Tuesday, June 23, 2020

When the Silence Defines Us

Hello, Invisible Audience.

The last time I wrote, I spoke of the relief that the foundation of the life I had built was crumbling around me. It seems that many foundations are in the process of crumbling. It seems that the whole world is crumbling and seeking to find something new to stand on in the rubble.

The last time I wrote, I was in the midst of finding some space. Well, I found it. Then – as usually happens with me – I discovered that the space I found was not to simply lounge around in. It was there so I could work. Not work for a paycheck, like I had been doing. No, work throughthings: icky, heart-wrenching beliefs that have kept me stuck and stinging, trying to convince myself that the life I had created was enough of a life to continue on with.

Sunday was Father’s Day. A shitty day for me usually, Invisible Audience, since I cut my parents out of my life five years ago. This one was no different. I didn’t feel physically well, but then again, the line between my emotional and physical wellbeing has been blurring more and more over the years. I am no longer able to say with any certainty that my exhaustion is purely related to food intolerances or illness, or that my grief is purely held in the tears that I cry and not lodged in my chest like an actual stone. 

On Father’s Day, I was hot, and cold. I was exhausted, and angered. I fell asleep during a guided meditation on a women’s group call, and when I was asked what gifts I could honor in myself, I burst into tears as I admitted that I am Sensitive with a capital S.I kept my peace on Facebook, letting my mouth turn up at the odes to wonderful fathers as they skated across my feed, but the smile didn’t reach my eyes. I stayed silent.

I have been reeling for weeks from headaches and neckaches and an achethat has no name in itself, Invisible Audience. I have silently given up all screen time; most work; anything to do with computers, save for about an hour in the morning. I have a single freelancing client left; when I have work to do for him, I spend that hour doing work that pays. When I don’t, I write a book I’ve been writing for years. I have stayed silent about this.

I have been doing a workbook called Me and White Supremacy with a friend. I have had to face all the ways I have worn my privilege and held it close to me like a cloak; all the ways I have either ignored and dismissed others’ pain. All the ways I stayed silent.

Then, yesterday – the Monday after Father’s Day – I got a text from a friend. She knows how hard Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are for me, and she usually reaches out. She was out of town on the actual day, she said, but how was I? I don't expect her to call, but I'm always grateful when she reminds me I'm not alone.

Suddenly, I realized how little my silence serves, Invisible Audience. Because suddenly I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend from high school who told me a message I’d posted about Father’s Day one year had moved him to tears. He lost his dad in college, and clearly still felt the loss.still feel the loss, of what was both the best and hardest decision I have ever made, and in my case it was my choice.

I realized that by staying silent on social media I am making it more the kind of place I hate. I realized that I could easily think of a dozen friends in the midst of divorces from their kids’ dads; whose dads had recently died; whose relationships with their fathers are painful; whose children will never meet their grandpas. And by staying silent myself, I was perpetuating the idea that only pretty pictures of fatherhood are allowed on Father’s Day; that others’ experiences have no room on those days. That we are cannot be all together in this messy, chaotic life because we are all so different.

Then I thought about my Black friends. How none of them have ever shared with me the extent of the racism they have experienced, and how sometimes, when they tried, I was too uncomfortable to hear it. I thought about how I never once considered until recently the terror that likely accompanied many of my Mexican classmates growing up, wondering if an ICE raid would tear their families apart, whether they were American citizens, Green card holders, or none of the above. Friends whose hearts might have started to pound every time a cop showed up, simply because of the color of their skin.

So I spoke up. I wrote a post of Facebook, because I wanted others to feel less alone on Father’s Day; Iwanted to feel less alone. I thought about how ultimately that’s why I’ve taught kids Spanish; why I write about my time in other countries; why I write out loud to you, Invisible Audience. Sure, it’s a cathartic release for me, but it’s also because when I do it I am reaching out a hand, both to give and to grasp, so that others know they are not alone, and so I can know I’m not alone, too.

Several people commented on my Facebook post. Most said something about my bravery. It struck me: all I have to do to be brave is write. That is why I am here on this earth, Invisible Audience. I am not here to tell you your story. I am here to tell you mine, in the hopes that it creates a bit more space in the room for you to tell yours, too. 

Love and Not-So-Silent Kisses,