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The Unbarked Barks

 

Cricket has a lot of trouble holding back her need to bark. She believes that the unbarked barks scratch her throat and give her tummyaches. I have mixed feelings about this. Every writing class I’ve taken, every friendship, every moment of psychotherapy, has been another lesson in how to make myself more acceptable to other people. Don’t write this, don’t say that, don’t look, act, be, whatever it is that bothers people today. When I write a first draft that feels out of control (hysterical, melodramatic, angry, raw, unacceptable, etc.) I go back and rewrite until it feels more contained. I think this is what I’m supposed to do. But my unbarked barks keep scratching my throat, and I wonder if Cricket has the better idea.

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“I bark therefore I am!”

Except, Cricket’s endless barking annoys me, and I don’t want to annoy people the way Cricket does. I don’t want to be the loud mouth who barks at every leaf. I don’t want to be unseemly or unlikeable, the way Cricket often is. I can think of too many things, right now, that I’m afraid to say, or write, out of fear of the consequences. And then, when I finally can’t keep quiet anymore, it all comes out in an inarticulate rush, because I have no practice, no experience, saying those things in a way other people can hear them.

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“Did you just tell people that I am annoying?”

Cricket never tolerates being silenced. And she makes it clear that keeping quiet causes her pain, as if all of the unspoken anger, desire, confusion and pain get stuck inside of her body. I’m pretty sure she could keep some of her thoughts to herself without making herself sick. But she disagrees. I know a lot of people, like Cricket, who could keep a few more of their random barks to themselves. But I also know too many people who keep too much buried inside, when it really needs to be said out loud.

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Butterfly is thinking about this.

Sometimes people speak up in order to share their fear or hatred or misery and they don’t care that they are poisoning others. They are not careful with their barks. They have no censor that considers the impact of their words. They think only of their need to get those barks out. And I don’t want to be that person.

Butterfly is very careful with her barks. She uses them to tell me that she’s hungry, or has to go outside, but she waits a long time before using her bark to signal danger, because she’s not sure what’s dangerous and what is just unfamiliar. But I wonder if she is keeping important barks to herself, barks that would reveal things about her that she thinks no one wants to know, or maybe truths that are unbearable, for her.

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“I have too much to say, Mommy. I think I will keep it to myself.”

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

122 responses »

  1. So interesting! I’ve found myself in certain environments where the assumption is that speaking up is easy to do, and if you don’t speak, you must not have anything to say

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  2. All of that advice out there comes from people trying to sell books to people like us. I totally get you on what you’re saying, here. It’s like don’t do this, do that, etc. I say, write whatever you feel like writing because that’s your authentic voice…ahem, bark! 😉

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  3. Thank you for this post. I really like it. I find that I identify more with Butterfly, but want to be more like Cricket! May all the butterflies become more cricket-like, and the crickets grow wings!

    Reply
  4. What a great post! Love the parallels of Cricket and Butterfly and the lessons to be learned! Enjoy your day!

    Reply
  5. This gives me a new (and more positive) perspective on my boyos barking. Thank you!

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  6. I would like Butterfly better. We adopted all our pound dogs based on their ability to stay quiet. It works best when you have neighbors who don’t want to hear yappy dogs. I try to follow the Golden Rule there, since I hate hearing their dogs go at it each morning at 6:30am. And if our dogs DO bark at night, I know it’s due to people walking by or that fat orange cat that terrorizes them, not just incessant barking. Interesting post.

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  7. Now my Zush is like Buttefly, although now, at 14 with the cataracts getting a little worse, she barks to see where I am, listening for me to answer. Kasia, on the other hand,is my trumpet to the world…that chow bark keeps all at bay! Nice post!

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  8. Very interesting read. I just wish my dog was a bit like Butterfly. Mine likes telling me everything she wants in a whinge. I’m sure when she barks, she is actually two dogs because she makes that many sounds at once.

    Reply

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