It’s been a few days since Trump’s “locker room” chatter was released into our lives. In internet days – that’s forever! And to not have responded yet, almost unacceptable. But I wasn’t able to. I tried. I came from all sorts of directions. The cursor blinked and blinked, but none of my words seemed right.
There seemed so much pressure to address these remarks and all the ones that followed in such a way that my writing would reach every ear that needed to hear it. I know the pressure was all in my head, but I felt it nonetheless. Sexual assault is something I stand up about. It’s the issue that gets me up off the couch, that I speak up about. And I wasn’t speaking up. That is okay, though. Despite the imagined pressure, it is okay not to fight in every battle.
I was caught off guard by the number of memes and social media responses that followed quickly after I read about Trump’s decade old recording. People I consider friends were clearly posting things that I found disturbing or frustrating or sad. The old cliche of actions speaking louder than words came up time and time again. And with those words anyone who was upset was supposed to get over it. Comparisons about the moral compasses of Clinton and Trump were everywhere. They’re both a mess. And they’re both human. At this level of politics, I wouldn’t really expect any less.
While I tried to sort my feelings and thoughts, many others did step up. They did respond with words and writings that I found comforting and reassuring. They did call for people to not accept words that are hurtful, that make assault okay, that encourage mistreatment of others. I’m grateful those pieces were written – this one in particular.
But still, where was my voice? And then a friend asked me to post an article I’d written about triggers because she wanted to share it – to help others. That got me thinking about my previous writings – about who I am and what my goals are in sharing my words on this blog. It’s about sharing the conversations that I’d rather be having with YOU, in person. This blog is about the chats that could be happening around a kitchen table or while cuddled on a couch or porch swing. I write to encourage those sorts of conversations – not to change the world at large, but to create a space for thought and discussion that can impact each of our own small worlds. Maybe that ripples out. I believe it does. However there’s no place for the ripple to start if I skip these quiet conversations here.
So, starting small, what do I want to say?
I want to say that sometimes words speak loudly enough on their own, without pictures or actions. Words are used to make or break connections. They are used to convey meaning or sometimes stop us in our tracks or maybe even put us in our place. Words can leave wounds that are unseen and often hard to heal. Words can be a lot of things, can’t they? Why not let them be positive? Why not use our words to encourage the behaviors we’d like to see rather than excuse the behaviors that need to stop?
Words can put us in a situation we’d rather not be in – on that ever-dangerous slippery slope. My mom didn’t let me say “sugar” when I was angry as a child. It’s a common substitute for “shit,” which was definitely not allowed, but I never quite understood the ban on sugar, until possibly right now. She would tell me it was too close to the word she really didn’t want me saying and the closer we let ourselves get to something that will burn us, the more likely we are to trip and get burnt. That lesson came back to me this week. If we just brush off Trump’s words or laugh off the awkward suggestive compliment at work or ignore all the other words that make us uncomfortable, then we might find that we’re scrambling to find traction and defend ourselves against what’s at the bottom of that slope. If I laugh at a joke that I don’t really find funny, aren’t I telling everyone that hears me laugh that I find it funny? If I’m quiet, aren’t I saying that I don’t really mind?
We use words to teach, guide, and help our kids grow. I’ve let them know that it’s okay to have jokes I’m not part of. Mom doesn’t need to be in on everything. But this week I qualified that a bit more. I let my children know that even though I think it’s healthy and great that they are who they are with their friends, that that person should still be someone they are proud of. I used lines from my mom’s sugar speech and came up with some of my own. In this day and age, we never know who can hear us, who will repeat what we’ve said or done, or how it could come back to haunt us in the future. “I want you to always have in the back of your mind, ‘If Mama could hear me or see me, would I be embarrassed or ashamed?’ Always aim for embarrassed.” I won’t fool myself into thinking that my children are angels when they’re on their own. But I do hope they stand up for their values. And I do hope their values include treating others with respect – both in words and action.
So, that’s where we’re at here. That’s where I’m at. Choose and use your words carefully. Even when trying to be funny – be actually funny, not offensive or rude. Don’t get too close to fires. And, maybe, take a moment to sip a beverage and consider my questions – or yours. Gather with those you love and sit together to contemplate the hard questions. And love.
That’s almost always the bottom line for me. Love.