Speak to me. #NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Yesterday I touched on the risk of remaining silent. I have more thoughts on the topic, but I wanted to broach the other end of the continuum – speaking up. In this case, I don’t mean speaking out, per se, but rather truth-telling to yourself.

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence
into language and action is an act of self-revelation,
and that always seems fraught with danger.
~Audre Lorde

Silence into Language
As a narrative inquirer, I investigate stories. I wonder what we can uncover when we treat stories as data; when we mine them and make sense of them. I encourage women to tell and delve into their own stories, to engage in deep reflection about the gems they unearth during this work. This is a liberating, yet potentially painful process.

I made brief mention of triggering. Studying your life reveals truths you had forgotten, weren’t expecting, or had even rejected. Suddenly, there they are, in bold relief, and you’re faced with a choice.

Language into Action
When I hit that moment of great revelation in my own investigation, I cried. These were the wrenching tears of a deeply wounded soul. My tears surprised me. I honestly didn’t know I harbored such profound hurt. But the crying and the subsequent feelings of relief did not mark the end of my work. They became the bridge to further learning and new steps.

I asked myself, now that I see this truth and better understand this part of my life, what will I do with this? What actions can I take to create a better outcome for me, or for others who may face similar circumstances? It wasn’t enough to give voice to my experience, I need/ed to use it.

If it’s true that past is prologue, studying my story gave me tools to construct a plot more to my liking. Rather than aimlessly bouncing to the next experience, I consciously authored next steps: learning vulnerability and inviting love.

And it was freeing. Scary. Difficult. Illuminating. Empowering. Risky. Painful. But freeing.

Speak.

My silences had not protected me.
Your silence will not protect you.

~Audre Lorde

The Risky Business of Silence #NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That speaking profits me, beyond any other effect. ~Audre Lorde

For years I’ve carried a story untold. Two decades. Thank goddess I finally realized the untelling was its own telling; my silence its own story. Like an ill-trained architect, my silence designed a life that might not have been. And I suppose it had my permission – my silence was consent. But as of late I have been telling the story, rereading it and writing a new ending…building a brand new life.

Silence wasn’t a strategy. Not a conscious one, in any event. I didn’t know I needed to tell it. I didn’t know there was even a story; that there was anything worthy of telling. So I didn’t. I didn’t share it with anyone.

Not even me.

I carried a story untold, never bothering to see if the heroine, teenager that she was, needed to share her version of events. I never checked to see if she wanted to claim her space. Lift her voice. I gave her shelter, but no platform. I thought nothing of it, and without so much as gut check, I muted her.

And with each passing year, her story was reduced to a chapter, a vignette, a scene, a beat. A moment that no longer mattered because it was all those years ago, and here we are in a new time, and space, with new characters. No need for digging up the old untold.

Lies.

What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? ~Audre Lorde

There is a risk in the telling, yes, but the greater risk is in the untelling. In the silence. In the denial of your story. In the casual disregard of your truth. Voicing your story does not have to mean telling it out there to them, but at the very least, you owe it your life to tell it in here, to you. What truths are hidden in your silences? What love is lost? What life is secreted away, literally buried alive? Can you save it? (Tell it). What is the story that remains hidden so far in you that you barely recognize or remember it? (Tell it).

Funny thing about a story untold. We deny it audience, yet it finds one anyway. We hear echoes of characters past in the voices around us today. We recognize the scenery in our present circumstances. We don’t quite understand why the script, the players, seem familiar. It’s untold story, demanding recognition. When if we could just tell it and see it for what it is, we could get on with the very important business of writing the life we really want.

And of course I’m not promising that telling is easy. Sometimes storytelling is a dangerous, triggering business. But you are the author of your life. Name your reality. Share your story.

And then? Keep writing the rest.

Nuance and Gray Areas

I appreciate this piece from Linda on The Feminist Wire. Especially this section where she rejects the rape/not rape binary to make room for complexity:

Dear President Obama,

I appreciate your statement that rape is rape. I really do. Your intent, I am sure, is to reject the idea that there might be legitimate rapes and illegitimate rapes. But, alas, there are complexities to rape, just as there are complexities to life. There are (sometimes) gradations, ambiguities, complications, and varied amounts and forms of culpability. My boyfriend was not a monster. I know what monsters are, having unfortunately been trapped and caught by one when I was nine. That sort of thing changes your sense of humanity, the world, your future, your life. But at 16, I was not attracted to monsters. Alas, I was attracted to assholes. My boyfriend at the time was an asshole. He might have initiated sex with me when I was awake, after all. He could have tried for a two-way encounter, an embrace, the physical correlate to a conversation between equals, but that is not what he desired, apparently. He wanted to have sex with a jellyfish. I have never understood the attraction of this.

