So often, I talk about a woman’s voice and courage and sovereignty. Yours. Mine. Ours. It matters. It is what I’m passionate about and committed to. And. All of these realities, these ways of being, are profoundly strengthened when we choose, revel in, and allow silence.
I was inspired to write about this via an article in the Atlantic and this quote:
“In a world of so many traumas and terrors, I am desperate for silence. It is not escapism, not always. It is about meeting oneself. The way you might encounter yourself in the silence of, say, journaling, is distinct from how you reflect in the public arena. In silence, a certain veil is lifted. We might realize that the rage we feel in public is born from fear or despair in private. Healing is a very quiet thing. In the silence, we can wrap our wounds. There are times when taking shelter is a noble thing to do.” ~ Cole Arthur Riley
(I immediately downloaded her book: This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories that Make Us)
Silence “not as escapism,” but about “meeting oneself.”
How beautiful are these words?
“In a world of so many traumas and terrors, I am desperate for silence. It is not escapism, not always. It is about meeting oneself.”
We often fear that if we’re not taking a stand and speaking up and constantly talking about all of the “traumas and terrors,” that we must be trying to escape; we are evading what requires our attention and looking the other way. And though that may sometimes be true, more times than not, it’s not.
There is a lot going on: the stories happening in our world and the oft’ excruciating stories in our own personal world. As I’ve named before, it can be difficult to let ourselves feel all of it — to name what we feel, to give ourselves permission to feel, to believe that the sky will not fall when we do. It is far easier to stay busy, to distract ourselves, and to allow “noise” to overtake the quiet.
But in such times, silence is what we need more than anything. It’s how we hear ourselves think. It’s how we name — with honesty and courage — what we truly feel and why. It’s where we actually feel — at least in part. It is, indeed, about “meeting oneself.”
And it is not escapism when you allow this, when you choose this, when you prioritize this. It’s intentionalism. It’s sacred. It’s necessary.
Why journaling matters and why, for me, it gets prioritized above nearly all else.
Again, let’s return to Cole Arthur Riley’s words: “The way you might encounter yourself in the silence of, say, journaling, is distinct from how you reflect in the public arena. In silence, a certain veil is lifted. We might realize that the rage we feel in public is born from fear or despair in private.”
Exactly. We MUST have a place that is ours alone, quiet but for our own voice; safe, secure, and completely vulnerable — with no risk at all.
Oh, that we could know this in relationship with others, that we could trust that our every thought would be allowed, welcomed, not “fixed,” argued, or requiring defense. I used to believe that such a thing was possible…even mine by right. I also used to believe that it was for-sure my fault that I didn’t have relationships like that. It didn’t occur to me for a very long time that I was the one to give this to myself.
There was a season in my marriage where I picked journaling back up after a hiatus of a few years because I needed a place to process all that was hard, everything that made me so angry I could hardly see straight (but never acknowledged out loud), the long list of things I wished was different.
I kept a 3-ring notebook just under my side of the bed. College ruled paper. My favorite pen. First thing in the morning, before the girls woke up, I’d pour myself a cup of coffee, climb back into bed, pull it out and write. It never occurred to me that my then-husband would ever read it. But one day, in the midst of another painful conversation, I realized that he had been. I was furious. I was exposed. And most of all, I was ashamed. Ashamed that I had any thoughts or feelings that I wasn’t willing to let him see and know.
I know better now. I know that every one of my thoughts and feelings were legitimate and allowed. I know that the shame never belonged to me. And I know that were it not for that silent-and-sacred space (sans it being violated), I wouldn’t have been able to hear me, to make hard choices, or begin to see — with increasing clarity and strength — what was calling to me.
Now, almost every morning, after pouring a cup of coffee, I sit down at my laptop and let myself ramble for an hour. Sometimes it’s just that: rambling. I articulate what I did the day before, what’s coming up in my schedule, a snippet of a dream from last night. Sometimes it’s a response to my inner critic or my fear — letting them speak instead of pushing them away. Sometimes it’s something I’m worried about related to my daughters or money or any number of other pressures I feel at times. Sometimes it’s about my spirituality, my beliefs, my questions, my doubts. Sometimes it’s the way that I work out what I want to write and why I’m even doing it in the first place. And always, with about 15 minutes left, I turn over the next card in my deck and wonder what woman-and-wisdom will show up to speak directly to what I’ve just written and expressed. (It’s amazingly perfect and profound. Every time. I still can hardly believe it.)
I also know this: especially when it is not safe to name and express your deepest feelings, your truest truths, you must have a place that is. Journaling offers that. (With, of course, the caveat that it IS safe. You should know: my journaling immediately switched to a password-protected document on my computer from that point on.)
You deserve and need a place in which you can say any and everything, in which you can rant and rage, in which you can wish and hope and dream. You deserve and need a place in which you can wander without direction and process without answers. You deserve and need a place in which you can, as Riley says above, lift the veil and encounter yourself.
It’s quiet there: silence that is blessed and expansive and healing…
How “healing is a quiet thing” and enables us to “wrap our wounds.”
Again, how beautiful are these words?
In the context of the story I shared above, it was only in silence that I could hope to heal from that betrayal. Talking about it with him (which is what he wanted) only left me feeling more raw and exposed. Stepping back, choosing silence, and giving myself permission to be quiet, to not speak, was what allowed me to heal (eventually), and, over time, what enabled me to build the strength I needed to leave.
That’s but one example. There are many, many more. But far more important than my stories, are yours.
What reality, experience, or current struggle comes to mind that deserves healing? What wound is waiting to be wrapped — with a steady hand and a generous heart…yours on your own behalf? What spaciousness and quiet are you intentionally giving yourself for all of this and then some? (These might just be questions worth journaling through.)
Inviting the quiet in, letting the silence “speak,” will offer you exactly the wisdom you desire (and deserve). It’s how you hear that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. ‘Promise.
Can we know when to choose silence and when to speak?
My quick answer: Probably not — at least with failsafe certainty.
My longer answer: Yes. Definitely.
I return to exactly what I named above: that know-that-you-know-that-you-know voice within. It speaks to you all the time. It knows of what it speaks. It can be trusted. You can be trusted.
Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that silence is the right thing, right now: that your voice does not need to be front and center, that more healing is required (and deserved), that other voices must be given attention, respect, and volume.
Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that silence is NOT the right thing; that it is actually preventing you from being heard, seen, known, and yes, sovereign. It’s no longer tenable. It’s no longer tolerable. It’s time.
Your own wisdom (which you can hear in the quiet) tells you that your voice is exactly what is needed and the most perfect-and-powerful thing you can bring and trust and use in this very moment. Definitely.
We can know when to choose silence and when to speak when we’ve given ourselves enough silence, enough space, enough quiet to discern exactly this! I could keep talking, keep writing, but that pretty much defeats the point of what I’m attempting to say, yes?
I’ll conclude with one more paragraph from Cole Arthur Riley (definitely read the article; it’s so good!):
“Audre Lorde famously said, “Your silence will not protect you.” This wisdom has been taken to the extreme. To be silent is to be complicit, people (including myself) have said. This can be true. There is certainly a silence born of cowardice, a silence that emboldens oppressors. But sometimes to be silent is to finally become honest. To halt the theater. In the quiet, we at last hear the sound of our own interior world. The pain or numbness. The guilt. The nothing at all.”
And I would add, the deepest, most reliable wisdom that endlessly dwells within. Within you.
I write you a letter every week. I’d love for you to have it. No skimming the surface. Diving deep. Vulnerable. Honest. True. SUBSCRIBE to Monday Letters.