All week I’ve been trying to write about Ferguson and its larger implications, as well as other issues our country is facing. I’ve also been trying to work on the next chapter of my book (which is what I should be focusing on, rather than worrying about how I can save the world), yet words weren’t flowing.
At first I attributed this lack of flow to the fact that I had 2 billion thoughts and questions running through my head about Ferguson (which I do), making it difficult to sort them out and write coherently. So I put that to the side and tried to work on my book. I stared at a blank document for quite a while, wrote a couple of crap paragraphs, then finally gave up on that, too.
I couldn’t understand. Lately I’ve been productive with my writing. I was finally finding my voice. I was ready to share it with the world, knowing that some would agree and some wouldn’t, and being okay with either. I felt compelled to speak my truth, doing lots of research to support my positions, challenging others to think from a different perspective, while having my own perspectives challenged.
Now all of a sudden I can barely write a paragraph about anything of substance without questioning how it will affect the sensibilities of every individual who may read it.
How did this happen? Wasn’t I the girl who recently proclaimed that she didn’t care what anyone else thought about her opinions? This is me, these are my opinions, take ’em or leave ’em…I’ll be okay either way.
Today the timing of my self-imposed silence became clear. Earlier this week I made a Facebook post about being surprised to find a particular conservative friend had unfriended me. There were 40+ comments on that post. All were supportive, but for one.
One negative comment from someone who, until a couple of years ago, I considered a very close friend, a BFF, if you will. Someone I’ve known since I was 14 years old. She said that my writing style is offensive and too ‘in your face’, that I discount others’ opinions, and make generalizations about people. She wrote that “making more noise doesn’t make you right, more educated or more caring for the less fortunate”[sic].
I’ll be honest. That stung. A lot. It stung more than it should have since this person made it clear over a year ago that she thinks I’m a horrible, cold-hearted person. I hadn’t spoken to her since that time and had no desire to ever speak to her again, yet we remained Facebook friends. I don’t know why neither of us cut the Facebook ties back then as it was obvious that our friendship was way past over. Since we never interacted on Facebook, I no longer saw her posts and assumed she didn’t see mine. I didn’t really care one way or the other.
Then, out of nowhere, she felt the need to tell me again how much I suck; this time in a very public forum. I wanted nothing more than to respond in kind and let her know, in no uncertain terms, that the feeling is mutual. Instead I chose not to respond directly to her comment. I posted a general response saying that I felt no need to stifle my voice, while reiterating that my intention is never to offend or discount anyone else’s opinion. This is me. Take it or leave it. If you don’t like it, hit the unfriend button. Then I saved her the trouble by unfriending and blocking her and everyone related to her (I felt bad blocking the others since they didn’t do anything to me, but I’m quite sure they feel the same way about me and will consider it no great loss). Part of me regrets not showing her just how offensive I can be, but didn’t see the point in doing so.
Since that day, I’ve been unable to write what I feel. I find myself trying to straddle both sides of the fence so as not to ruffle any feathers. I’ve questioned every word I’ve written, basically strangling myself into silent submission. Am I right? Am I off the mark? Will this make someone angry? Will I offend someone? Does it matter? Who gives a damn what I think anyway? Maybe I should just shut up.
Truth is I almost allowed her to silence me. But, why? Her opinion of me hasn’t mattered for quite a while. Why did I allow that one negative comment to override the 40 others that were supportive? Of that, I’m not sure. As of this moment what I am sure of is that I won’t shut up.
For whatever reason, I can’t shut up. Even if my opinions offend someone. Even if people think I’m a rude, loudmouthed, know-it-all. Even if everyone I know unfriends me on social media or in real life because of what I say. It doesn’t matter. I read things every day that offend me, but they also make me think. They allow me to see the world from a perspective other than mine. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe my words will make someone else think. Maybe they won’t. Who cares?
The real question isn’t whether anyone cares about what I have to say. The question is do I have the courage of my convictions? The answer is yes. I hope I never again allow someone else’s opinion to silence my own. Hopefully getting this off my chest will allow my words to flow again.
Paraphrasing the immortal words of Taylor Swift… Haters gonna hate. I’m just gonna shake it off.
Thanks, Taylor. I’m gonna dance around the living room, shake it off, then sit down in front of my computer and just write something.
Don’t let anyone silence your voice, friend. Speak your truth. Silence isn’t always golden.