Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stagnation of Silence

The lack of words speaks louder than syllables.

This phrase has been whispering in my ear for the past week and echoing in my head for the past couple of days. I suppose the time has come to write.

I am up an hour earlier than my alarm. Even on weekends, I tend to be an early bird, yet not this early. I reminisce on how I was taught that silence served as a benefit.

On the surface, my childhood looked normal. That was the sign of a successful rouse. You see, one was to never speak ill of family, whether it was volunteered or requested information. I understood, practically from the womb, that practice was a no-no. In fact, I am still an advocate of a level of decorum in terms of handling personal conflict. A family member should not say to the world what he (or she) is too chicken to say to me: whether through traditional means of gossip or social media. 

Yet the silence also imprisoned us. I can count on fingers and toes how many times I've heard my grandma and grandpa engage in a conversation lasting more than an hour, if ever. When something important needed to be addressed and the two of them did not agree, it didn't end well. My grandpa's first approach was to listen while my grandma would "talk about it" (read: go over the same point multiple times, just using different words each time) before erupting in anger. This would be a loud grumble, or if it was a rough situation, some shouting and the pounding of the dining room table. In the end, either party would storm off in silence. Rarely did words of acknowledgment or apology come from their lips but they continued to function as if the disagreement never occurred.

This presented difficulty in the way I would approach my grandma in talking about things. You see, if Grandma was happy, then the household was at peace. If not, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the household caught wind of the discord. It was smooth to tell her about what was going well in my life but I had to pull all of the creative stops when it was a situation that I knew would be to her possible disliking. More often than not, I wished I would have stayed silent.

When emotions get involved, it is tough to step back and discern addressing the behavior versus addressing the person. Hating the treatment gets translated into despising the person. Once that conclusion is reached, no amount of "let me explain" or "allow me to reword" can dissolve that first assessment. That has been many a fuel which have led to this coldness in hearts ... this awkwardness in proximity ... that stretches across the miles and across the years. Unfortunately, death can knock and with some individuals, the fragile balance of time and life is not enough to bring about clarity or peace.

Because of the dysfunctional way conflict was addressed in my household, it fostered practices in my adulthood. When things bothered me, I was not quick to speak, playing out too many scenarios as to how it would bother the other person. All visions would be so epic ... the anxiety of saying something led me to say nothing. It also stagnated my ability to be comfortable in expressing joy or happiness. This may baffle some of you, but I was taught joy and happiness could be snatched in an instant. I concluded that if one could conceal these positive things, perhaps they could stay a bit longer before events manifested to drown them out.

When I began learning of other social structures, that was the first inkling I had that perhaps silence was not always the best way. How many times has keeping things in made me sick, to the point where they physically made their presences felt? Who got the major prize for my severed tongue? It certainly was not me. My composition was my decimation. Was it too late for me to find a new way, a better way, that would reserve me instead of someone else's definition of me?

The struggle was (and still is) real.

I noticed that my anger is a hybrid of my mother (back in my brief vengeful and vindictive phase) and my grandfather (quietly bubbling). When my anger was roused, it was a frightening sight but because I rarely revealed anger at anything, some of my past partners saw it as amusing, astonishing, or arousing. None of that signified being taken seriously. My words hit the jugular more when I wrote so I continued to use that vice when having something meaningful to discuss.

However, I still was not at rest. The more experiences I had, the more I was adapting to the styles of others. What drove this home for me was the deterioration of my marriage. Towards the end, my ex-husband mimicked the same passive-aggressive tactics to address conflict that were pronounced during my youth. 

Each day I strive to be more self-aware without subtracting self. It is a challenge to get my empath out of the way but in order to be a better me, I must learn how to temper that rush to help when a hurt spirit calls ... to pacify that whisper "he/she has potential". I have to quickly remind my empath of how many deaths I've suffered answering that bat signal. I have to interact with people who know how to effectively communicate as well as listen. Not every disagreement has to end with demolition. Some conflict strengthens bonds because one knows how they will stand against adversity.

The late Chantay Legacy Leonard wrote, "My pen is my salvation."

Now my voice will be as well.


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