Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interpreting Silence

No news is good news…

Except when it isn’t.

Imagine you send off an apology to someone and don’t hear back from them. Probably not a good sign. How many unanswered e-mails before it’s pretty clear the person isn’t speaking to you? And if you can see them online at a blog or their website, you know it isn’t because they’re incapacitated.

Silence. It can be beautiful. It can be terrifying. It can cause us to play mind games.

I had a terrible scare last night. Part of it is an issue of volume – too many pets in this house. When there’s practically a cat in every room upstairs, it’s easy to lose track. I’d fallen asleep and woke up around 10 pm, with a feeling like there was a weight on my heart and something was wrong.

I’d had that feeling before. Another story, not for the blog, but something definitely had been wrong then.

My check confirmed my fears. I was missing a cat. And as I began to look in all the places a cat could be trapped, I was trying to remember if it had been two days or three since I’d last opened this particular closet…

There he was. Eyes dim, the meow soft and quiet. But he still had the strength to eat, and drink, and lie on my bed and purr, and seems to be doing okay.

The problem with the closets is, they’re solid wooden doors. This particular closet is at the far end of the house, and had he been a loud cat I might have picked up on it earlier. As it was, I didn’t.

In reality, if it had been one of the more anti-social cats, I might not have noticed for another few days. Simon and Russel are temperamental, and go through prolonged “I’m not talking to you” phases.

I almost have to say thank goodness it was Rebus, my little pest who never goes more than one day of sulking when he’s in a mood, and who demands regular attention from me.

I’m awful for assuming the worst, and have been up throughout the night checking on him. Feeding him tuna and salmon. He seems to be doing great.

And I did a head count of the cats before I went to bed, just to be sure.

Funny that in so many other aspects of your life, you can’t do that. You can e-mail someone, and they don’t respond. E-mail again, comment on their blog… Nada. Is everything okay? How do you know?

At what point when all you’re met with is silence should you start to worry?

No easy answer to that one.

I’m guilty myself, of late, of not commenting on blogs when I’ve dropped by, being slower to respond to e-mails. Part of it was not being sure how I was going to handle some things post-divorce, feeling pressured to make decisions I wasn’t ready to make.

Sometimes, I put things on my blog so I don’t have to have the same conversations two dozen times.

The other part has been being busy. Extremely busy. And I do feel like shit if the tasks of the day pile up to the point where I’m not taking time for people, because ultimately, at the end of the day, our friends, our family – that’s what matters more than anything. Not brown-nosing to advance your career or executing all the right elements from your marketing plan or flocking around the new ‘it’ boy or girl on the blogosphere.

Starting next week, once my galley edits are done, I’m going to work harder, to make sure I drop by and catch up with friends and say hi. And Vincent, I haven’t forgotten about Balesly Green either. It may be another six weeks before I get to it, but it’s there.

No mind games. I know people are used to same-day e-mails from me most of the time, but I’m just really busy and easily distracted right now.

And sometimes, business is taking a back seat to those I love. Sometimes, an eight hour day of work is enough. I’m not calling it a new years resolution, either. I’m calling it a life change, making sure my priorities are in order. So, silence from me might be growing at times, but don’t take it personally.


Chris said...

I'm glad Rebus is okay! That particular brand of silence may be the scariest thing around...

norby said...

After being fed tuna and salmon all night long Rebus is probably going to be lurking around the closet doors, trying to get trapped again, thinking he's got get some more of them goodies.

Glad he's okay.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can't help but picture your favorite British mystery writers hiding in your closets and scarfing down the tuna. Maybe cause I never had a cat.

Sandra Ruttan said...

So, Ian Rankin is in the closet?

Yeah, someone's going to give me grief for that!

Vincent said...

Don't worry, I know how many things you have on your plate, so I always assume you'll get back to me when you get the chance.

That's a whole different kettle of fish to when you don't hear anything back and you don't know why. I think I've written about my own experiences of that enough, suffice to say that unless you have something else to focus on, it can lead to endless, invidious thoughts.

It's a different order of magnitude, but I suppose it's similar to missing persons, when the family doesn't know if they're dead or alive. In the end, when hope's run dry, they just want closure - the not knowing becoming as torturous as the loss.

JamesO said...

I always worry when someone posts something like this that I'm the one being unresponsive.

Not this time, though. I'll get those last three back to you soon enough, Sandra;}#

I've lost the DevilDog a couple of times, but never in the house. He usually needs a few thousand acres to get lost in. I guess cats are more resourceful that way. Glad you found Rebus all right.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Vincent, yeah, good observation. Sometimes not knowing can drive you nuts. I'd rather have someone say, "I don't want to deal with you anymore and here's why" than to play some sort of passive aggressive game.

James, geesh! NO RUSH! You're Mr. Consistency when it comes to that stuff. But the in box is getting pretty empty, actually.

And I'm relieved Rebus is okay. But like I said, if it had been Russel, I might not have noticed because she loves to hide and run away from people. I can go whole days without seeing her. Only the lack of Rebus demanding attention really prompted me to go looking for him.

Squeaky wheels.

spyscribbler said...

Ohmigosh! Poor Rebus! I've done that before, by accident, overnight or something. Sometimes they crawl in a cupboard when I'm not looking! It's only open for a second, sheesh! They do love to crawl in dark places, don't they?

I once had that feeling and didn't act on it, thought I was crazy. Never, ever again. I've had a hard time forgiving myself for that one.

Anonymous Assclown said...

Umm, I just read that 3 times and the only thing Im convinced of is that I need to lay off the meth.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Spyscribbler, yeah. It's always scary. Actually, when they were little, the kittens used to like to go inside the fridge. That always freaked me out.

AA, good luck with that.