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Sometimes not speaking out is louder than you imagine

Hold it. Hold on to it. Hold. What do we hold? Why do we hold? We hold our fears, our hurts, our wants, and our dislikes. I remember as a junior in high school, the administration decided to regionalize the high school system. I opposed it. I protested it. I refused to accept it. So, I vowed to be silent my senior year at this different high school. The new mix of students were not total strangers as we had been in junior high school together and we shared sports teams. However, I held onto my belief that the regionalization was wrong. Why, I don’t even remember? Was it logical or even made sense—I seriously doubt it. And so with each class, I was silent. My friends told me I was depressed. I got questions like, “Why are you so quiet? Why are you so mad?” I don’t even remembered how I answered. I just remember that in my last year of high school, I checked out before it was over.

I focused on my job and my friends that were already out of high school. I toyed with the idea of not even going to college just to annoy my parents but thought better about it. Our last day of Spanish class, we had to write phrases or adjectivos (not sure which) and tape them to the backs of our classmates. This was intended to recognize our relationships and use our Spanish to describe personalities. As each person stuck something on my back, it began to hit me. I made an impression.

My silence. My anger. My melancholy. All of it impacted how my classmates saw me and yet the comments were sweet and thoughtful.  And it was in that moment, I realized that silence is still a response. Sometimes, silence is louder than words.  I also learned that how I walked in the world made an impression on others even if I fooled myself into thinking I was not participating I still was so better to put one best self out there. I don’t regret my behavior. I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.

But now at 37, do I know better? I find that when I am in situations I don’t like I withdraw.  Even now, as an entreprenaur, my own boss I still default to silence. This morning at my Saturday morning breakfast club (my best friend & my wife) we discussed it.  I have my own office yet these little issues keep popping up with the other tenants that share the common space.  These little issues include folks parking in my spot and leaving notes about locking doors…….They are ridiculous and little yet they have inspired anger. Since returning from Sedona, I minimized my time spent in my real estate office as I don’t want to get sand thrown on me (we are kids in the sandbox:)) Or rather, I have been playing in the sandbox and I want my to play by myself.

What am I holding on to? What am I holding? I am holding this idea that I can play in my own sandbox. I am holding this idea that I want to learn from others in the way I want to set it up. I am holding that I am somehow in charge or control of these situations and by not coming in the office, by asking others to not leave notes on my office door, by holding a silent protest of one, I am somehow making things happen my way or not participating in them keeps them away from me. Well, as my wife and best friend asked me this morning—“How is it working for you?” It is not.

Situations can change, the details are different but the feelings, the story, what is being held is all the same. I have never been one to go along with something when I “disagree with it.” As I write, I have this image of myself, sitting in rowboat in the middle of a pond. Me and my righteous indignation are alone out in the middle of this pond.  I am hearing my sister’s voice in my head telling me that just because I don’t like it, I should still go along with it and shut up.

She and I are different. I think the episode of Will & Grace best sums up our differences and how we walk in the world. 

So what is my next step? Embrace how the Universe keeps setting up situations for me to learn and grow. Let go of the belief that through my resistance I am not participating.  Accept that each time I get triggered, it is time to embrace the feelings that come up, hug love and let them go. Realize that I am just where I need to be to learn what I need to learn.  And celebrate that I am in a place of power, safety, and I am and will be ok to learn these lessons and stop holding on:)


About Joy Rain

Joy has been a diversity and inclusion consultant and mediator for over ten years. Prior to consulting, she was professor of Psychology and Women Studies. Joy has a Master of Arts in Psychology (Boston University) and a Master of Education in Social Justice Education (UMASS Amherst).


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