“We must learn to speak the language women speak when there is no one there to correct us.” ~ Helene Cixous
You know this native tongue – its dialect, accent, and pace. You feel it building in your heart, cascading in your brain, and maybe even lodged in the back of your throat – threatening hoping to escape into an expression that soars. You can picture the very words of the sentence-paragraph-speech-essay-novella-masterpiece you long to bring forth – its brilliance and white-hot-heat irradiating every corner of your world. You can see the faces of those who will finally hear, finally see, and at last understand; who will finally and at last understand you.
Then what happens?
I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow. 3-4 inches of pristine whiteness covering everything. I can see it out the windows that surround my desk. And as I type, it strikes me that this is rich (though painfully chilly) metaphor for a woman’s silence. A thick, muffling weight that descends. Maybe even beautiful to look at – for a while. Covering over and, at least for time, disguising the verdant, green, life-force underneath that yet beats, endlessly survives, and waits…
Oh, eventually you speak – or you don’t. If you do, it’s in a language that’s common, learned, and acceptable; that ruffles no feathers and sustains the equilibrium. If you don’t, that too is common, learned, and acceptable. Life goes on. No one is the wiser.
That’s not actually true. You are the wiser.
The silence is only external, for within the volume goes up, the clatter is nearly unbearable, and the cacophony rages. You have SO much to say, to express, to feel, to be.
And this is what we fear: that if we were to finally speak, what would come forth would be more like a scream at the top of our lungs. That our words would invite wounds (ours and potentially others’) beyond repair. That what we sense, what we feel, what we KNOW will not be heard or understood.
Speak the language women speak.
Can it be spoken everywhere and instantly grasped, accepted, embraced? Sadly, no. But does that make it less true, less necessary, less vital? Absolutely not! To start, find safe places where it can be expressed…and heard; later, you will not care. And soon, with unswerving determination, you will be unstoppable.
This is your native tongue: the fluent language of your dreams, your pen on the page and fingers on the keyboard, your art, your dancing, your wildest fantasies, your late-into-the-night conversations with a few select friends, your deepest longings, your very pulse.
You know what you think, what you see, what you understand, what you feel. Unedited. Unrestrained. Unbound. Unbelievable. Unlimited. Uncorrected. Understood. No translation required.
Speak the language women speak.
Not just for yourself (though that, in and of itself, is beautiful and a lifetime’s-worth of significance). Do it for the rest of us. Remind us of our Mother Tongue. Inspire us toward tongues-unloosed, unfettered, and free. Tell your truth so we can be emboldened to do the same. We need to hear you speaking out. We need to see you rising up, taking names, and blazing trails.
Outside my windows, the snow has already started to melt.
May it be so.
Believe me, I am not consistently successful in speaking the language women speak. But oh, how I have grown. Step-by-step. Inch-by-inch. Sometimes even word-by-word. And oh, how thankful I am that this is so. As I look back over the years I see the particularly icy places where to speak felt (and was) dangerous, treacherous, and slippery. Still, slowly, tentatively, and over time I did it anyway – holding on to hands past and present who steady me, hold me up, and keep me warm. And miraculously I was (and am) able to stay standing. The more this happens, the more I am able to risk. Costs have come…and will yet be. But the old(er) I get, the more it feels like privilege, responsibility, and legacy to speak anyway; to be brave and dauntless in my use of our Mother Tongue; to bring to life the too-long silenced voices of other women, to stand strong and tall as their daughter, their lineage, their kin.