Monday, August 23, 2010

to speak or not to speak

And if your first thought on reading the last two posts was, "Oh, poor thing, she is going to get crucified in graduate school," all I can say is: the same thought has occurred to me.  But I do know how to keep my mouth shut.  Sometimes it's not a choice-- if I open my mouth to speak in class, chances are good to excellent that I will draw a complete blank on what I was going to say, or fumble it so badly that I make no sense, which tends to make one very wary about speaking up in public.  But sometimes it's a decision you make to protect yourself.  The chances of me turning the tide on this issue as a lone graduate student at a somewhat obscure university in the northern rockies are slim to none, so what's the point of making myself look like an idiot?  And besides, I do understand the shock value of raising this point with kids who are 20 years old and have never thought about gender issues in any serious way before.  I can't exactly say I think it's a bad idea.

mum's the word, I guess.

But it brings up the whole issue of "speaking your truth," as they call it.  I'm really bad at this, by the way.  A therapist pointed this out to me years ago (I should keep a count of how often that phrase appears in this blog) in marriage counseling.  I have a really hard time just saying what I'm thinking or feeling, let alone wanting or needing.  She called this "reporting out."  You have to say what's in your head, "report" it to your partner, because they can't read your mind.  Those of us who are introverts and are used to thinking, thinking, thinking a million miles a minute without telling anyone anything have a hard time switching gears and realizing that sometimes for the sake of the person/people you're with, you just need to say what you're thinking.

A corollary of this is a core belief that my opinions don't matter.  I could easily try to pin this on my fundamentalist upbringing (where ignoring your own perceptions about life and the world is so much taken for granted that it might as well have been something they put in the water), but mainly I think it has to do with your personality.  Some people are just born thinking that their opinions matter.  Even when they're well aware that it's just an opinion and that other people might disagree, they have no problem believing that it's important for other people to know what they think.  That would not be me.  I have this blog where I type out my little two cents, but one of the main reasons why there are so few posts from the last couple of years is that it's so hard for me to believe that it matters if I say what I think.  And if you got me in person and tried to talk about any of this stuff, it would be like pulling teeth.

Is this going anywhere?  It doesn't appear to be, but in fact, there was a point I wanted to make when I sat down to edit this post, besides telling you all sorts of random things about my brain that you didn't want to know.  Which was:  a couple of years ago, I heard a poet in a panel discussion say something to the effect that our perceptions are the only thing we have that is truly our own (excuse plural/singular problem but that's the way I want to say it).  The thought floored me for some reason.  It comes to mind frequently.  And to loop this back up to the place where this post started (see, I told you it was going somewhere), it gives me an enormous sense of empowerment to know that a) my perceptions are MINE, dammit, and you can't take that away from me, and b) I can CHOOSE when I want to share those perceptions and when I don't.  I can choose to share my difference of opinion with my husband because I love him and even though we might disagree in the short term, for the long term health of our relationship, he needs to know how I feel.  I can choose NOT to share my opinions in a classroom setting because a) I know I'm not going to change the professor's mind, b) even though I disagree, I do understand the issue and I don't need to have it re-argued for the umpteenth time, and c) I don't want to look like an idiot.

Apologies for all the a)s, b)s, and even a c) this time.  I got on a roll there.


  1. Silence is golden.
    I struggled with professors who mis-defined Christianity in order to prove it untenable. And I failed to keep my mouth shut on more than one occasion. I didn't get crucified, but more than one eyebrow was quirked at me derisively.

  2. yes, probably crucified was a little overdramatic. The Quirked Eyebrow of Derision might be almost as bad, though.

    How are your classes going? Are you teaching creative writing against this fall?