If I were a therapist, I would teach talking without words, hearing without ears, seeing without eyes.
I think it would serve the world to be able to learn the lessons of sign language. Eyes that beg to understand. Lips that lick meaning from the “oohs and “aahs” and crevices in a smile or contortions of the face.
Those are sometimes the only cues we need to know that life diverged down the wrong path, that it headed toward the ocean-neighbored cliff when what you wanted was to stay on the road, on the other side of that guard rail.
I want to learn to listen to the words we cannot say. The ones that do not fall so sweetly off our lips and into the hands of others, who must choose to lean down and pick them back up or stomp all over them like acorns surrounding the trees along the parking lot where I park my car each morning.
I want to hear the heartbeat hidden under others’ desires, a cacophony of sounds swarming around our heads. When we fail to listen, to watch, to take in, those sounds grow louder in protest.
They fill our heads with reasons why we can never be enough, do enough, know enough. Reasons the person on the other end of the phone stopped listening and started filling out a mail-in rebate for the pack of pens they bought at Staples.
In sign language, there are only the words, the phrases, these backbones of existence. There are only the ways in which to say something, the contortions of the hands and fingers, the recognition in the eyes of the other person who knows, really knows, what you are feeling.
Family does not mean broken. It means family. It does not mean “fay-mah-lee” or “fah-mly” or “fame-ly” or “the fam.”
There is just this word, this manifestation of a concept we know so well, transferring hands instead of lips. No accents to mimic or emphasis. No way to tell the world you’re doing it all wrong, you’re messing up the sound of the syllables, you’re stuttering or stammering or squeezing too many words into one breath.
And maybe this whole line of antsy teenage girls might line up outside the door, hoping for a chance to lay on the couch and learn how to communicate, how to take their voices and hold them on a platter, how to make silence speak louder than shouting.
Maybe they would end fights over what they really meant or why they used “that tone” or how come they couldn’t just tell their mothers they wanted to go dress shopping alone.
Maybe we would begin to accept each other and open our hearts to the sound of silence, the hands holding dreams and wants and wishes and desires all out in the open, all for the rest of the world to see.
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