“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” – Muriel Rukeyser
I can already feel the hairline cracks and silent fissures taking form. The perilous quake has begun- my legs shudder beneath me, knees gently knocking, as the ground threatens (promises?) to open up beneath me.
A mere three days ago I took my first leap. For years leading up to that, I had remained relatively silent- peering frantically about, and hoping desperately to find some other woman’s voice to speak for me. I was looking for the companionship of like minds- women who would make me feel less alone, by using their words to express my agony. I longed for women who would name the struggles, expose the lies, ask the difficult (even reckless) questions, and be brave enough to settle in comfortably with radical and unconventional answers. Answers that challenged the prevailing notions about God and humanity, motherhood and marriage, power, prosperity and success. I thought that if I could just find others who had mustered the courage to speak up, if I could watch them walk through the fire and emerge on the other side- stronger and unscarred, then perhaps I could follow in their footsteps, and my own world wouldn’t implode. I was so afraid that if I spoke up myself (and similarly, spoke up for myself), that when I looked out around me, I would find that I was standing all alone. I was literally paralyzed by the fear that I would not only scare off everyone already in my life, but that no one else would show up to stand in the gaps. I suppose that deep down the real fear was that I was unlovable- that my questions were too big, my ideas too startling, and that ,as my friend Ronna would put it, all in all I was just “too much.”
Some of you who know me may be snickering. Others of you may simply be thinking- I’ve never thought of Lauren as someone who lurked in silence. On the contrary, I’ve always heard her speak her mind, have her say, articulate her opinions. And, in a sense, you would be correct. I have always been a passionate person, and will usually let you know my thoughts on a given subject. Sometimes, whether you’ve asked or not. But in the face of opposition, ultimately, I tend to back down. Shut up. Hold my position in private, while smiling agreeably in public. What I’d learned through voicing my truth in the past, was that when I spoke out my convictions, without apology, exception or a slew of accompanying disclaimers, doing so threatened my relationships.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How we as women are relational beings, down to our very core. And how, so often, relationship is the currency that is used to quiet us down and stifle the sound of our voices.
“What?! You don’t think women were created to submit to a man? Your marriage is on the line!”
“You’re kidding, right?! You think it’s time we started referring to God as “She” and tipping the scales back into balance? You obviously don’t know the one true God, and you’ll be separated from Him for eternity!”
“Are you serious?! You want to work outside of the home, while your child is cared for by someone else? You’re risking the integrity of your relationship with her!”
“You should reconsider!! You want to say out loud, once and for all, what your uncle did to those little boys, so that he never has the access or ability to hurt children again? Why, you’ll tear apart the fabric of your entire family!”
Whether explicitly or implicitly, we are told again and again, day in and day out that if we dare to raise our voice, we risk destroying our relationships. We’ll lose friends. Piss off and push away our families. We’ll be excommunicated from our churches. We’ll separate ourselves from “the one true” God. We’ll end up all alone.
“Step out of line little lady, and you won’t just lose something, you’ll inevitably lose someone.”
But as I’ve set my eyes on the horizon in search of these kindred spirits who would “tell my story,” do you know what I’ve found? A much bigger world than most people wanted me to see. I’ve found a whole chorus of voices that sound like my own. And I’ve subsequently found both the good sense to stop expecting my voice to materialize outside of myself, and the courage to unleash my own truth with tenacity and vigor. I’m not buying the lie anymore. I will not be alone!
Will I lose some “friends” by standing tall and speaking my truth, come what may? Yes. Will my failure to back down, my refusal to slump over so that I’m just small enough to keep the people in my life comfortable, mean that some people will decide that I’m “too much” and abandon me? Yup. There will most certainly be painful relational fractures that threaten to break my heart in half, and leave it with a limp. These are scary and threatening realities that I do not take lightly.
But, ultimately I take comfort. Will new, vital and resilient relationships grow up out of the fertile soil of my authenticity? I can finally say with confidence and conviction- Yes!
photo credit: madebyhank @ Flickr
Will the authentic me attract more substantial and soul-nurturing friendships with staying power? You’d better believe it! Will unleashing my voice set it free to find other women who are struggling in the wilderness, and ultimately help us all to build a healing, vibrant and thriving tribe? HECK YEAH! And it is with those revolutionary certainties tucked inside my pocket, that I can step forward with grace, confidence and the volume turned up on my voice.