“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I ran into a friend yesterday. Hadn’t seen her for a few months. Her hair had grown longer and so, as we were standing on opposite sides of the street waiting for the light to turn, I didn’t recognize her. I didn’t wave back when she waved.
Then the light turned, we began crossing the street, and she came into focus.
“Hello!”, I shouted.
I immediately stopped, turned my bundle buggy around, and followed her back to the curb.
“How are you?! I’m so sorry. My eyes. Didn’t recognize you.”
Of course she understood and laughed with me, as I laughed at myself. It must seem as if I’m getting – what is the word? – old.
And then it happened: the conversation about nothing. Because we can’t talk about it. We are sworn to secrecy about one of the most significant chapters in our lives. This is not a metaphor. We literally had to sign away our rights to tell our own stories.
This non-conversation, this absence of information, this silence, is all around me lately. We used to ride the streetcar to work together, but now we are taking care of our grandkids or pursuing our artistic ambitions, or we are self-employed for some reason. Some of us are desperately looking for work after years and years with the same employer. But we are not talking about it.
The very fact that people are not talking about this phenomenon – this major life altering event which has left so many so vulnerable – speaks volumes. It tells us about corporate values and bottom lines. About technology being able to do jobs faster and cheaper than those who spent entire careers developing a skill. About broken bonds of loyalty and commitment. About greed and shame.
The noise is actually deafening. But you cannot hear it.
We are a forest of falling trees, crashing to the ground, one after the other, in a cascade of fear and sadness. And in complete silence.
Photo by Beth French.