Friday, February 26, 2010

World-Splitting Words

“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.


Tally Wilgis said...

You make me smile.

While I'd assume based on previous interactions that you and I would end up on opposite sides of many spectrums (some closer than others) I assure you that I'll be reading with a supportive heart.

You have a natural talent (am I allowed to say gift?) for writing and expressing your thoughts in a way that comes across poetically yet effortlessly. I'm certain I don't even have a window to your world but more likely a dusty keyhole at best but I do sense a powerful voice with the ability to articulate in compelling fashion.

Whether we ever agree doesn't concern me as I'll be enjoying this next phase of your writing to see how this newfound freedom elevates this talent that has spent years fermenting.

I tip my cap to you and look forward to the words to come.


MidnightCafe said...


You're an incredible woman. You've got my thoughts & prayers as you turn this new page.

Christine said...

I love the real you. That is all.

Amber said...

Bottom have to be true to yourself. Come what may. If your insides feel "fraudulent" that's no way to live. Better to be honest and be able to live with yourself. I'm learning that lesson slowly, but surely.

Lauren said...

tally- wow. thank you for showing up and sharing your heart. glad we can still make one another smile, despite our differences.

amy- thank you. it's both humbling and heartening to hear such affirming words from a woman who i admire deeply.

stine- i know it, and i feel it, and i could never possibly do justice with my words to what a difference that makes. <3

amber- i love what you said. mostly because i feel as if the various "institutions" in my life have told me the exact opposite for the better part of my life. the message has been about denying myself, silencing the questions that might prove disruptive, and choosing 'fraudulent' over 'heretical,' for the sake of my very soul.

Lauren Lelsey Photography said...

you make me proud

Lauren said...

and your pride makes me brave :)

getbornmagmomma said...

I've only just "met" you, but through a woman who validated and affirmed my voice in a time when I, too, was beginning to make tentative, frightened but very forward steps nonetheless, out of my cocoon of "shoulds" and into a more generous space--Makeesha. It's not an easy road, but it's thrilling and exhilarating, because there's so much that your soul aches to say, and your fingers can't fly fast enough across the keyboard. Then there are those who gasp and say, "How did you know? How did you know I felt that way?" The first time, you think it's a fluke. The second, luck. The third, divine providence, and by the fiftieth time, you realize that you've finally allowed God to speak through you and you're willingness to be a vessel is bringing hope and freedom to many. And you smile the smile of the called and fulfilled. May the peace of a blessed, lovely God, in all her generous and gigantic creativity, give you glorious hope in this season.


Ange said...

Lauren -

I literally got chills once I reached the end. I had tears in my eyes and all I could think was "Amen!"

Love you, girl! I so look forward to the coming days and sharing real life with you (even if we are miles and miles away...sniff...sniff...)


Karen said...

Dear Lauren,
Thank you so much for your loving supportive words for me, on Ronna's blog! And of course, the amazing and perfect thing is that when I follow your link back to your own blog, here you are writing about the very same themes! :)
I am so encouraged by what you said. I am myself on the babystep-edge of starting my own blog. Learning about the technology, making notes about my first posts. Needing to be very gentle with myself about how and when it all bursts forth. My tendency is to be super-urgent and anxious and demanding of myself... but I can't force a flower to bloom, and I can't force a blog to bloom either. But the seedling is definitely pushing out of the ground, seedhead curled bowed down but defiantly reaching upward. And your words are so encouraging to me, because it makes me feel that people will want to read what I have to say!
So thank you, thank you. :)

Lauren said...

heather- your words of affirmation and friendship mean more to me than you could imagine. i get chills when i consider the implications of "a more generous space." i look forward to getting to know you better, and to sharing this journey with you, cross-country though we may be ;)

ange- thanks for chiming in...positive feedback from friends helps me to both stand taller and speak with more clarity. and i *have* been saying that i NEED to make a trip back to nashville sometime soon...

and KAREN- so glad you clicked over! i just want to encourage you as you take baby steps toward beginning a blog, that you are a BEAUTIFUL writer. you paint such vivid and vibrant pictures with your words, and i look forward to reading more of them, once your seedling takes shape!!

April said...

Lauren -

I just found you through Ronna's blog the other day and want to let you know that you are one of those women who has inspired me to use my voice, quite literally by inspiring a blog post.

Thank you for shining your light so brightly. I look forward to witnessing more of your journey.

Blissings, April

Lauren said...

Thank you, April. It's interesting and encouraging to see how people get connected in this vast online community. I have a deep appreciation for Ronna's words and presence on the web, and am also deeply grateful for the connections that are branching out of her space. I'm glad you're here!

Aiti said...

Dearest Lauren, Will try this again and hopefully recall what I wrote in my last attempt to comment..for someone seldom at a loss for words and who rambles does this mother-in-law tell her daughter-in-law of how very proud she is of you..and I thank God for your gift of expressing a spirit of truth and honesty in your writing and also now for expressing yourself in your photography..have known for sometime that you and Robert are soul mates..thank you for loving him as you do and also for loving my precious granddaughter, Ella..Yes, Robert does look like a lumberjack in that picture, but truly a handsome one!!! Love your pictures and comments!!! And thank you for sharing about Pop-Pop...had trouble sleeping tonight and now know it was God's perfect timing for me to come down and turn on the computer to check e-mails and find your blog...if not for being in NH and a tad bit too far..would come right over and give you a big hug and tell you personally how much I love you...when can we expect to see a book published(think you can fit it into your busy schedule?) Anyway until then please continue to keep your readers enchanted..that being myself also...give Robert my love and this Aiti will say goodnight!!!