your child is seriously upset or injured. Just by listening closely to their shouts, I can tell whether my 5- and 2-year-old are actually in pain, or if they’re just kvetching.

So now, when they kvetch, I say nothing.

Blissful Silence

After the initial outcry, when they realize no response is forthcoming, they usually simmer down.

They’ll move on, either play something else together or each move on to his own thing.

It’s only when the outbursts become more frequent and reach a fever pitch that I then intervene.

And then, it’s usually to throw them outside, down to the playroom, or to their respective rooms.

And enjoy a few more minutes of blessed silence.

And maybe a cup of tea…

The Warehouse

42. Warehouse: Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It looked grand on the outside.

The outer walls were free of graffiti, and it even seemed like someone had taken pains to clear plants and debris from the area around it.

The only clue it was abandoned were the missing doors. The miserable teenager huddled on the previous block had muttered something and pointed this way when I had made my inquiry.

The look of fear and pain in his eyes haunted me as I approached the eastern door.

Inside, it was bleak.

The first thing that struck me was the smell. A stale mix of urine, old booze and cannabis.

My eyes took a minute to adjust after stepping in from the brilliant sunshine. Everything was stillness, the only sound the wind whipping around the open windows and doors. The glass panes were gone from most of the windows and some of the doors were boarded up. Others had been pried open.

Who would want to come in here, I wondered? Why was I in here, I wondered?

Love, I heard myself answer.

Graffiti lined the walls, up to about six feet high. The floor was strewn with litter.

Empty bottles of booze and candy wrappers. Fast food packages. Cigarette butts. Discarded needles.

A lump started to form in my throat.

Picking my way carefully through the junk, I moved further inside.

Aside from the trash, the floor was pretty much bare. A little further in, as my eyes grew used to the dim light, I found some cardboard.

A box had been ripped open and spread haphazardly across the floor as protection from the wet and cold. Judging from the damp imprint on it, it hadn’t helped much.

A sudden flutter of wings broke the silence. My heart leapt up and joined the lump in my throat.

Above me in the rafters, a pigeon had been disturbed. It took flight, leaving through the gaping hole in the roof. Its wings beat free dust and debris from the rafters and it rained down on me. I ducked my head down and pulled my hood up.

Then I heard a groan.

It was faint, like the flight of the pigeon had roused someone from a deep sleep.

My eyes strained to the back of the warehouse. I saw no movement, and heard nothing more.

I crept forward, hyper aware of each sigh, each hush of the wind. I couldn’t tell which side of the building the groan had come from. I just knew it was ahead of me.

Moving slowly forward, watching for needles, I scanned the base of the wall, first to my left, then to my right. The warehouse must have been at least the length of a football field. Time seemed to have stopped.

Another groan.

This one throaty and louder. I heard a rustle coming from the other end. I peered back there and finally caught the movement.

What had looked like a pile of trash against the back wall started to shift. Garbage slid to the floor as the form hauled itself off its side and propped itself sitting against the wall.

I scanned the rest of the wall to make sure this was the only other person there. I dreaded having to look into more than one face to find the one I was looking for.

I kept walking forward and stopped about six feet from the man against the wall. His head was drooped forward, his chin resting on his chest. He clutched a bottle in his right hand, while his left rested limply on the floor next to him. His palm was up and the sleeve was rolled up. I could see the needle tracks on his forearm.

Then I spotted the birthmark.

Right at the crease inside the elbow.

The lump in my throat felt like it would choke me. My eyes burned with tears, and soon my vision was blurred.

Forgetting my sense of danger, I rushed forward with a stifled sob.

I fell to my knees in front of him, and took his face gently in my hands. Blinking back my tears, I stared searchingly into the face.

A scraggly beard hid almost everything below his nose, but my touch roused him enough that he looked up with bleary, unseeing eyes.

The eyes staring back at me were my own. But the color was his father’s.

