I’ve been thinking a lot lately about silences, those patches of misunderstanding, inference and psychic space that bristle between us and the ones we love, the ones we don’t love, the ones we wish we knew how to open our hearts to. Even within my own family it’s occurred to me that there is so very much that we do not–that we cannot–say. I wonder why sometimes, and realize that for most of the silences and their attendant whys, there are no answers, just stasis, just inertia, just fear of getting snapped at, getting hurt, or getting–lawd, no!–informed. If we all better knew one another and our intentions we might love one another less. Or worse yet, we might love one another more.

I cannot talk with my mother about her emotions, about her life before me, about her first husband or the ways in which he let her down. We cannot talk about the things that I love, about how if I didn’t work out and suck up my endorphins, I fear I might be as depressive as my dad. I cannot tell her how much I’m going to miss her when I leave in a few months, and that if I did come back, it would only be for her. I can’t tell her how much I worry about her and how much I love her–because I’ll cry, and then she’ll cry, and then I won’t know why I’m leaving anymore.

I cannot talk with my father about the legacy of hurt between us and all of the years we’ve assumed the worst, the most hateful, of one another. We are two wounded animals of the very same stripe, skittering  between huge, shadowy trees and stealing glances of fear, admiration, of a disappointed longing at one another–all of the things to which we’ll never give voice. I cannot tell him how much I still hate him sometimes. I cannot tell him how much I love him and wish I knew how to be his friend, either.

I cannot talk with my grandmother about anything that might affect her heart. I tell her I worry about my mother, about how she works so hard, about how she is the best person I know. To this my grandmother snaps a brittle, “I know. Now don’t make me cry!” rises stiffly from the table with a little laugh meant to diffuse the tension I’ve wrought, and toddles away, sniffling and singing to my cats, pretending that we did not nearly sink together from the surface into the deep.

There are so many things that I cannot say to the people who have made me. It pains me to see the ways in which I have followed their example of emotional confinement, the ways in which I have grown closed off, closed up, distrustful of the worth of my own feelings; it makes me even sadder to know that they have never trusted to the worth of theirs. It may be too late for me and my family to creek open the cupboards that shutter up the things we’d like to feel, but starting today, starting now, I want to walk into the world with my heart flung open and my dreams on my sleeve, regardless of whether or not it might get me hurt or frighten others. I will not be fettered in order to appear strong. I will not be silent in order to avoid ruffling feathers.

I only hope that they understand how much I love them, and that when I say it, I’m meaning it to get all the way inside.


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