I have been challenged by a friend to write more, and to prompt me (and a few others) she gave us assignments. This week, every day I am supposed to write something, anything, on what scares me. All day today I have been ducking the assignment, because it's so personal for me. But I promised, so here goes . . .
I have always been a talker. In middle school I talked, trying to impress; in high school I talked to hide my fear; in college I talked because isn't that what college is about? I talked about politics and philosophy and music and art and traveling and dreams and fears. I talked to anyone who would listen, and many who didn't really want to, but had no choice.
Somewhen along the way, I slowed down. I stopped talking during movies. I practiced listening at coffee houses. I began focusing on the unsaid that happens between words. I learned to hear. And I became embarrassed about how much I had spoken. All along I had talked about me and me and me and me.
None of the talking had gotten me anywhere. I didn't have many friends. I wasn't invited to parties. So I tried listening. I listened to heartaches and triumphs. I listened to secrets and facts. I listened until people would call me just to to talk, because they knew I would listen.
I felt important when I talked. I felt needed when I listened.
The problem is, lately I have been doing neither. I have become untethered, and my fear is that I am becoming irrelevant, and therefore invisible. I am fading, becoming a background person. Some people are the center of attention. They have charisma and shine with a particular light. Others are like movie extras. They are necessary to make the shot complete, but they blend into the background. They are invisible to the story. They are familiar and comforting in their presence, but their absence doesn't have a real impact. In fact, during the important moments, their presence is intrusive and unwelcome.
I don't know how to fix this. I wish I could take a potion and become charismatic. I tried making myself relevant through volunteer work and community activism. I do my best to be a good neighbor, and I reach out the hand of friendship to pretty much everyone. But being useful is not the same as being a friend, and my outstretched hand is often ignored. So I retreat, finding myself hiding in books like I did 30 years ago, and, now, writing. At least with the internet I know my voice will not fade, no matter how ghostly I become.