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.
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.
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.
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.