speaking up


Leaving class yesterday, I found myself in a conversation with a fellow student, one that is older than me even. During class discussion on the mythology of the family, the mother and the father, I had disclosed something personal to make a point.

It is interesting how some men, and occasionally women, feel that a personal disclosure is an invitation to freely give advice, copious amounts of advice. Although I enjoyed the conversation because it was a personal connection with another human being that went beyond the superficial, I also walked away with a sense of dissatisfaction. Something was amiss.

It took a night’s sleep to identify the source of this feeling: there was a tone of patriarchy in every comment he made about my life. Allow me to explain.

I had disclosed that when I separated from my husband (instigated by me, by the way), I was suddenly faced with an identity crisis. I had been a wife for over 20 years. Suddenly, I was not that person anymore. If I wasn’t a wife, then who was I?

This fellow student (an older black man) and I talked about our educational dreams where I disclosed my desire to graduate from a Texas university, hopefully one located in Austin (my favorite city in the whole world).

I know that in his misguided way he was trying to be supportive. But it went way beyond that when he started delving into my personal attitudes and dreams. I hadn’t invited him in. In analyzing the conversation, I believe that some sense of patriarchal protectiveness, me being the weaker female sex, had kicked in at some point.

Vulnerability will send signals to some people that we, as women, need to be rescued, protected, and guided if we are to find our way in whatever new world we find ourselves. It is no mistake that I spent a full year pretty much locked up in my house after my second, permanent separation from my husband. I felt that no one in my life was safe to be around while I figured out who I was and what I was going to do.

I was so raw, so vulnerable that any voice, no matter how well-intentioned, could assert itself into my vulnerable, very susceptible self, and I would have been powerless to resist. The only way I could survive with my self intact was to limit outside voices.

I was grieving, mourning the loss of an identity that I had built over a 20-year period. That self was dead. That was the day that I began to build my new, independent, determined self.

A year ago, an interaction such as yesterday’s might have set me back quite a bit, leaving me to sift through the words of another to find out which were true and which were not. In the past, I had been so vulnerable that I might have considered his advice as one that should be given great consideration.

The bottom line is that this man is not my friend. He is a fellow student in a class that I am taking. We had one conversation. He had some interesting points. Because I am very polite, I didn’t just blow this guy off and tell him he was full of shit. I just don’t do that (though I probably should more often).

When rebuilding a life after abuse or a serious life change, women must be careful which voices they give credence. It is okay to listen, but we must guard against well-meaning advice that is no more than that: casual advice.

If the voices are too many or too loud, it might be necessary to pull back and shut them out for a time so that that tiny inner voice can begin to speak. As mine did, it might start out as the softest of whispers. Until it is louder, shutting out the noise of others may be necessary.

Had I been able to find one that I could connect with (I tried), a therapist would have been an amazing tool during this stage of reconstruction, or redefinition. [After taking Psychology my first semester, I realized that I had needed a psychologist that used the humanistic approach.]

I am still finding my way. I do not feel that my future is determined yet. Why would I think that? Who can ever really say what the future holds? I know what I dream of doing. I know what I think I want. But I am on a journey, not on a particular road to a set destination.

So, how I get where I am going, if I even go there, is kind of up in the air.

Today I celebrate the fact that my voice is no longer a soft whisper; it is strong!

But what if you’re wrong?

About what?

Of course I’m wrong about a lot of things.  I am probably wrong about most things.  Most people are.  That is the key here.  Most people are wrong.

Humans have an extremely limited ability to see.  Anything.

I am very human.  I will always be very human.

People who know me know that I am kind, but sometimes mean.  They know that I am generally well-mannered and polite, except when I am rude.  I am honest to a fault, except when I feel the need to hide (though I still don’t lie — I just hide myself away for a time until it is safe to come out).   People who know me know that I am strange, different, just not quite right, enigmatic (I’ve been told).

One thing that I have discovered about myself is that although I want to be loved, want loads of approval and attention, desire to be adored by someone, anyone, I will not stop being me.  I tried that and it didn’t work.  I got completely lost.  I am finding my way again.

So what if I’m wrong? I will continue to project myself onto the world.  I might hide parts of myself away to keep them safe, the most fragile and delicate parts of me, but I will use my voice because I must.  I am compelled by something deep down, something primal maybe, to speak out, to be present, to not be silent.

I will not be afraid.  I will feel fear and concern, be insecure and doubtful, wonder whether I am just delusional, but I will not be afraid to speak.  Someone has to speak.  Women must speak.

In my on-campus classes (I take  online classes, too), one common behavior I witness is (are) the soft, quiet, tentative voices of female students.  The guys speak up, loud and clear, tend to overwhelm classroom discussions, but only a handful of women speak out, and when they do they can barely be heard.  If one of them is sitting next to me or in front of me or behind me, I tell her to speak up, use her voice, don’t be afraid to be wrong; speak up and be heard.

So I write.  I speak.

I most certainly am wrong.  I see life and the world through my own clouded filters.  So does everyone else.  That’s the key here:  everyone sees the world through clouded, cracked, oftentimes dark glasses.  I love when the glasses I put on some days are beautifully clear and bright.  I love that!  But it isn’t always that way, and that is okay.

People who know me know that I fall down a lot (sometimes literally) but I always get up and find something to look forward to.  Every single day.  For those who have only met me through this blog, my other current blog is entitled, “Serendipity:  Life is a Garden.”  Such a contrast, I know, to this blog.  I have lived by the premise that life is full of serendipity and that life is a garden, sometimes quiet and seemingly dead while it is merely resting, waiting for sunlight and warm temperatures to wake it up and give it new life.  Life is beautiful, magical, delightful, amazing.  It is other, not-so-nice things, too.  We can’t just ignore the ugliness of life, just focusing on the nice stuff.  But we cannot live stuck in the muck of ugliness, either.  We must be able to wade out of the muck, make it to shore, wash off and dance, at least sometimes.  I want to dance.

My other blog: such a contrast

My other blog: such a contrast

I might be completely wrong about Christianity and religious leaders and men who think they are in charge because God said they are.  I might be.  That’s okay.  I am just speaking up and being heard.  I am not afraid to be told that I am wrong (I have been told that my entire life — I can’t ALWAYS be wrong, right?).  I am writing my way through life, and that’s the bottom line.  I write to be heard, to express parts of myself that otherwise would stay completely hidden.  If I’m wrong, so be it.

But what if I’m right?