Quiet, Please

All eyes peered in my direction as the room transitioned to silence. Sitting in the middle of the room, according to my assigned seat, placed me among a majority of my friends. Scurrying to English class, I slid into my seat and into the conversations surrounding me. The bell rang, signaling the start of class, but my storytelling had just begun.

Noticing quiet mouths and wide eyes cautioning me, I turned my gaze toward our teacher. Her slim frame stood fairly tall. Slightly rounded shoulders supported a pastel sweater, resting on top of her button-down shirt. Her light eyes were peering directly at me, unhampered by the glasses resting on her head.

“Bethany.” Her voice was stern and with increasing clarity.

“I would like you to hold your finger in the air just as I am,” she said, holding her pointer finger out, away from her body. I lifted my arm, pantomiming her movement.

“Now, follow after me.” She demonstrated the desired movement by bending the elbow of her extended arm and pointed finger until her finger rested on her closed lips.

Maintaining her finger on her lips she patiently waited for my movement. Shamed and embarrassed, I didn’t move, holding my arm straight out in front of me with vacant eyes. As I teetered on dissociation, her voice invited me fully back into my body. “Bethany, do as I said.”

My hand had migrated to my side and as I slowly raised it in front of my body a flash of rebellion coursed through my veins. With my head tilted and jerking forward, I whipped my hand in front of my face, crashing my finger onto closed lips while glaring at her through menacing brown eyes.

Unfazed by my behavior, she said, “Thank you,” and began teaching.

I wonder what my teacher felt toward that disrespectful sixteen-year-old girl sitting quietly in her seat, silent and disengaged.

I wonder what I felt toward myself in that same moment.

Replaying that scene evokes emotions within me nearly thirty years later. A pattern of relating emerged that day, as I actively learned to silence myself to avoid further humiliation.

The audience is now larger than a classroom of peers. It ranges from voyeurs on social media to close acquaintances and intimate loved ones. The role of the teacher is played by a smattering of people whose opinion of me usually matters, and I am on display for all to hear.

I am still a storyteller. I am loud and strong-headed. I am inclusive and open-minded. I am divergent and tender. I feel everything, deeply. I have come to realize, however, that there are parts of me and my story that are not always desired by everyone. Without intention, I willingly join my teacher as I lift my hand, place my finger on my lips and shut down the most beautiful parts of me for fear of humiliation.

But what if I didn’t lift my hand to cover my voice?

Bethany Cabell, a lover of simplicity, is often inspired to write by her everyday relationships. A highly distracted procrastinator mixed with a tender-hearted feeler, she can be a little bit unpredictable on any given day. Bethany calls Texas home where she navigates the messy and beautiful path of parenting two boys with unique challenges. She loves to enjoy life in authentic spaces alongside those she holds dear.