You can be amazing, you can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug. You can be the outcast, or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love. Or you can start speaking up.
When my marriage started to fall apart, I told no one. And by no one, I mean NO ONE. Not my best friends, not my sisters. I white knuckled it by myself in the hopes that we would work things out. I was afraid that if we did, I would not be able to look in the faces of those closest to me without seeing judgment for my decision to stay, or worse yet, pity. I was afraid the people who loved me would hate him, and I didn’t want them to hate him. There are some bells you cannot unring, and so I stayed silent.
That kind of aloneness, that secrecy, comes at a steep price. That COSTS.
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do, when they settle ‘neath your skin. Kept on the inside and no sunlight, sometimes a shadow wins. But I wonder what would happen if you…
During the worst of it, I stumbled upon a blog. I read an essay that had gone viral on HuffPo, went back to the blog and read every post from the beginning. Then I found the Facebook page associated with the blog. It was a game changer.
I began “meeting” people there. Noticing whose comments resonated with me- who said the thing I had just been about to say. Who seemed to fighting similar battles. I started to feel SEEN. The more I felt like a wraith moving through my actual life, the more connected I felt to these women who I’d never met. I would think, Oh- that Kate is wise. Or, my goodness, when Hillary says she is praying for me, I believe her.
It was as though my soul started recognizing other souls, which is made possible when all of the STUFF that gets between us- all of those superficial metrics we use to decide who ‘our people’ are- is removed.
I started forming deep connections- all through the screen of my laptop.
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out.
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
It was a community of women who were supportive, but not entrenched in my daily life. A virtual village. I could be honest with them about what was happening, but then not have to see them at the grocery store, or, God forbid, a PTA meeting.
It was also a time when I was not sleeping. I was able to connect with people in the middle of the night, when the stillness and the quiet were unbearable. When all the blessed busyness of the day fell away and I was left with the sickening reality of what my life had become. I knew I could log on, and see who was up. I could connect. I could speak my awful truths. I could take the edge off the soul crushing loneliness I was feeling.
I’ve been thinking about that time in my life a lot this past week. About our deep desire for connection, and how more and more frequently we are seeking it with people who are not part of our everyday lives. And that at some points, for some of us, that is a big part of the appeal.
I can’t tell you how many strangers have contacted me in the past two weeks to tell me their stories- many of whom have told few, if any, people in their “real” lives. I think there’s a reason for that. I think anonymous truth telling feels safer. I think sometimes it is a way to try speaking your truth on for size. To see how it feels, to see what reaction you get. And writing allows you to say it exactly the way you want. You can step away halfway through- ugly cry, barf, whatever- then come back and finish telling your story on your terms.
Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down by the enemy. Fallen for the fear, and done some disappearing, bowed down to the mighty… Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue…
You know that saying, you are only as sick as your secrets? The difference between privacy and secrecy is shame, plain and simple. One of the most insidious things about sexual abuse is that many victims become convinced it is unspeakable. The idea of telling anyone becomes unimaginable. The cloak of shame associated with it is suffocating.
Friends, if your stories are going untold because they are drenched in shame, they will act as a cancer in your life. And like cancer cells, they will not stay compartmentalized indefinitely. Shames metastasizes. Shame, left unchecked, will destroy you from the inside out.
Brene Brown says, Shame cannot survive being spoken out loud. Shame cannot survive empathy. You guys. It’s TRUE.
I had a friend open up to me the other day about her abuse in childhood and adolescence. She is just beginning to deal with it, and worries if she talks openly about it, she will lose family members. I understand that. I do. I’ve likely lost family members as a result of all of this. I am mourning that loss. It’s real.
My response to her was this:
it is your job to speak your truth. what other people do with it is none of your business. and if you lose people by speaking your truth, they were never really your people.
I then asked her if there was anything her children could do or say that would cause her to stop loving them. No, she said.
I said, well, there you go. That’s what real, unconditional love looks like. Let THAT be the bar for what you accept for yourself.
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live. Maybe one of these days you can let the light in. Show me how big your brave is….
Find a way. Find a way to tell your story.
It is not your job to ensure that no one in your life is ever uncomfortable. It’s just not. And certainly not at the expense of your well being. And if the people you are concerned about feel uncomfortable because they hurt you or failed to protect you, then uncomfortable is probably appropriate. Uncomfortable seems just about right to me.
And since your history of silence won’t do you any good, did you think it would? Let your words be anything but empty.
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
You may not be ready to speak your truth to those near and dear to you. Yet. That’s okay. Only you can know when the right time is.
Please tell someone. Talk to your pastor, get a therapist. There are on-line support groups like RAINN that can provide you with an anonymous forum. You can go over to Momastery, the aforementioned lifesaving community. Write a letter. Mail it. You can email me. Find a way, sweet friends. Be heard. Your story is important. It matters.
So do you.
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
come on over and join me on Facebook!