I have been sitting in silence as of late, making patterns and correlations in my frontal lobe. The word that keeps arising in present day life connecting to the past is Silence. Silence, the lack of sound.
Meditation is about silence and sweeping the mind. The silence is lessened distraction to let your mind perceive the wholeness of life. I tried to meditate. I practice meditation, and I realize my mind is never clean. I have so many connections with my synapses firing that sitting still for 5 minutes is incredibly difficult. I also recognize I am fried as a human being, I am overwhelmed, and my body and reactions are dictating more stress upon stress. I need some silence without the rumination. This silence is positive, which is counter to learned experiences of silence within my past dictation.
“You are being too loud and everyone is looking at you.”
“Why do you always have to be so loud? Why do you need that attention?”
“Your Aunt _____ is always loud and you are just like her. It’s like you are not even my daughter.”
My mom has issue with loud noises, and I saw my shine in being enthusiastic. She did not agree, she felt it was embarrassing to joke and be seen. Someone silenced my mom too. She passed this along to me, who felt in-congruence within silence. In order to keep my emotions silent, at the age of 13, I began smoking cigarettes. The emotions I feared that would be expressed loudly would trigger my mom to shame me, and through this shame I learned that it was better to be silent and strong than express the emotions I felt and learn appropriate channeling. Someone showed my mom this way of life.
I found a guitar, while being grounded for a year, under my parents bed. It was my father’s 1969 Framus from his time spent in Germany in the armed forces. I played it quietly, and when my parents would go out for a few hours, I cranked the stereo amp to 11 and played as loud as I wanted too. I felt the first taste of acceptance in this freedom for myself.
I loved singing, since I was a small child, and I used my insanely strong and loud voice in songs I learned from the radio. I overheard my father tell my mother that I actually had a pretty good voice, and smiling. This was pride and acceptance, not intended for me to hear, but still a moment in my life where I felt like my dad saw and heard me.
I was Led Zeppelins Going to California character of the woman who plays guitar and cries as she sings. I felt this connection so deeply. The times when I was singing loudly correlated with the absence of cigarettes. I felt heard, I felt proud, I felt like nothing and nobody could ever shake me. I did not let the silence envelope me and I won my life! The feeling was indescribable.
I have always been a multi tasker, something I also learned from my mom. She could start a business from nothing, work full time and still make sure the gardens were tended too and the house was manageably clean. She never sat in silence, she moved in silence. This was her way of being seen, not heard. She gave me the ability to do all the same things.
She supported my ideal of graduating high school a year early. I was in a college program, and I doubled up on courses in order to escape high school as quickly as possible, and thus escape my home town. I was 16, and my mom took me to a professional photographer to have my senior portraits done. She met with this man, who had an in home photo studio and came recommended. He said it would take a few hours, and if she wanted to leave she could. My mom left, and normal photo poses took place. I assumed from the hour and 6 outfit changes I had brought that we were done by the 6th outfit, but my mom wouldn’t be back for an hour, and he suggested I look through the outfits he had in the closet near the bathroom.
The outfits he had did not have much cloth to them, and there were not many choices. I declined and said I wasn’t comfortable in those outfits, they were too small for me. He said he would pick 2 outfits and I should just try them for a few photos. He handed me a bustier and a white lacy top, and said I didn’t need pants, he would just shoot the upper half in romantic poses. You know, flowers and lace and mirrors. He said women should embrace their femininity. I refused to take off my levis, which actually belonged to my dad, and put the two tops on. The photo shoot ensued and when he was done with these two outfits, he tried to convince me I should put on a lingerie piece meant for a woman. Again, I was 16. I said no. I already felt shame and sick to my stomach and I demanded to call my mom. (This was a time of house phones, no cell phones.) And I left a message on the answering machine and then walked up the road with all my stuff.
My mom picked me up and asked how it went and I said “Fine.” And was silent.
I began smoking again immediately, I had to keep the emotions inside, but I also needed something for the panic I was feeling. The photos would be back in two weeks, and my mom would see them. She would hate me forever for those final two outfits, and I kept silent the entire 2 weeks. I never told my friends, and I couldn’t tell her. I lost my real smile and found a people-pleasing smile that could fool everyone, but I kept that cigarette between me and my emotions and the people who would cause me pain. I would burn their eyes out. I was tough, I was the Marlboro Man and smoking was the flag I came up with to create distance from harm. Smoking bitches don’t get fucked with. We will attack and prevail.
