Sickness & Health, Writing, Writing & Reading

The Values of Silence

My fingers hover over the keyboard. I have so many thoughts, so many reactions.  Sometimes I even type them out, giving fleeting voice to my opinions, but always—almost always—I think better of it.  I hit delete.  I watch as a blinking cursor erases my feelings one letter at a time.

I don’t think I need to say that it’s been quite the week. We all have feelings and many of us are expressing them—some in beautiful ways, some in hateful, many somewhere in the middle.  Mostly, I have resisted expressing my political opinions anywhere on the internet.  And after all that has happened, all that may happen, I wonder to myself why and if such a decision been wise.

The why is fairly easy: I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to get into it with anyone—start a battle that no one will win.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I don’t want my words to be mis-taken.  There are people in my life whom I not only dearly love, but also deeply respect who vote very differently from the way I do.  I live in a predominantly red community.  Why risk a potential rift?  I hate rifts.  I abhor violence.  It feels, at this moment in time, that we seem unable to speak to each other civilly—that a disagreement about ideology immediately devolves into name-calling.  Demeaning the value of each other as humans whether they be called “deplorable” or “nasty” seems to be commonplace.  I don’t want to participate in this.

When I was writing my memoir about my diagnosis and experience of having CFS a decade ago, I agonized over how to portray certain people in my life—people who have hurt me excruciatingly.. I wasn’t sure that being candid was the right thing to do.  Who might I hurt by speaking my truth?  Was it worth it?  I also didn’t want to use “being authentic” as an excuse for calling people out in a childish way.  Even when I wrote my first novel, I worried how members of my family would interpret certain aspects of it.  Would they be upset?  Would they be mad at me?  I can’t stand it when people are mad me.  It feels like attempting to get a foothold on crumbling land beneath me.  It feels devastating and lonely.  So I have censored myself—a lot (it’s actually part of the reason I have not submitted my work as much as I should).  Some of it has been wise.  I have been grateful when I have held my tongue in situations in which I would have liked to spit fire, but I wonder where exactly the line is.  At what point does silence stop being golden and start becoming a prison warden?

Well, I guess, that point is now. People say that some of us are taking this too personally.  But it is has become personal.  My opinion about what constitutes good government policy differs greatly from that of President-Elect Trump.  That would have been enough for me to not vote for him, but it wouldn’t have made it personal.  What made it personal, was the fact that I, and many women whom I care about, have been victimized by men, and the words and actions of Mr. Trump have ripped open those wounds.  The fact that so many people voted for him feels like an endorsement of a man’s right to hurt and debase women at will.  I know this is not true.  I know that if you are reading this and you voted for Trump, you were not thinking about me or any of my friends who have been through similar things.  You were thinking about Right to Life or the next supreme court justice or repealing Dodd-Frank or any number of practical reasons—maybe even personal reasons—why you felt that Trump was the best choice for this country.  People are suffering and they saw this man as a way out.  I get that.  I can respect that.  But I also weep for it.  And I don’t know how I am supposed to forget all the varied hateful things that Mr. Trump has said and give him my support now.

I have been silent. I have been fearful.  Today, I am saying a little.  How much will I say in the future?  I don’t know.   A part of me wants to speak for myself and for others who cannot, but I still don’t want to start a fight.  I don’t want to cause irreparable damage.  Honestly, I don’t want to put myself in the line of fire.  A part of me just wants to meditate and pray and spread love with smiles and music—and I will do that.  But is continuing silence wise?  Is it responsible?  Can anything be solved without respectful discourse?  I don’t know, but I heard a stat this morning that chilled me to the bones.  Approximately 49% of eligible voters did not vote in this year’s election.  Almost half of the people who have the ability to help decide how we will treat our children, our fellow citizens, our country were completely silent.



Reconnect Little Art Card |
Art & Crafts, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health


Reconnect Little Art Card |

This is a little art card (a part of a larger project that I plan to post about in months to come).  I made it a few weeks ago and subsequently tore it up some days since. Why?  There’s no very good explanation.  It was mostly because I was having one of those moments in which I wanted to lash out and this is the part of the universe that got it.  The card wasn’t precious.  Just an inexpertly made little piece of almost nothing made from cheap supplies and leftovers.  It wasn’t  big deal.

But I was a little sad. I had liked the little piece of almost nothing.  And the irony of my destroying a card bearing the word connect was not lost on me.  I have had some difficulty connecting—particularly here on this blog (it’s been almost a year since I last posted) and even more in other venues—especially considering the current political climate and the fact that tomorrow is the anniversary of the terrorist attack that took the lives of almost 3000 people—including my brother.

I often feel that talking about my brother’s death is self-indulgent (though this may be untrue), and I’m not even sure how many of my social media friends even know that he died on 9/11. I don’t want to burden them, or bring attention to myself, so I say nothing.  On Facebook this morning, I began to see the commemorations, and I thought, “I guess I’ll be logging off for the weekend.”  Some people will use this anniversary as a call to arms, a reason to be angry, to exclude and to hurt others.  Some people will aggrandize their own connection to or participation in the events in order, perhaps, to make themselves feel bigger somehow.  I usually stay silent about these things, too.  I reason that everyone has their own viewpoint; I cannot dictate how others should feel or react.  People should not have to tiptoe around me and my feelings.  Even if many of the posts in my feed make me nauseous and angry and sad, I say nothing.  I don’t want to fight.

And that’s still true. I don’t want to fight.  What I want to do is connect.  Yesterday, I dug the four shards of my little piece of almost nothing out of the garbage, and I sewed it back together with black thread and ugly stitches.

