Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Silence that Speaks Volumes

I have a goal of writing more often. I’ve had this goal for a long time, and yet I continue to post only sporadically.

There are some obvious reasons for my silence. I have a demanding job. I’m a sole parent of two kids. My list of things to do is never-ending.

But the truth is, all these things existed a few years ago when I was writing full bore. I wrote anyway, because writing was something that brought me satisfaction and connection and a measure of hope in a world that had become very dark. I needed to write. It kept my head above water.

So what happened to change that?

The truth is that somewhere between then and now I became afraid to write openly and honestly.

When I began writing about my experiences with abuse, I broke a decade-long silence. Abuse is about power and control, and when I started speaking out, my then-husband fought to silence me. With a restraining order preventing him from having any direct contact with me, he had to find another arena to exercise his control, and that became the courtroom.

Whatever brought us into a shared courtroom, whether our divorce proceedings, hearings to determine custody and visitation, or his criminal trial, he used it as an opportunity to attack my writing.

I never quite figured out why his attorneys kept weaving my blog into their arguments. It was never made explicitly clear. I didn’t understand what my writing had to do with whether or not my ex-husband was guilty of possessing child pornography.

The best I can figure is that it was a red herring. He had no credible defense. I was a key witness, responsible for discovering and handing over evidence to the police. At the very least, it was in their best interest to discredit me as a witness.

The other factor which contributed to my silence was that during the couple of years that I backed away from blogging, the blogging world underwent a change. In Australia, where I was most closely connected, the blogging scene exploded in growth. With that growth came increased competition and monetization and jockeying for position. What had once felt like an inclusive and supportive community now felt larger and more impersonal.

Now that the dust is beginning to settle from my ordeal and I consider writing freely again, it is into this changed atmosphere that I venture.

My experience taught me many things. It taught me that life is a gift not to be squandered. It taught me to take risks, to speak out, to embrace my truth and not back down. It taught me to open my heart and love fully, because a partially-closed heart offers no protection, only the illusion of protection.

However, it also taught me that there are often legitimate reasons to feel fear. I am now slower to trust and quicker to assume a defensive posture.

It is this mixed bag of gifts that I carry forward with me as I consider my next steps.

Not long ago I was contacted by a man who is writing a book on post-traumatic growth. He had come across my blog and wanted to include my story in his book. He was interested specifically in how blogging, and the community support that came from that, was instrumental in my healing.

In my conversations with him, I shared how much that support had helped me. It lifted me out of the emotional chaos of my marriage and provided me with clarity and a perspective that was grounded in compassion. It helped me bridge the isolation. It was a hundred sets of hands holding the corners of a net that caught my freefall.

I remember sitting in my room, a week after the assault, debating whether I should write about it.  I wanted so much to simply tell the truth, but I feared the repercussions. I feared exposing the messy and unpalatable truth of my life. I worried that it would impact my safety. Once I hit publish, there was no going back.

In the end, of course, I shared everything. The whole excruciating and liberating truth. In the words of Anais Nin, the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom.

There is some irony that now, three years later, I sit pondering essentially that same choice. The risk of speaking openly versus the (perceived) safety of silence.

The trial is over, but I still feel the resonance of the fear and intimidation that hovered over my shoulder for so many years. The lingering ghosts of abuse are often as insidious as the abuse itself.

Brene' Brown, author of Daring Greatly, tells the story of when she was waiting backstage to give what was destined to become one of the most popular TED talks ever. She was terrified of baring her soul to an audience of strangers, of failing to adequately entertain or enlighten them. In the end, as she walked on stage, she asked herself, "What's worth doing even if I fail?"

Thank you for showing up and catching my fall when I needed it most. Your concern and support was a point of light in what turned out to be a long and very dark night. And thank you for your patience as I venture back onto the stage and find my voice again in this new landscape.

Because for me, writing honestly and openly is that thing that is worth doing even if I fail.








27 comments:

  1. I for one thank God you chose to blossom. You're right there's no going back it's time to blossom some more. Vix xx

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    1. We've both been on quite a journey in the intervening years, haven't we? Thank you for your company. x

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  2. Write on. Not only was this a safety net for you, but it was a beacon of light for those who were suffering. Especially the ones who couldn't let you know that it was. Ps your ex is an asshole x

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    1. Yep, what Stacey said.
      It isn't always easy to write and share. I always thought I would, but right now it isn't the best thing for myself or my children. Hopefully one day soon I will be able to open those gates because I know that it would have been a great help to me, especially on those incredibly low days, to have that squad of people cheering you on and helping to remind you that light at the end of the tunnel doesn't come if you don't keep on taking those baby steps, but like you said, sometimes they can try and use that freedom of being able to share your story/thoughts/feelings against you. That scares me, that even after leaving you still feel muffled.

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  3. I so understand your words today Kristen. I started blogging for the same reason, and then I just stopped. Fear (and being caught in th clutches of PTSD) stopped me from what I had found to be such a carthetic experience.
    But that's all about to change as I have thrown of the cloak of fear and about to press publish on many different things I have written.
    Feeling the fear and doing it anyway xxx

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    1. One thing I have learned is that healing has no endpoint. It is not a clean and precise exercise with identifiable boundaries. Every day, we get up and both fear and courage are there to greet us. Each day, we decide anew how to progress. I look forward to reading your words. x

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    2. Oh my... How funny is the universe Kristen?

