Dear silence and shame,
I have felt you when I’m anxious, embarrassed, felt a lack of knowing just what to say and in how to show up. This silence grows out of fear I’ll say something wrong, offensive. Questioning my words with a racial justice lens places duct tape over my lips with staples.
Then the aftermath. Shame. Shame for assumptions made, or words that sound foolish afterwards like I’m trying to prove my understanding, or for not saying anything at all but what my heart was feeling. And then again, the wave of silence as I realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. But I have to keep trying. It’s in the small that big is made.
This isn’t a woe me. No. This is me practicing deep love by recognizing shame and silence in all their spectrums. And my role as a white ally. This letter is admitting my mistakes and coming to terms with Shame and Silence. Deep love asks to bring the heart back into the everyday. To slow down and be mindful, intentional.
Shame and silence do not need to stay. I can remove you. Ask you to leave. I can hold my heart and not be silent for fear of mistakes. My allyship demands that silence is kicked out of my house so that shame dries up and turns to dust. This role is not for anyone to find for me. It’s my journey.
Dear silence and shame, you keep the illusion of disconnection solid. But her story is my story and mine is hers. We are deeply interconnected.
Dear silence and shame, you always meet at the same time coming together like a tsunami. Waves of silence crash down as I shy away to speak up. Waves of silence when I’m afraid I may say the wrong the thing, create conflict. Silence because most white people don’t want to be made to feel that they are racist. Silence because institutionally and structurally it runs through our blood whether we realize it or not with unconscious biases and privilege. Silence because I don’t know how to work within these truths when speaking to others.
Shame follows like a dog nipping at my heels completing the tsunami within. Shame in not doing my part, shame for not knowing what to say or how to say it. Shame for not connecting with my heart and acting from it.
As this storm tears through the interior of my being, silence grows stronger. Even as the tempest grows silence seems easier. Speaking words seems more and more difficult. Writing them start to feel like the only way the words can escape. What is so easy about holding this tsunami? Wouldn’t it be easier to release it?
Dear silence and shame, I must transform you. For silence also has its place. Being silent can be an act of allyship by holding space and witnessing. Silence creates a vessel within in which I drink in others experiences and beauty. My horizons are broadened with their very existence and my silence. I soak up understanding and compassion not through talking but through an active silence. I can advocate with my silence for it is not always a shame experience. Silence makes me step back so that others can step in. This kind of silence has no shame. This silence understands that I have privilege and power in some aspects of my life.
Dear silence and shame, being silent when I shouldn’t is where shame resides. It sinks its teeth on “I should have, would have, could have…” Shame is internal. Silence is action. It’s disturbance is so extreme because it represents a wound within us. This wound tells us we’re not good enough, or wrong, or not strong enough.
Is my shyness shame in the face of a stranger?
Is my self-consciousness shame about how I will sound if I speak?
Dear silence and shame, I am only silent. Shame appears when I should have done something and didn’t. Shame, I feel you in my stomach, in my nihilism, in my hopelessness. Dear shame, you drive me away from others with gray suffocating ether. Shame is loud. Yelling and speed talking between the ears. Dulling the senses may be the only escape.
Shame, I’m the one who gives you power. You’re very existence is predicated on me. You are based on the past. It is not based on what I am doing or will do. Shame has no place in the present moment.
Silence, I choose you for witnessing, for times of safety, for times of not knowing what may be the right thing to say. How dare shame creep its claws. These moments of silence, if I choose, can turn me to a vessel of compassionate learning and holding space for others. Each is an opportunity to grasp with deeper understanding when to speak and when to sit.