This was among the entries for a “forgiveness post card” contest. I thought it was incredibly powerful and could mean so much for so many. We are all silenced at times… intentional or not… what silences you? Do you now fly? Is there anything I can do?
I don’t always get so heady in my thoughts, but this one struck me with a “hmmm…” Of course it could have been the sound of the vacuum cleaner I was using at the time but I was thinking about my mother, my partner’s mother, a great aunt, and several others who had passed away. I caught myself chuckling at the one thing they all had in common – If they heard it in their heads then it was perfectly alright for it to also come out of their mouths – whenever, wherever. I know a number of women who live with dread anticipating each passing birthday. I am NOT one of those. I am looking at birthdays as though they are marks on the volume button of my stereo. With each turn my voice gets stronger and stronger. Gotta love getting older, but it has been a long road of learning. It was this that made me consider the bell curve. The bell curve is described as a visualization of “norming” trends. I considered how my mother, my partner’s mother, great aunt, and the others seemed to have found their voices with age. This led me to the inverted bell curve. Now I’m going to generalize a little here and speak in terms of the evolution of female voices, specifically. It is an interesting perspective to ponder (in my opinion)…
The birth of a baby is joyful but the proof of life is actually baby’s first scream which triggers an eruption of elation and energy all around. Uncontrolled outpouring of baby’s first expressions. It is a sign of health and strong lungs, as well as an entrance filled with no restrictive norms. It’s all about baby! The early years are spent helping them find their voice, anticipating every new sound, and encouraging them to use their words. We remind the little ones that if they don’t use their words nobody will know what they want or need. But at some point, we change the message to “children should be seen and not heard.” We stop living for every new utterance and start giving cues as to what their words should sound like (and let’s not forget… how often they should use them and how loud they shouldn’t be). The mixed messages just keep on coming. As they grow toward womanhood we we let them know how proud we are when they are recognized for their strength and courage… as long as it isn’t in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or in front of the wrong people (in our opinion). And while their psyche is incorporating all of this wisdom, we start introducing them to the concept of mediocre. Not intentionally, of course, but the message is still there. We teach the meaning of life as it relates to our success in relationships, friendships, marriage, motherhood, a “good” employee, etc… We push them to be smart (but not too smart), strong (but not too strong), ambitious (but, well, you get the picture), proud… “Be yourself!” How do they know which one?
Let’s be honest. I am not about blaming or crediting any one particular group or gender with how our paths have brought us to where we are. Societal and cultural norms, familial history, “the times,” etc. have contributed to where we are today. And although we like to credit our mothers with our challenges, all those who went before us were the products of those who went before them. I am just asking us to look at the future and change the norms we have learned to cling to. I am not suggesting that we should try to emulate the “normal” bell curve, but rather try to give our little girls a progressively rising line that extends far beyond the passing on of those wise and wonderful women who have gone before. If we can do this, they, too, will rise!