i’m not sure when it happened, but at some point growing up something shifted in me and i got, well, quiet.
i’ve never been the loudest voice in the room and i’ve always been someone more prone to listening than sharing (hello, INFJ), but somewhere along the line this predilection for quiet became a bit more insidious. i learned it was safer to, well, just shut the fuck up. this is, in part, because i don’t like confrontation. i will do almost anything to avoid a potential blow-up. i learned that when i voiced an unpopular opinion or just a plain opinion that i was often greeted with a strong, often defensive response. i learned that many people viewed themselves as knowing more than me. i learned that my voice was one that people could talk over and ignore. (i also learned that race and gender can play a huge part in all of this…)
so i got quiet. which, in turn, made this predicament worse: people can talk over you as much as they’d like when you aren’t speaking.
silence hasn’t always meant literal silence. it has meant saying “i’m fine” when i am not fine. it has meant following up with a question so that someone else has to talk more than me. it has meant not challenging an opinion i thought was ridiculous. it has meant nodding and smiling when all i wanted to do was yell and scream.
this worked out great until people could start reading my face. suddenly people were saying things to me like, “i know you are thinking something else…i can see it on your face”. i then had to get trickier with my silence, hiding it in plain sight–which didn’t/doesn’t always work.
it is not that i’ve enjoyed being silent. in fact, i find it frustrating. i find it enraging. i get so fed up that i open my mouth to speak sometimes–sharing my thoughts, my beliefs–and, unfortunately, i have sometimes been pushed back into my little silence cave. i put up the good fight until finally i see that i don’t have the stamina. i don’t have the endurance. sometimes it is me who pushes myself back in the cave, almost embarrassed by my attempt, and sometimes it is others, whether they mean to or not. i nod and smile and return to the world within my mind.
but often my voice does find a way out. in writing. in her book, talking back: thinking feminist, thinking black, bell hooks writes: “for me, poetry was the place for the secret voice, for all that could not be directly stated or named, for all that would be denied expression” (11). as a college student, i underlined this line a million times. because, yeah, poetry was the same for me. but this usually happens after the initial turn to silence. and i am thinking about the moment i go from engaged to silent.
as a yoga practitioner, i enjoy silence. i enjoy cultivating it. when we sit and breathe in silence and urge our minds to rest, to become quiet as well, it is a different version of silence–one that is harder to reach.
many times, i find myself yearning for the type of silence that comes from meditation when i get quiet in everyday situations. it is as though my brain hasn’t figured out the difference yet.
one stems from an urge to connect to self.
another stems from fear, frustration, and a yearning for safety.
when i feel that urge to shut up, i often feel the urge to find my yoga mat or meditation cushion. i don’t often make it there though. so i am wondering if there is something to be done here. can my personal practices of yoga, meditation, and writing bring me out of the hiding? can they support my voice? can they overrule the self-doubt? can practicing them regularly help me step out of silence regularly?
i don’t really have any answers. i’m just taking a few moments to study myself and to see what i find.