Weeping openly now, I forgot the filth of the place. I sat down next to him and put my arm around his shoulders. I could feel how thin he was, how frail. His head fell onto my chest, the bottle slid out of his hand.

My tears fell onto his dishevelled hair. “I’m here, my love. I’ve come. I’m here.”

His limp hand tightened slightly on my arm. The sound that he made ripped my heart to pieces. He started to shake in my arms.

Finally, in the faintest of whispers, he said just one word.

Mamá.”

Not So Happy Fourth

41. What You Don’t Know: Write about a secret you’ve kept from someone else or how you feel when you know someone is keeping a secret from you.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Secrets From Myself

Sometimes I just don’t want to let myself feel something.

I just don’t want to give myself permission to feel. Usually negative things.

I start to get this blank feeling. A numbness that means I’m pushing something down.

Feeling Numb This Fourth

I think today I’m numb because I’m trying not to let myself think about so many things.

The pandemic. The lack of affordable or available childcare in this country. The upcoming election. Immigration proceedings. Our children’s mental well-being. My lack of career. White supremacy.

Not In the Mood

So I’m not much in the mood for celebrating.

I guess I’m not really keeping a secret from myself. The numbness, though. That’s a sure-fire sign I’m trying to push away something I don’t want to feel.

Pie!

So I made a blueberry pie! And truth be told, it was one of my better ones.

All those worries are still there. But at least now I have a quintessential American dessert to drown them out with.

The Driving Instructor

I’m back! It’s been a wonderful holiday, and now it’s back to daily writing prompts.

40. Car Keys: Write about someone getting their driver’s license for the first time.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I’m gonna KILL YA!

“(I’m not really gonna kill ya.) I’M GONNA KILL YA!”

Such were the comforting words of Manny, my driving instructor.

At age 19, I was relatively late to the driving thing. Most of my college friends had had their drivers licenses since they were sixteen.

“Speed UP! Speed UP!”

“No, no, NO! SLOW DOWN!”

Manny

Manny wore rings on his fingers. His carefully coiffed dark brown hair shot upwards out of bright white roots. His deeply tanned face was wrinkled as a raisin, and though he probably wasn’t 50, he looked older.

He was liberal with the use of his passenger side break, and with his gesticulations. Each wild wave of his hands made me cringe behind the wheel as I crawled nervously through the streets of Fall River, MA.

Rings flashed as fingers flailed. “THAT’S not how you pahrallel pahk! Pull fahwahd! Right next to the othah cah! NOT THAT CLOSE! I’M GONNA KILL YA!!”

Who could fail to pass a driver’s test with flying colors after such instruction?

I only hope Manny is still teaching driving when my kids need to learn. Wherever we live, I’ll get them to Fall River so that Manny can wave his hands wildly in the air and shout,

“I’M GONNA KILL YA!”

Summer Vacation

I’m ditching today’s writing prompt because it was about coffee and tea, and I already covered that extensively.

Instead, I’m going to focus on my holiday! Hooray!

Honestly, I’m considering taking a break from the daily writing. I’m finding it hard to fit it into the holiday schedule.

Busy Schedule

We’re in a place with lots of sunlight, few blackout curtains and a hellovalotta birds. We’re lucky if the morning is a little overcast and we can sleep in past 6am.

The days are full. Full of the wonderful things that make a summer vacation.

We’ve been cycling, to the beach, out on Bompa’s Boat, had ice cream… Moments full of pure joy.

We’ve also been busy fixing things up around the house and preparing it for the coming summer season. Cleaning windows, trimming hedges, airing out rugs.

When Evening Rolls Around…

I’m bushed. Just wiped out.

Not the kind of fatigue I feel at home. Often at home it feels like there’s a weight on me.

It’s physical exhaustion. We’re on the go all day, and even though we’re the same four people and we have a lot of the same things to do (cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes), being in a different environment changes things.