The day came when the photos were in and I was not tough, I was extremely panicked. As we pulled into the photographers driveway, I started crying. I told my mom I had taken photos in these little outfits because he told me to. I told her I didn’t know why I did it. I told her I was ashamed and never wanted to hurt her. She soothed me by saying we would take a look and if it was inappropriate we would deal with it then. I walked into the studio with a glaring hatred and anger towards the photographer.
He showed us the photos, one each of each outfit. I never saw the other poses. We left and my mom purchased the prints presented, and she told me it wasn’t that bad, but let’s not tell your dad or he will be angry and we don’t want your dad to be upset.
So I told no one. Until now.
These are the photos. I would like to take a moment to point out my smile and eyes. Do a quick comparison. What do you see? I see an excited young woman, thinking about her future through all the hard work she had done. I see teeth, and shining eyes.
In these photos that smile is dangerous. The seduction is not the danger I am referring to. What you see here in these eyes is anger, fear, and panic. They are saying “Is this really happening? Why are you frozen???? Get out now!!” My smile is murder. I wanted to murder this man. I wanted to kill his soul the way I thought maybe in my naïve still a virgin brain felt he was murdering my soul. My past sexual abuse and lack of coping skills made me an ideal target for every creep out there. That smile says “I will do what you say, but someday when I am strong, I will come for you in retribution.”
I shaved my head shortly after this happened.
This was only my first time, it would happen throughout my life in presentation, but I only ever posed again in revealing clothing as an empowerment and I knew I could say no to anything too far beyond my comfort-ability, with a photographer I trusted. They were not nudes, but they were sexy and feminine and I forgot about that first pervert photographer. I put those photos onto Myspace and showed my people I was fiercest when happy and could be sexy too. I was 28, not 16.
I snapped just as I turned 17. I began listening to the angriest punk rock music, loud and fast, and I began playing that music as well. I was in bands, singing and playing guitar and writing all my anger into words. At 36, I no longer wanted to focus on the anger, and I quit playing live music. The part I miss the most was being loud, the opposite of silence.
As I drove out to the river in my hometown yesterday to meet a friend for coffee, I played my loud music. I sang at the top of my lungs. I felt that wonderful untouchable feeling that only that sound could produce. I was breathing deeply, holding notes. I realized my voice is for shit now, because I have been in silence, practicing meditation through smoking. I realized when I drive and sing, I do not smoke. I realize smoking is my negative silencing tool to keep myself in check in order to keep other people pleased. Cigarettes are my Ursula the Sea Witch. They take all my good qualities that I suppress thinking they are not good qualities because they make others feel emotion. I am killing myself slowly, I am losing my voice, to be fake strong and tough because I fear loss of my people.
I have always been the woman who freaks out when someone walks out on her in anger. This creates a depth of panic I cannot describe. The woman I want to be ideally is loved and nurtured by her people, whether silent or loud. When panic sets in, my body reacts by engaging in fight or flight, defense. I get louder. Please hear me! Please see my pain! Please understand my pain! Please love me in spite of my reactions. And every day, I walk away from myself for a cigarette, so I can be a “good” woman for the day. The emotions are safely tucked within the plumes of smoke. My solution is to silence my voice forever?
Life is not a clean process. People like that photographer, manipulating through intent in choice, exist. My mom exists, and her silencing was not meant in harm. She, like myself, panicked and coped by using silence.
Information and knowledge determine outcome. If I know I am silencing myself, and I know I want to love myself in that wholesome complete ideal way, then why do I continue to perpetuate the cycle?
Control. I want control. A friend of mine said to me her new mantra was ‘I don’t know’. I don’t know what is going to happen, and within that idea of being accountable for myself while knowing I don’t know, I have found comfort.
It takes 3 days for the chemicals to leave the body, for the poison to drain. My vocals will be better at 1 month, and strong and healthy by 6 months.
I will no longer silence myself in any way. I will be the true unique loving woman I am. Towards myself and others. I will practice this meditation. I will become.
Thank you for allowing my written sound to be heard. Thank you for not leaving me in my silence.