Speaking up

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“Really, shut it off.  I can’t.”

It was the morning after the Kavanaugh/Ford testimony and the thought of a vote that afternoon was too much for me to bear.  For the record, I don’t usually demand that the news be turned off because it is so distasteful to me.  Although, I can happily skip the news most mornings, sometimes I actually am happy for the update.

“I am not being very aware!” I also proclaim, in not quite a yell but louder than a self-aware person should be speaking.

My husband, usually very animated regarding anything political, interestingly, has little to say.  

That he comments on my state rather than Senator Flake is a testimony for his great love for me.  

“If you stopped a moment, you would find Awareness right there.”

Did I mention that we are both endeavoring a spiritual practice of observing our thoughts—not chasing or rejecting them? Clearly “Shut it off” is rejecting and since this is born from upset after as a result of chasing these thoughts, I am guilty of both.  Awareness is slipping away. 

“I am calling my senator!” I announce trying to convince myself that this is what I am called to in this moment of no-awareness.  

But my reaction haunts me, perhaps as much as the testimony and Flake not looking up in the elevator, or even Flake’s change of heart. I am remembering some past abuse.  I am feeling the pain of it all—the pain of all women, not just my own.  I am identifying with the collective grief.  And it is too much.  


I am losing any spiritual equanimity I thought I had attained when imagining Kavanaugh as a new Supreme Court Justice.  

A spiritual teacher and friend suggested looking at this—THIS that is triggering me.

“Perhaps you have not felt heard, or you have felt you could not speak.”

My mind is trying to hold onto his words so I can check out the truth of it later when I can think clearly. I feel overwhelmed. 

“Is this true?”  My mind try to grab onto the question like a branch while I am falling and my tears already answer. 


“Big Mouth!”  I hear some distant mocking from my past.  Wouldn’t that mean I had spoken?  So is it that I felt not heard?

Then I remembered an exercise on a retreat.  We named our worst fear before walking across the board while all other participants embodied that fear.  I had said, “Fear of no one listening.” Unlike all the other times, when participants yelled out nasty comments to the person walking the board, this time, everyone was quiet, turning their backs on me, murmuring to one another, ignoring me.   

So I’ve been letting these thoughts percolate.  I am a singer, an actress, happy to be on stage. How could I do that if I felt I could not speak, or feared that no one would listen? 

The answer came too quickly. I am a singer of other composer’s words in a service where I am part of the “Fulfill-your-Sunday-obligation” package.  No one is choosing to hear me, really.  

I am an actress of a playwright’s lines for an audience who paid to see a company perform, not just me. 

When I was in cabaret shows in NYC, didn’t I hate the banter between songs more than any other part of it?  

“Give me a script,” I remembered thinking.

I hated those song transitions.  I always thought it was because I had nothing to say but maybe it was because I was afraid to say it, or indeed thought, they’d think, “What do I care what she has to say?”

Wasn’t I afraid to speak up at staff meetings?  I forced myself to do it but it was oh, so hard.
Wasn’t I afraid to bring up a number of subjects with my overreactive father and then didn’t because, it was wiser to avoid his triggers?

How clever of me to find churches and stages as places to hide my fear of speaking up and speaking out.  

But always I have had this burning in my throat to speak—to defend the gay friend, to object to the smoker in a non-smoking restaurant, to convince a pastor that we should have a community garden, to write a play and sing an album of songs, and long to play characters who could say things I could not. 

Fear behind it all. 

I wrote this play—this play that was suppose to be all Joan, adding myself into it so I could speak for my mother.  And didn’t I do the same in life?
“Say something!”  I plead to my mother in a scene.  “Did you tell her how you felt?”
But have I?

Early audiences were confused about who was abusing my mother and I realized that I had not made it clear, almost afraid to name Mary even though she was long deceased.  I changed the sentence finally, “My mother was abused by her stepmother, Mary,” but I noticed how hard it felt to say it.

So when I wrote on Facebook recently—after years of careful wording as to not offend the parishioners, or the friends on the right, or family members or anyone— “Google your senator, and write your comments.  STAND UP and be heard!” I guess I was telling this to me!  

I thought I was telling all the women I was feeling bound to.  I thought I was encouraging the shy women out there, like my mom, to do this thing that was do-able. But really I am shouting my enlightenment at myself in my own newsfeed.  STAND UP and be heard.  

But I have no control over what happens to those words after they spill out of my mouth or on to the paper.  They may not be heard or read.  Life has also prepared me for this too.  My sisters who would nearly shout during dinner, “We don’t care about this!”
Or my father, “Get to it, Teri!”  

The relief and hidden joy I felt when later new friends would say, “You tell the best stories.  Tell Chrissy about the dog.”  

And as I matured, wasn’t I so clever to know how to ask the secretary for a favor, and when to tell the bad news to a colleague and how to create a moment to prepare the priest for more information he did not want to hear, but wanted to know.  All this political correctness has left me with so many unwritten rules:  End the conversation before they are bored.  Speak quickly and get to the point.  Don’t tell her you are disappointed again.  Don’t ask if she hasn’t volunteered the information.  Don’t ask them for Thanksgiving Dinner because they probably don’t want to come.  My GOD!  These are my real thoughts and exposed now, I sound insane. 

There is work I need to do beyond not chasing or rejecting.  I am taking the veil off this thing, exposing it to the light.  I don’t know what will happen but its time to see —and speak and fear no more.  



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