My Word for May 2012
Although it wasn't my intent when I took it, the photo above reminds me of a hostage shot where the victim is bound and gagged and her eyes beg, "Get me out of here. Please." How appropriate. Because SILENCE can be a vicious captor.
That's why I'm finally exercising my speak muscle. Without constant use, it is easily atrophied.
Speaking up isn't something that has come easily to me. In fact, when I was a little girl two scenarios were on perpetual repeat.
The first happened on numerous visits to the salon for a haircut. After the stylist was through, she would spin my chair around and hand me a mirror so I could get a 360 degree view of my new do. I would smile, thank her, and promptly exit the salon in tears and frustration.
I didn't like my haircut. But I didn't dare tell her that. I couldn't fathom asking her to fix it. I was too ghastly afraid of hurting her feelings, and perhaps even more afraid of her thinking that I was too picky. Instead, I chose to suffer in silence. All to avoid speaking up.
The second happened at restaurants. I must have often been the last to finish my meal because when the servers came to clear the table--while I was still eating, but put my fork down as I chewed and swallowed--my plate was usually taken along with the other dishes that belonged to people who had finished.
Instead of interrupting this and uttering three simple words--"I'm. not. done"--I'd watch in horror as my last treasured bites (often the tastiest morsels on the plate) were carried away to the kitchen.
And while a lousy haircut and some unfinished meals aren't earth-shattering, the silence got reenforced and had a cumulative effect on my soul. I stopped speaking up for myself in other situations, where the stakes were much higher. And my silence was costly.
I became a master of internal excuses--all in an effort to drown out the undeniable, surging force rising up within me that bellowed, "Speak up!" I minimized the impact the silence was having, until it could no longer be ignored.
Now that I've conquered the "More layers in the back" at the salon, and the "Step away from the plate" at restaurants, I'm building strength in another section of my speak muscle.
When situations arise which require more than a simple one-liner, I have the tendency to freeze. I need time to process and reflect and craft thoughtful responses (I am a writer, after all!), and in those moments, I want to hit a pause button, run to my journal, get my words perfectly hammered out, and rush back to deliver my response. But there's often not time for perfect. And perfect is all too illusive anyway.
So I'm learning to flex my muscles and speak up in those situations too.
Through this process, I am forging a new belief about words and where they come from. Accessing the words is a lot like listening to the radio. Stations are always broadcasting their programming, but in order to hear what's being aired, I have to tune in to the right channel.
"Tuning in" is sometimes tricky, but as soon as I do I find the words are there.
For example, when the month of May rolled around, I realized I had not yet settled on my one word for the month. So I simply paused, asked myself, "What's the word?" and immediately it was there. Speak.
The word did not come from outside of me. It came from within. And I am finding that this applies to words in general.
So I am learning to pay more attention to what's already there. In me.
The words inside are waiting to come out; I'm giving myself permission to set them free.
I'm exercising my speak muscle. And it's getting stronger every day.
"Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare the truth thou hast, that all may share;
Be bold, proclaim it everywhere:
They only live who dare."
Do you ever feel like you "don't have the words" in certain situations? What would happen if you told yourself a different story--that you DO have the words, you need only dare to speak them.