      What a day I've been having... But I'm breathing and present. I'm responsible for my happiness. He no longer gets to take mine away.

      So thankful that the universe has put such precious people in my life, that appear just when I need them most. Xx

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    3. Keep breathing, hon. You know, while none of us can really know what another person is going through, I think I have a pretty good idea. I'm looking ahead to when my ex is released, which I fear won't be that far off in the future. So I understand, somewhat viscerally, what you are experiencing right now. Sending lots and lots of love your way.

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  4. Love you (but you know that already).

    LCM x

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    1. Here's something else that is worth doing even if I fail: running a bloody triathlon/5k/whatever with you. Somewhere. Anywhere. It will happen. xx

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  5. I don't think you have any real idea how much impact you've made on your readers over these years. You have dealt with this essentially disgusting, offensive and ugly situation with such grace and humanity, and you've come through it as a stronger and better person. That's an inspiration to others. When someone is in the dark, they need to see a light ahead, and that's you, my dear girl.
    The blogging scene is Oz has exploded, and for readers like me, who were seeking to connect with other people, it has been a bad thing. I don;t read many blogs at all now -- Maxabella, you, a couple of littlies. What I'm looking for is the personal touch, and you have that.
    You've built this circle around you out of your own strengths, and that is something to be very very proud of.
    XXX

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    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Toni. You have been such an integral part of that circle of support. You have an amazing heart. xx

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    2. Couldn't hit 'reply' fast enough! Oh Toni! Here I was thinking it was just me.... I'm so paranoid. It was me, it was my focus on my journey (in my sharing, in my writing, on my blog), it was anything to do with something I had done. That's why the blogging 'atmosphere' felt changed to me. I look around and see most others doing their thang, with their posses still. It cemented the fact that it must be me and my writing. I do miss it. Kristin, you remain my inspiration. I will get into it again. But much for the same reason as has been expressed here, I stopped - I want the connection and the fertile ground for blogging here in Aust did just explode to a point where i couldn't remain my genuine self to everybody. So you are the beacon! I don't want to reach a throng, diluted and in a form I don't recognise. I want to be unique and if I inspire just a few, or even only myself, then I'll feel more whole.

      Right now I'm doing nothing online and everything offline! Getting there... It's that swinging pendulum. I'm somewhere a little off centre but the cogs are still whirring ;-)

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    3. Kir, I think if you scratch the surface you'll find a lot of people feel that way. It's a very different place than it used to be. That said, I think it cuts both ways. I know I pulled back and stopped reading/commenting the way I had been. I was too overwhelmed by my life to keep up.

      The blogging world is changing and growing. And then each of us is changing and growing. So from time to time we need to step back and re-evaluate. I think eventually we'll all find the best mode of expression to suit us. xx

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    4. No, it's not you!
      Dr Phil (who I know is in some respects, an ass) says that you cannot be happy unless you're being your authentic self.
      Be your authentic self!
      X

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    5. Interesting tidbit: Dr. Phil went to high school about five miles from here, where he met his first wife. That marriage allegedly ended because he cheated on her multiple times.

      But I completely agree with his sentiment about being authentic (and also the part about him being an ass).

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  6. See, that's why I love you. You don't mind a weird segue.

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    1. My entire adult life is a weird segue.

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  7. The worst thing we can allow others to do is to make us doubt our right of expression. But it's not a thing of logic but emotion. It sneaks up on us. It waits. It is patient. Initially, in the face of censure, we are bloody minded and carry on. Write more. But once the furore dies down it pounces and we feel doubt; we feel unsure, we mistrust our own motives. But these doubts too will pass and then what remains is the deep need to write and express. It's a trial of sorts. And it will come again and again. But, you know, it is good to question why we write; even if it only makes us answer "because I want to". When we are shouting it the battle is truly won. x

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    1. Thank you, Steve. I know you understand something of this. You are so right in that it is insidious and lingers after the initial 'battle'. Once you have experienced this, it's difficult not to feel that invisible set of eyes looking over your shoulder at everything you write. I love that you bounced back from that, and I trust that in time I will too. x

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  8. "Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall" - this is a quote that I have remembered over the years and seems so apt. What a huge journey you've been on, Kristin. I admire your commitment to healing. I admire your courage to keep writing, and to find your voice again, and to be vulnerable, and to risk failure. I know how much light and love you have to share with your writing. I am so looking forward to it! But I am patient. Take all the time you need. xxx

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    1. Thank you for walking this journey with me, Deb. I appreciate your friendship.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your life and your pain with us, Kirstin! We got so much from you!
    I hope that you will not let the past restrain your writing and that you will finally feel free to write your truth, and to help others with that truth!

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    1. You are an inspiration, as you have carved out a wonderful new life for yourself in the wake of your earlier experiences with abuse. x

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  10. I'm so glad that you write ... and wrote this. I have many of the same thoughts and feelings lately.

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    1. Thank you, Cindi. I hope you are safe and doing well.

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