My kids know that the phrase “Shut up!” isn’t tolerated in our home. But, what struck me the other day in therapy is that I can no longer tolerate the act of shutting up. It costs too much and cuts too deep.
I was bemoaning the friend thing, that colleague get-together the other week where I felt entirely misunderstood and isolated. And then, I bemoaned something my mother said in a conversation that left me raging. My therapist reminded me that in both of these instances, and in SO. FREAKING. MANY other instances in my life, I have simply shut up to keep people happy–or, at least, to not cause further discomfort for myself.
I have a long history of “fawning” in response to trauma, or even just mild discomfort. For so long, I’ve conceded to whatever other people want to eat, watch, hear, do… that I’m not sure I even have my own opinions on these things anymore. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a highly opinionated (judgmental) person, but in order to keep the day-to-day peace, I just acquiesce.
The moment a conversation steers the wrong way, I lighten the mood. The minute someone starts to frown, I come up with a joke. The second someone seems inconvenienced, I find a way to take the yoke squarely on my shoulders alone. And, I just shut up about what I’m feeling or what I want.
My therapist suggested that I think of these moments more as moments for education than as moments of potential conflict. That’s what I do–I’m an educator by vocation. And so, this resonated with me. I wish that I could have put on my educator hat and told my colleague why I was hurt by her comments and that as one of only two people there with children, I have a different view on issues involving motherhood, and I’d like to share that to quell the misinformation that I perceived.
I’m not sure when this moment will arise again, but I’m sure it will… (I told my therapist the story of SIX of my childless colleagues discussing exactly what happens in a C-section and why the recovery is different than a vaginal birth. I was sitting right there. Only person in the room who has ever had children, and I’ve had both delivery modes. So, I don’t know, I might have something to say about it…)
I vow to find my voice when it does.