All day yesterday I resisted a powerful urge in my right shoulder to throw something, something soft, like eggs, or words, though something hard might be even more satisfying. I have several targets in mind: The universe, for its random injustice, dishing out a fresh new cancer hell for my friend who has already had more than her share. The power-hungry, determined to remove from their path all with human instincts. The sociopathic entity that is corporate capitalism. The enablers among us, enabling the self-absorbed to continue on their path of destruction. (Yes, I’ve been guilty at times.) Those determined to silence others when it meets their need. Those determined to keep the rest of us a little off balance, unsure of their worth, floundering—even, so often, in the name of love.
I’ve been shushed too often too count, and usually at crisis moments, often after having been silent about things for years. (Yes, this is what one counsellor offered me many years ago when I went to him to pour out my sorrow over my marriage falling apart: “reign in your tongue”. And yes, it was pastoral counsel in keeping with the patriarchy the institution is rooted in.)
This is not unique; the shushed, and those who do the silencing are as common as dirt. (I didn’t, by the way, take his counsel, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.)
Restoring to balance the give-and-take in our interactions is crucial to our personal well-being, and to the health of our relationships. We speak and listen, offer and receive empathy, lead and follow. When our needs conflict directly, we compromise and take turns deferring to each other. And when the scales of giving and receiving are tipped for too long in one direction (the exception being the parent/child relationship), it severely damages the fabric of the thing.
Now that I’ve started this line of thought though, I see that the current impulsive ache in my shoulder is pointless: the targets I have in mind are too numerous, and too powerful. The universe simply holds trump cards we don’t, and the other targets, the human ones, they wouldn’t in a million years get the message or change a thing about their way of being. The action of hurling something their way would simply once again underscore their right to victimhood, and my satisfaction would be fleeting.
Something more constructive perhaps? Like simply refusing to be silenced? Like refusing to believe others have the power to defeat us, and persevering with our goals and desires in spite of the craters in the ground when the floor falls away? And when those who insist on nothing but silent acquiescence finally sever the relationship in response to our refusal to be silenced, it is perhaps a gift. A gift wrapped in loss, but a gift nonetheless.