A Special Place

Just being in this gorgeous, special place makes it different. Here, the only worries we have are the here and the now. We’re not thinking about next week, last year, two months from now.

Sometimes I wish we could stay here longer. But that would be like having Christmas every day.

It just wouldn’t be special anymore!

So yeah, maybe I’ll set aside the writing while we’re here. Make it a real holiday.

Fire-Starter

38. Fire-starters: Write about building a fire.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It starts out small.

A tiny spark. A sideways comment. Perhaps a passive-aggressive remark.

The paper catches quickly. A little flare as the kindling catches. The tension increases, tempers rise.

Now the logs have caught. We’re really going at it. Voices raised, gesticulating wildly. The fire’s blazing, the flames dancing, casting shadows at the back of the fireplace.

Suddenly there’s a blip. The connection cuts out momentarily. Long enough to break the tension. The logs burn up quickly, and before we know it, the fire is dying.

The embers are still smoldering, though. We can’t quite let go.

Soon enough, even that fades. As quickly as it started, the fire is out. We’re quiet. Feeling kind of sheepish.

“So… Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Yup. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”

Inspirational Wall Art

36. Frame It: Write a poem or some phrases that would make for good wall art in your home.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Nope. Not for me, thanks.

I was never one to hang inspirational quotes on my wall. But then for Christmas the year after my mother died, one of my two amazing sisters-in-law gave me a print by Michelle Brusegaard.

YOU WILL THINK OF SOMETHING

More than an inspirational quote, this was reassuring.

It now hangs at the foot of our bed, and I read it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I’d like another one, though. But the new one would be a phrase my mom often repeated to me after our first son was born.

WHATEVER WORKS

The Joy of Arguing

I missed writing yesterday because we did an epic one-day car trip with the family. Thank GOD we scored a minivan with a built-in DVD player. Today’s article is coming to you from a different location. A very relaxing location.

35. War and Peace: Write about a recent conflict that you dealt with in your life.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Conflict? Me?! Never.

Well, perhaps not never.

Most of my life, I’ve studiously avoided conflict. A lot of people do, especially (dare I say it?) women.

I’ve apparently internalized the desire to avoid conflict so much that I often respond to conflict with—I’m embarrassed to say it—tears.

Arguing Joyfully

In the last few years, though, I have tried to learn to argue joyfully.

You read that right! Arguing can, in fact, be a joyful experience. When you find yourself in a heated debate with someone you love, it can be a satisfying (and rather exciting) experience to disagree, to even get angry and argue about something.

The key is to always remain respectful, because in the end you do want to see this person again.

A Recent Conflict

Recently, I got into a heated argument with my husband on the way to the grocery store. I got so mad that I stormed out of the car and slammed the door behind me.

With each step I took away from the car, I felt my anger dissipating, and by the time I’d gotten into the store, I was able to do my shopping with a clear head.

Though I made a stormy exit, up until then I had vented my frustration verbally. The fact that there were no tears was a big victory for me.

Tears = Emotional Blackmail

I used to burst into tears when we fought, changing the situation from a mutual argument to making my husband feel ashamed for upsetting me so much.

Bursting into tears at the moment an argument breaks out is emotionally manipulative. I wasn’t sad in these cases; I wasn’t hurt. I just didn’t know how to express anger. I thought anger was the worst feeling you could possibly have.

I thought that it was a horrible thing to be angry with someone I love.

Recently, thanks to the therapy I started after my mother’s death, I came to understand that anger and love are not mutually exclusive. It IS possible to be seriously mad at the person you love.

The key is to learn to argue with joy.

How to Argue Joyfully

  1. Use your words. Anger can cloud our judgment and make it hard to find the words we want. Try to keep your head about you and clearly state what has made you angry and why it makes you angry.
  2. Do not make attacks. This is especially important when arguing with your partner. This is your chosen life companion. You don’t want to say anything you will regret later.
  3. Know when to end it. When frustration reaches a boiling point and you find yourselves arguing in circles, it’s time to stop. Walk away. Cool down. Clear your heads.