But I would not actually call it a rape, straight up.

While I personally would not categorize perpetrators as assholes vs. monsters, I think it’s important for survivors of sexual assault to decide if their experience merits one label (rape) or another (something else).  And as she goes on to explain, this decision does not then make space to call some rapes legitimate and others illegitimate. It does make space to investigate the behavior of all parties, to understand intent, culpability, consent, or lack thereof.

So I am not suggesting we reintroduce the word “legitimate” in order to be able to characterize such complex forms of sexual violations.  That word adds nothing useful to our comprehension of coercion, manipulation, or the many forms that violation can take. But in order to begin to bring forward the experiences of sexual violence as victims experience them, we will need to allow for variable, even uncertain and ambiguous, formulations, and judgments that may not rise to the level of courtroom adjudication of guilt. If we want to listen to survivors, we will need to  prepare ourselves to hear about the gray areas.

Read the rest here.

It Counts (Trigger Warning) | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

So this happened:

And aside from the fact the man sounds ignorant – he wants to enact laws about pregnancy when he doesn’t know how it works – he qualifies rape. If there is legitimate rape, it must follow there’s such a thing as illegitimate rape. And one wonders what that might be, exactly?

Akin has issued an apology video, trying to make amends for his word choice, yet one wonders if he still believes that some rapes are real, while others, are somehow fake? If only he could express the concept more artfully?

Jezebel documents and simultaneously mocks this dangerous discourse here. Tanehisi unpacks the power and privilege underlying the claims here.

Rape is rape. Full stop.

It becomes a stranger invading. It becomes a thief stealing. That is not intimacy any more. You have changed it. It is something else. It is something brutal and violent and mean…

This is from a much longer work-in-progress. In it, I recount a dysfunctional relationship, echoes of which still reverberate in my consciousness decades later. It’s appalling, really. The idea that such an assault is subject to scrutiny – not on whether it happened, but on whether it was legitimate. Whether it matters. Whether it counts.

It counts.

It counts even though it was not with a stranger. It counts even though the perpetrator was my boyfriend, whom I loved at the time. It counts even though I only show up in the “underreported” statistics because I never reported him. I was too busy trying to convince myself that my feelings were legitimate. That I mattered. That I counted.

And I do.

Forever Changed | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy.

What is one thing that left you forever changed?

I stumbled across this question while sitting, browsing and mulling – the trio known collectively as my process. Even when I have an idea in mind (I did) I often have to go through this period of germination. I embraced it in grad school, but I kinda want things to move a little faster.

But this is me stalling.

As soon as I read that question, an answer came to mind. I was inspired to respond, completely disregarding my initial plans to write about student ingenuity and punishment. Though as I began to type, I wondered how much I should or would share.

I’m still deciding. I’ll ease into it and see what comes out.

I experienced the first love of my life in high school. I went in with an open heart and came away damaged. Not just bruised. Way beyond heartbroken. Soul shattered perhaps, and I’m not sure that even captures it. For years, literally two decades, I was unwilling to consider the trauma I underwent. I hid it from everyone. Even me.

It left me secretly distrustful. Occasionally dizzy in torrents of “what if.” Subject to mini-meltdowns in intimate spaces.

Last year around this time, I began peeling back the layers, exposing the truth. To myself, at least. During that process I truly began to understand the transformative nature of narrative – the dramatic shifts in understanding that can occur in studying episodes of your own life history.

I was forever changed by the relationship. I was forever changed yet again, in the telling.

I hope my path of facilitating transformation through narrative can help others; but that’s a story for another day.

Wounding. A 20-year lesson.

A thief made off with a prized possession
Me
Snatched from sacred promises of love everlasting
Held hostage
Imprisoned
A cage of my own hand
Tortured
             by hurt invisible,
                            choking out life, love

Twenty years I spent
Captive to that pain
Yet blind
Ignorant of my own walls
Fences

Wondering why you couldn’t reach me
Wouldn’t reach out to me
Feel me
Know me

None had eyes for well-hidden pain
Buried
And I with it
Trapped
Cowering behind a guarded heart
Safe
From you

Wishes escaped on wings of prayers
Floating beyond boundaries
                                        of consciousness
Sneaking through cracks
Disguised as discarded hopes
Rising above barriers
Taking flight
A call
A song
          in my key
Imprisoned heart unlocked
Responding
Wishes as balm
As pathway to freedom
Story as star
Illuminating the road home

Love