Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Say It Out Loud

I have a framed print beside my bed with the infamous Emile Zola quote:
If you ask me what I came into this world to do
I will tell you:
I am here to live out loud.

It has always resonated with me. I tend toward the apologetic. The people-pleasing. The swallowing of true thoughts. And yet, I desire to live out loud.

Two days ago, I heard a radio documentary about domestic violence. It followed a young man who had been sentenced to community service and counselling following an incident in which he punched his wife. He was telling his story. And when he got to the part where he told the reporter his wife had called the police, he said that the reason was because he punched her. He exhaled audibly. "Wow," he said. "I just said that out loud."
He noted how, for years as their relationship got increasingly abusive, he allowed himself to believe that was how couples dealt with frustration and anger. His parents had. And his wife frequently let him off the hook, by apologizing for making him angry. By agreeing with him that she, too, lost her temper.
And yet, when he spoke the words out loud, all that changed. There was no more hiding the truth in the shadows.

It got me thinking about betrayal. And how frequently we don't speak the words out loud that we're thinking because we fear them being true.
When our friends note that our husbands seem to be working "a lot" and we defend their work ethic, though we feel a kick in our gut. When our parents point out that our husbands seem disengaged with the kids and we defend them, though we frequently feel alone in our parenting.
Not, of course, that workaholism and absent parenting means cheating. My point is simply that we frequently have a narrative in our heads that simply isn't the truth. And by not saying the truth out loud – by hiding it in the shadows of excuses – we lie not only to the world but more importantly to ourselves.

We see it all the time. The parent who refuses to acknowledge that her child's behaviour indicates a serious problem, dismissing it at a "phase". The woman who ignores the lump because she's sure it's "nothing." And the wife who defends her husband's emotional absence instead of saying – out loud – that he's checked out of the marriage.

I don't know what would have been different if I'd been able to say out loud what I feared. I tried. I said I didn't like the late dinners with his assistant. I pointed out that, if she was truly a loyal and valuable employee, she would want him home with his wife and kids. But I didn't say out loud what I truly feared because I also feared looking crazy, or jealous, or hysterical.

These days, I'm living life out loud. Which means talking about a whole lot of things that make me uncomfortable –  from discussing STDs with my newly-teen daughter to talking stuff over with my husband.
But the alternative, hiding truth in darkness and silencing myself, is no longer an option.

4 comments:

  1. It dose not help.
    I have lived out loud and plus some from the beginning with my husband. I make no secrets of what I want, like or don't like. I don't play guessing games and I have little patience for waiting for things so I bring them up myself.
    Still here I am...

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  2. Yeah...I hear ya. In many cases, we're not going to stop anything...but by at least speaking our fears out loud, we're not lying to ourselves about them. I often believe the worst betrayal is that of ourselves. I know I did the best I could (and still do) but I frequently (still) let myself down by trying too hard and silencing the voice inside until it's screaming.

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  3. If you watch(ed) Oprah, she talks about that little voice that makes you say "Hmmmm?" I had a lot of those "Hmmmms?" while my husband was having his affair but I would silence them because going 'there' and I mean really 'going there' was way too terrifying. And, there was no way he was cheating because he wasn't staying out late or calling or texting all the time. But, he was going to her apartment at lunch. At lunch!!!???!!! Not sure I would have ever figured that out. It just didn't occur to me that a lunch affair was a possibility.

    Oprah also talks about how the universe will try to tell you something -- first with a whisper and if you don't listen it tries harder and harder and louder and louder until you can no longer ignore it. I could no longer ignore it on Dday but, to tell the truth, I did try. I tried really hard with the bargaining and the denial even though in my heart/soul I knew the truth even before Dday.

    I've vowed never again to silence my "Hmmmms" and to listen closely when the Universe whispers.

    ps -- I love that quote.

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  4. H'mmm indeed. Today we fired a house painter who gave me that "h'mmm" feeling. Couldn't put my finger on it...but we let him go because, despite months of various workers in my home, he was the only one who made me uncomfortable. To be truthful, I tried to talk myself out of it, if only because I thought to myself "he knows where we live, he knows the house..." but the fact that I was almost afraid of letting him go should have been reason enough to let him go.
    Life exhausts me sometimes...

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