Last Rule

Oh, and for Pete’s sake and the sake of your mental health and personal well-being, never EVER engage in an argument on social media.

It is impossible to argue joyfully in social media.

Lookin’ Out My Front Door

34. Sounds: Sit outside for about an hour. Write down the sounds you hear.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Wind rustling through the trees;
Geese honking across the sky;
A cheerful little mocking bird!
A dog barking in the distance.

Airplanes overhead, coming in to land;
Traffic going by on the boulevard;
Someone mowing the lawn;
Music blaring out of a passing car.

Whirring of a bubble machine and
Shrieks of joy from my children.
Chalk scraping on the sidewalk.
Water spilling, feet in crocs stomping in the puddles.

“Mama?” I open my eyes. “I’m bored.
“Can we go inside now?”

The Dinner Ring

33. Jewelry: Write about a piece of jewelry. Who does it belong to?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Oh, the indignity!

That I, a fabulous dinner ring, should be trapped here on your left hand! Mashed up against your wedding band!

This is NOT where I belong!

Time was when I was a show-stopper, only worn for the most special occasions. I was a dinner ring (not to be confused with my rather gaudy and tacky cousin the cocktail ring).

While a cocktail ring was worn in the speakeasys of the 1920s and designed to be so blindingly bright that you wouldn’t notice how terrible the moonshine was, I was born of a much classier generation.

The Origins of Dinner Rings

My kind came about in the 1930s and 1940s when the dinner party came into vogue. Back then, you know, people actually dressed for a dinner party.

I was given as a gift to Frances Reid (nee Cardo) by her husband, then Col. Samuel L. Reid, in 1943 or 44. I can’t remember. It was before the end of the war, I know that.

I was worn on the right hand. My job was to catch the eye and communicate class. I was not designed to stupefy with my brilliance, but rather to say, “Here you see wealth and taste flawlessly combined.” Unlike other dinner rings, I am a diamond surrounded by smaller emeralds. Normally, it would have been the other way around. But the fact that my diamond is my largest stone shows my value!

And now… Now!

The glory days of the 1940s, 50s and 60s faded. Fashions became more casual. As Frances became ill in the 1970s, I spent most of my time in my box, nestled in her vanity table. I longed for the clink of crystal classes, and the ringing of true silver on fine china.

When Frances died, I feared I would be forgotten and passed along most indignantly. I was relieved to find myself given to her daughter. Resized to fit a rather larger hand (she had been a basketball player, after all), I once again saw the light of day.

But this time, I found myself in the strangest situations. At the theater! Playing bridge! What?? These are not the scenarios I was designed for! I am a DINNER RING! I was meant to catch the light reflected from a chandelier!

It Got Worse

I should have counted my blessings then, though. At least with the daughter I was worn at rather more formal occasions.

Now, I’m with the granddaughter. With her, there’s not even bridge! Has this woman EVER been to a dinner party? Judging from the way she holds her fork, I should say not.

These days I’m lucky if I don’t get smeared with hand cream or worse, butter. I’m worn daily, but on the left hand! I’m supposed to stand out on my own on the right! Instead, I’m shoved up next to a plain little wedding band (who has more cheek than such a simple ring ought to have).

Frequently I am removed and placed in a tray high up on the raised kitchen counter. At least from here I can watch and don’t have to feel the flour, dish soap and other kitchen elements rubbing into my old joints.

I’m exhausted. I don’t belong here.

But when I cast my memory back to those long years, closed in the box in the vanity table, sometimes I tell myself this isn’t so bad.

So I’m not being treated with the dignity and reverence I deserve. I seem to have been mistaken for an engagement ring. All the same, I must tell myself that at least I am being worn.

And what is a ring, if not to be worn? And to bear witness to the lives of those who have worn me?

(If only she’d clean me once in a while!)