My He(ART)-Full Life

Monday, February 25, 2013

ways in which I have been silenced + how I retrieved my voice

“and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive"
                                                -Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems 
For so much of my life, I have been silenced. As so many of us have been. And there are 101 ways our voices can be extinguished.  Sometimes they are overt ... But more often,  they are so insidious...they sneak up on us.  And envelop us in a cloak of silence without us even knowing. And then...months and years pass by (sometimes...a lifetime) without us realizing that we have been silenced. I am 44 years old right now as I write this, a mother, wife, friend, artist, creative soul...but looking back at my life, I see how this path was forged. Through so much pain, heartache, self doubt and searching through the rubble of my childhood with a blindfold on. But it is the pain that stays with me the most; the pain of betrayal by "family", culture and society but most most deeply ...the pain of me betraying mySELF. And isn't that the most difficult pain to bear? It has been for me.

" I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain.”-Audre Lorde
 Here are some of the (main)  ways I have been silenced
 * violence:  I was silenced by violence (or the threat of violence). Once we have experienced violence, become accustomed to it as a way of life and we are weak and vulnerable...powerless to stop it...then it can silence us. For a while...or forever. Violence can steal our voices from us and hide them, lock them away. It can make us feel and think that we are "bad", inadequate, at fault, no good and these can all extinguish our voices along with our spirit. And violence is not only the physical assault on our bodies but also the heavy burden of the assault on our spirit and mind. The ways in which we cannot be who we are is a violence upon the very heart of us. I have experienced all of these. I grew up in a violent "family" and culture. I grew up with the experience of violent actions, hearts and words. And cold and utter indifference...which is simply another form of violence, isn't it? 
 *shame: What better way to silence us than to make us carry the heavy burden of shame that is not ours to bear?? Shame can silence us faster than just about anything else. It can make us quiet, unsure of ourselves. It can make us feel + think that our stories are not worth sharing, like it never happened at all. "What? who wants to hear all your crap?" shame screams at us, rendering us powerless and taking away our words. Sometimes shame even steals our hearts. worst...shame lives inside of us and makes us participate in our own oppression. We don't even need an external oppressor anymore; we start to abuse ourSELVES.


*ostracism: This one is universal. We are tribal by our very nature; we need people, community, family and friends. We are hardwired for love + connection.  And what better way to silence us than to threaten ostracism??? What I have learned (the hard banging my head and breaking my heart) is that if we can't be who we are, if we have to negate the very core of our beings to "fit in"...then it's not our rightful tribe. It's best we are marginalised and get on our way to creating + finding our true place of belonging .A place where we can strive for our best selves. A place where we can sing our true songs, dance our beauty + ugliness + reach for our joy. A place where we can
*denial: This can be outright denial as in "you are lying and it never happened" or it can be the more subtle, covert form that ignores your pain and circumstances. It can also be the "lets all pretend" game.  I grew up with lies/denial of all kinds and let me just say that denial is a mental/spiritual/soul sickness. It really is. Because at some point, if you are living in denial for a long enough actually start believing it and you lose yourSELF. You construct relationships, memories, entire worlds...a life...that simply does not exist. I lived like that for many years and had to call my spirit back (little by little) by calling things by their name. Claiming my it's entirety.
*fear:And doesn't fear silence us the most? Fear of all of the above? Fear of being ourSELVES? Fear of being seen for who we really are (flaws + gifts and all)? Fear of being hurt and thrown away; rejected. Humiliated. Fear of not living up to expectations? Fear of making another uncomfortable? fear of ...fear??? Fear of speaking our truth? Fear of...dying and living???
Oh!! the many, many ways we are silenced. Let us name them, claim them and then...reach for something else.

"The most rough and deep of art comes from something no one but you has ever seen/known, walked with...If we want Original Voice, there’s no borrowing, no purloining, no ‘stealing’ from others. There is just you. Radiant one of a kind, blessed, scarred up, scared, sacred, funny, fully embodied, fully ensouled… you." - Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
And did I retrieve my voice? It wasn't just one thing or a straight path. there were missteps, meanderings, dead ends...being completely + utterly lost. There were circumstances. There was fate. There was raw anger, setting (necessary) boundaries and  hard work. There was utter and devastating loss...loneliness...heartache. Being abandoned. More than once.There was my art. There were strong mentors, books, poetry. There are other shining bright souls lighting my way and encouraging me to find mine. There was me birthing...mySELF and my daughter.  There is my husband. True friends. Unbelievable kindness. Other people giving me a chance + believing in me. Kindred spirits. There is a deep and abiding necessity in giving my soul air to breathe. There is not letting what I can't do, stop me from doing what I can do. There is authenticity. Owning my actions. There is tenderness; being human. Being true to our calling(s). Being seen. Gratitude. There is trusting in my instincts. Honoring the small lost child from long ago. There is self care. There is SELF. There is sensuality. Sexuality.

"I am my best work - a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.” -Audre Lorde
There is believing in my work and mySELF... there is the knowing that there are others out there, just like me who will receive my words and experiences with love and infinite grace. There is telling my story. There is heart, intuition, surrendering to the moment; to what is. And in every single step...there is our journey...that rises up to meet us when we let go of the life we think we should have had... and accept the life we have. There is knowing that I am enough. There are trees + birds and black soil. There is air + breath + hope. There is generosity of spirit...magnanimity of heart. There is life...our all it's glory and suffering and faulty steps. There is showing our clumsy steps to the world...falling...and getting up (and repeating 100X). There is transforming fear into faith. All of this...and more. There is this very moment; life.  Grace. 


lacelady said...

stunning. breath-taking. breath-giving. generous. sterling. heart-full. thought-full. important. humbling. intention of attention. I thank thee.

laurie said...

you words ring so true for myself and many others, I am sure. I believe you are birthing a book with your stories and art. a book that will serve as a net, catching young women before they fall further from themselves. have you ever considered authoring something like this?

ArtPropelled said...

There is this very moment... indeed.... how else do we move forward after heartache, but to live in the very moment. There is transforming fear into faith .... I like that. I love the first painting in this post Soraya.

Nicola Purkins said...

Such a beautiful post...God I wish I had a way with words like you lady!!!
I look back at a past relationship of mine and could just slap myself with how much I put up with from him. The emotional blackmail, the way he silenced every part of me slowly and cruely..I am so glad that I am with someone who doesn't do any of those thing...that lets me be as loud as I like!! He has helped me find a path to my true SELF..
Ah, I just love your blog so much!!!
p.s sorry about rambling on...

patty said...

Seriously, Soraya, this is profound. I agree with Laurie. I know there is a book in your future! I am struggling with some "stuff" today and I found it helpful... I know others will too.

birds sing artblog said...

so powerful! yes, write a book of this! or a book of self-recovery through art!
or of course keep making art and blogging and following your heart ;) but thank you so much for sharing so honestly, for showing the strength of woman in your paintings... beautiful...