Thursday, February 13, 2014

Storying the Silence

I'm thinking tonight about the ways we tell our stories. 

I pay a lot of attention to body language.  It's always been part of who I am, but that skill has been honed over time and through hundreds of sessions.  I see the trembling hands.  The too-short nails, the sores on the arms, the slump of the shoulders, the twisting of the hair, the folded arms, the slight turn of the body when I start speaking.  These movements tell stories.  Not the whole story, of course, but a story.  One of our stories.  The story of that moment, perhaps.

I think I became a psychologist in part because I am fascinated by people's stories.  This stuff is what makes up our lives.  We live our lives in the meanings we make -- in the ways we story ourselves and our relationships and what happens to us.  There is power in stories.  There is power in telling stories and writing stories.  There is power in creating other stories, or imagining other endings, and there is power in telling the same story over, and over, and over again.   We tell the same stories in different ways: sometimes they are funny and true, and we tell them again and they are also sad and true, or broken and true, or angry and true...there are so many ways to tell a story, and all of them can be true.  We humans can be complicated like that. 

So we tell complicated stories.  Or we tell simple stories, or we let complication masquerade as simplicity, and let simplicity try on complication for size.  We tell fantastical pretend stories that could be true.  And stories that are not quite true that stick like truth in your bloodstream.  Stories that almost false, but taste like freedom.  Stories that you pass off as lies that reek of truth, and stories that you pass as truth that reek of lies with a truth-nugget center.  We tell our stories from one lens, and then we back up and tell it again when the light is different, and again when we change our clothes, and again from the other side of the room.  These stories are truth.

I realized last night, too, the ways that silence also tells the story.  There are times when the story is stuck firmly in your throat, in your heart, in your stomach, and try as you might to tell something -- someone else's story, or a pretend story, or just any words in any sentence you can form -- you can't.  The story's stuck.  And this, perhaps, is the loudest story of all.  That silent story -- the one you can't move around -- it speaks louder than the stories we tell.  It speaks louder, even, than the trembling hands and the twisting hair.  We have to try to story the not-telling, and story the silence to make it real and truthful.  We have to story the stuck, and the block, and the unmoving, unflinching silence that comes from us, and this is hard.  It is, perhaps, one of the hardest stories we create: the story of the time we had no story.  That time we had no words.  That time, when our story was told only by the things we didn't say, and the way it screamed itself over, and over, and over again in the silence.  The way it bled into relationship silently while you tried to hide it, and the way you live with that betrayal.

And this is where I find myself: trying to find the story behind the silence in the wake the silence created.  I am trying to unpack the meaning of the silence, and feel its heaviness and its lightness.  I'm trying to learn if silence was an answer I can live with.  Trying to learn if the silence was truth or lie, or slightly true, or if it was just...empty.  I'm trying to find that nugget of truth in the center.  My body was still in that silence - she didn't twitch, or wiggle, or twirl her hair -- she sat, quietly, waiting for words, or story, or something to move us forward -- and it didn't come.  There was silence.  Only silence, holding all that was and was not told in the absence of words.

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