Hello and hello and hello. It’s been such a very long time! It’s begun to snow again where I am this morning — how is the day beginning in your part of the now?
I am thinking this morning about long silences, about the way that silence can grab hold and not let go, about how silence can fill us up, bit by bit, day by day. And about how silence can be a healing timg sometimes, even when it has caused such damage at other times in our lives.
We talk a lot about breaking silences in the world of recovery, particularly around sexual violence and intimate partner violence. This is euphemism and metaphor, and it’s also language that’s quite factual – at times there are stories we don’t tell, things we are kept from speaking about, ways we hold our tongue so deep inside our bodies because we want to be safe or we want to be good, we want to do what’s right, what we have been trained to believe is right, even when what’s been done to us is wrong. these are silences that can be destructive, teaching us that our place is in back, under a box, our lips sewn shut and our bodies open and available.
It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, memory, or maybe it’s the other way around: how the devil slinks up into the backs of my brain, flashes of what’s lost or what used to be; what could have been. This is where we are now, stuck in a new reality. I’ll start over when I turn the page. I’ll start over.
It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, memory is, or maybe it’s the other way around, a sheep in wolf’s skin, the history that pushes up my spine into awareness some nights brings bared fangs and glisten, brings those eyes with the yellowing whites, brings that battered, matted fur and the thin possibility of escape from steamy breath in chilly summer fog evenings.
But what’s on the underside of that cartilage, that exoskeleton, that drape over the shoulders is the sneaky inside shape of dingy grey curls and lambs wool, the sweet breath of how we used to wish on falling stars and clap fireflies into jelly jars and sickle the summer afternoon air with our swinging pumping legs.
One of the pieces of “survivor” identity that I wrangle with is this idea that we must “recover” our voices. I mean the notion that our voices are lost, have been snatched away from us.
The literal truth for most of us is that our voices were always here – and yet swallowing this concept of “lost voice” (en)forces a deep body collusion with the prevailing myths and metaphors of those in power. We internalize the idea that we’re silenced in order, I think, to break free of the reality in fact that we are/were ignored. That there are those who heard what we said, and then just turned their faces away from ours.
I spent years believing that I was silenced, that I had no voice. The fact is that I was unheard–an important distinction. As is true for most kids, I learned not to tell my complete truth while I was growing up, and then, and, like many millions of children around the world, I was trained in secrecy by a stepfather/rapist who took my (en)forced silence as his birthright, and used it as a weapon against me. How do we who are survivors of abuse (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse) tell our truths in a culture that doesn’t want to really hear people’s words and meanings? We are not heard by abusers who demand a silence they can interpret as “Yes.” We are not heard by a patriarchal, capitalist society that demands our silence so they can overlay our lives with their image of us. We are not heard by a government that usurps women’s tears in order to justify the killing of other women’s sons and daughters.