Reconnect Little Art Card Back |

This is how reconnecting happens: with small, awkward steps, with the knowledge that damaged ends will never match up perfectly, and with the acceptance that you may always see the place where the break occurred.  The funny thing is how strong my little piece of almost nothing is now.  The stitches have reinforced it, making it, in some respects, both more durable and more flexible.  Also, I like it better than I did before I ripped it up.  Which again, is funny, because I was ashamed when I did it—that I had let my temper, my grief get the better of me.  I feared it was a sign that I had not progressed as far as I had thought or hoped, that I was less than, once again.  But I remember now, that we all have those moments—and we can all rebound from them.  We can, with a soft and open heart, rescue those precious bits we think we have lost, come home, and reconnect—if only, but possibly most importantly—with ourselves.


Writing, Writing & Reading

Visible Woman

Visible WomanIn his book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about how authors sometimes incorporate attributes of their own life situation into a story, without realizing what those attributes are.  When he wrote the alcoholic protagonist in The Shining, King says, he wasn’t aware, he was, at that very moment, an alcoholic himself.  Something similar has happened to me.  I finished my first novel Communing with Saints a few years ago, and though I knew I was including some aspects of my personal story in that of my main character Lucy—her ambivalence about Catholicism, for one—I didn’t realize how much her fears were my own.  When, in the first chapter, the ghost of Typhoid Mary finds herself invisible to all around her, desperate for attention, and tethered to this quiet 23-year-old, she recognizes right away Lucy’s trepidation about being seen:

She knew she had no choice, she must continue to follow Lucy, and to hear and to see as the younger woman attempted to hide from the entire universe.  Mary shook her head, “Doesn’t that girl realize how terrible it is to be invisible?”

It wasn’t until some months ago, when I contemplated ramping up my internet presence—doing all the platform-building tasks that a writer is encouraged to do these days—that I realized, I too, am afraid of being seen.  I am afraid of getting myself into something I can’t get out of, getting hurt somehow—or hurting others with what I have to say.  Okay, Diana, so stay silent.  Don’t put your two cents in.  Be invisible.  But, you see, there’s a reason that although Lucy starts out in an attitude of concealment, she slowly makes a journey to some level of comfort interacting with others—because being seen and heard is one of the most basic emotional needs humans have and, it’s one of the best ways we can help one another.

I remember devouring Susanna Kaysen’s memoir Girl, Interrupted and thinking, “Thank you.  Thank you for writing this down in this way and thank you for sharing it with me.”  My emotional struggles were different from Kaysen’s, but I felt liberated by her candor and her seeming lack of shame.

And yet, I feel reluctant—especially when I consider the crazy-making-ness of it all.  The worst part is after I post.  The doubting of my content, grammar, and punctuation.  The subsequent liking and/or commenting.  The publicizing on Twitter and Facebook.  The incessant checking of my phone to see if someone else has yet responded to what I have put out into the ether.  The wondering if I should be more public or less public.  The agonizing over comments I write on other people’s blogs—wanting them to sound just right, to show that I am friendly and witty and smart.

Furthermore, in the current publishing climate where a writer is encouraged to build a platform by not only blogging, but social networking—in seeming competition with many other others, I might add—I find myself baffled by what the heck I should post.  I like social media.  I think it brings a cool kind of democracy to the world.  I have seen funny posts, clever posts, poignant posts, and I enjoy them all, the problem is I never know what to say!  As I wearily laid down yesterday afternoon and felt my mattress cuddle my aching body, I thought, “I am so in love in with my bed right now.”  And then I thought, “Should I be tweeting this or putting it on Facebook?  Is this the kind of thing people might find funny or simpatico?”  I have to start somewhere, but the truth of that matter is, I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t believe anyone would want to read it, and I didn’t want to make noise just for the sake of making noise.

Last week, I read a blog post by Felicia Sullivan in which she asserted that there is a lot of bad writing on the internet.  I can’t say I disagree with her.  Of course, each of us bloggers are hoping that we are not the ones she’s talking about!  Certainly, there’s a lot of good writing out there, too.  But how much of it do we actually read?  How much do we have time for?  How many individual words of this post are you reading right now?  I don’t ask that out of mischievousness, merely out of interest.  In a sea of verbiage, do my words matter?

Of course they do.  Everyone’s words matter.  How much?  I don’t know.  But, in all humility, I’d hate to think I might rob even one person of the kind of experience reading Girl, Interrupted gave me.

Being visible has not always been a safe experience for me.  I have had several experiences in my life of people asking more of me then I wanted to give, of casting blame on me for being selfish—that by my withholding parts (or in some cases all) of myself, I was withholding their happiness.  My response to these experiences has been to want to dig an even deeper hole in which to hide.  That’s not the answer, but neither is being completely forward, and hang the consequences.  I need to be brave enough to be seen—in any aspect of life—but also not too scared to be reticent.

Back in my performance days (during which the idea of wearing a slip on stage in the guise of a hooker seemed much less risky than being on the internet), I adhered to the guideline of scaring myself a little—not full on terror, not total security—just a small dash of apprehension.  This kept me moving forward, but also meant that I didn’t end up in over my head.  I am going to keep that in mind now, as I try to emulate my somehow wiser-than-me characters.  Mary’s right.  It is terrible to be invisible, to be unheard.  We have a responsibility to act and speak with wisdom (if at all possible) and compassion, but we can’t let the burden of that task scare us from allowing ourselves to be seen.

Oh, and if you like your tweets intermittent and possibly rather boring, please feel free to follow me @audacioussm