The Weight of Silence

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: how people drift apart without even intending to, and how as that distance grows it becomes harder and harder to bridge. One of my best friends is Carrie, a woman I’ve known since second grade, but like most of my childhood friends she still lives in Texas, 2000 miles away from me. We keep in touch a bit through Facebook and visit whenever I’m in the area, but until last week we had barely communicated with each other in over two years. There was no argument to create tension in our relationship, no conscious choice to distance ourselves from each other–it just happened gradually as weeks turned into months and the craziness of life conspired to keep us busy and distracted.

The odd thing, though, is that several months ago I suddenly realized that it had been ages since I had talked to Carrie, and yet I didn’t pick up the phone to call her or send her a quick message online. The moment I realized that we hadn’t talked for so long, I felt as though all those months of silence had become a tangible burden, a millstone around my neck. I missed her and wanted to call her, but somehow couldn’t bring myself to break that long, terrible silence.

The more I thought about it, the heavier that silence seemed to grow, until finally I had almost resigned myself to simply missing Carrie forever. It’s something I can’t explain–it makes no sense at all, and I have no idea if anyone else ever struggles with that. But it happened nevertheless, and it felt as real a barrier between us as the 2000 miles of open road between Washington and Texas.

Then came the storms, the devastating tornadoes and flash floods that struck Texas over Memorial Day weekend. Houses were washed away with families still inside them. Roads and bridges were torn apart by raging flood waters. I watched the news in horror as images of places I loved flashed by again and again: the eastern edge of the TSU campus where I had found solace along the banks of a small tributary of the Blanco River, the town of Wimberley where my mother used to take me on fun girls-only day trips, Spicewood Springs Road where my father took us to watch deer at dawn. I read Facebook updates from friends in the area: families huddled in bathrooms to wait out the storm, tornado sirens in Cedar Park, lightning striking 50,000 times in a span of only twenty minutes.

Terrified for the people who hadn’t checked in online, I started making phone calls–first to my mom and brother, and then to all of my friends in the area. Carrie was one of the first people I called, and when she picked up the phone, it wasn’t awkward like I had feared. We talked and giggled for hours, just like we always had, all those years of silence instantly erased.

I knew I was lucky. So many loved ones in Texas, some in the areas that were hit the hardest, and I didn’t lose a single one. But I could have lost them all too easily, and it would have been swift and sudden and devastating. It could have been Carrie, two years of pointless, unintentional silence transformed instantly into a lifetime of guilt and regret. And in the end, it wasn’t as hard to pick up the phone as I thought it would be.

So if this is something you have struggled with too, don’t wait. The silence will only grow harder to break–and yet, that weight is an illusion, nothing more. Don’t give it time to become real.

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