Making a case for restraint
By Stacie Chadwick
When I was a child my nickname was Mouse. I was quiet and reserved, always assessing before speaking and sometimes not talking at all. I often held back in conversation, politely waiting my turn. Once I hit 13 and started to become more confident, I took baby steps off my observant perch. I tried on different voices, found one that fit, and never looked back. And yet, this comfort with speaking my mind didn’t happen overnight. It took decades to find the right balance between assertion and restraint.
When I write, I follow a process. I brainstorm ideas, draft notes, craft paragraphs, edit, polish, read out loud, and edit again. My words don’t come all at once, and the end often looks nothing like my starting point. If it did, the result would be too extemporaneous and dependent on a current of expression that ebbs a lot more than it flows, resulting in a fragmented snapshot of my thoughts. Over time, I’ve learned that I can actually say more with less and consequently, the delete button on my laptop gets the most use.
We live in a country where every voice matters and each person has the right to say what’s on his or her mind. The value of this freedom is priceless, an indelible piece of our society’s fabric. Sometimes, though, I feel that the great fortune we’ve inherited gets lost in ideas launched prematurely without the value of time and space. When we use our words without first looking in the mirror, we actually damage what we seek to build.
Everyone wants to be heard. Clearly, I do too or I wouldn’t write this column each month. Yet, in a society where we’re bombarded by opinions, sometimes less really is more.
Nobody’s perfect. Not you. Not me. Speaking personally, I’m trying to get back to the place where I started, to the spirit of that little girl who watched the world around her because she was afraid to say what was on her mind. Except I’m not afraid anymore. I’m older and wiser in large part because I’ve made a lot of mistakes. The benefit of those missteps lies in reflection and thoughtfulness. I will continue to use my words, hopefully with the care and consideration that makes them meaningful.