Breaking Radio Silence – The Forest and the Little Girl

(I know I said last week I’d tell the story of the ‘first break’ in my silence as I called it but I’ll table that for another time)

Over the last week, I began to realize there was still unexplored territory to explore in this journey of breaking my silence. The unexplored territory is the true origin story that I’m just starting to work through. It’s of a little girl, a forest, and a silence that wasn’t.

When I was in elementary school, our recess area was bordered by a patch of forest with lots of trees, thick undergrowth, and lots of room to hide. More than once, I stood there looking at it thinking how much I wanted to walk in there, sit down, and never come out. Why? Because going back into a classroom or a playground where I didn’t quite fit in wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I’ve hesitated (to say the least) to write about myself back then. I’ve been afraid of hearing people come at me and say I should just get over all that shit from back then and let it go. I’m glad we’re talking about bullying and mental health like we are now, but for me it’s still a challenge. Yet I’m up to that challenge because here I can say ‘fuck off’ to any voice inside my head that tells me to just get over shit. So I’m going to bring that little girl, aka me, back to life here for a little bit.

When I was her age, there was a park behind the houses in the subdivision we lived in at the time. And I will confess here that I rode back there on my bike and walked around it all by myself. There was a swampy pond in the middle of it but I was never afraid of being around that swampy-pond like I still am sometimes around open bodies of water (residual past-life fear I’ll go into at another time). Instead, my overactive childhood imagination kept a lookout for Swamp Thing. I’d seen the movie when I was that age and yes it’s low-budget and campy, but I loved it because Swamp Thing was the hero of the story (he was a scientist who through an accident in his lab turned into this creature that everyone feared except the heroine of the story played by one of my favorite actresses of that day Adrienne Barbeau). But what I really liked about that swampy-pond forest space was that I could hear my own thoughts and no one else’s bullying belittling bullshit like I heard so much back then.

I love nature and have always felt comfortable in a wooded area or anyplace that’s without other humans. I’ve always been more than comfortable being alone but looking back I realize it was a matter of survival. Being alone was a place where I wasn’t being looked at and laughed at, or ridiculed for being clumsy, or intelligent. Not all my childhood was that shitty but there was way too much shit then and later on that I shouldn’t have had to put up with. Yet I’ve come to realize I found a way to deal with it. And no, retreating into silence was not running away from it. No, in ways I’m just beginning to understand my retreat into silence didn’t mean I lost my voice like I’ve thought. My voice was inside me all along. Now I’m just putting it out into the world.

Back then I used to have a rebellious thought: why do all the mediocre loud-mouth bullying jerks get to speak out and shut me up? Answer: because they don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves and empathy is an act of rebellion they have to fight against because they don’t have any. No, I’m not being mean here because of this: does anyone who mouths off about someone to their face or behind their back ever really think about the consequences of their actions? Answer: no. Because if they did maybe that would have stopped them from shooting their mouths off in the first place. But as I’ve come to realize now, that lack of thought and conscience isn’t my problem to deal with. And that’s something I’ve been telling that young girl I’ve been visiting these past few days.

Because if I could go back in time and sit down next to my younger self in the woods I’d tell her the following:

First, her imagination will always be with her no matter how awful things get. It will always be her safe and secure place and someday it will be what gives her a life of independence.

Second, I would tell her she is so much stronger than she will ever know. And that anyone who says otherwise or calls her weak is full of shit.

And then I would pull her into my arms and hug her like I wouldn’t let her go. I’d pour all the comfort I could into what little time we had together.

So yes, I will be writing about that little girl who grows up and all the shit and hope she finds in this life. And maybe over time, that big wound she’s made me see will close enough to where I can stitch it close to give it thicker scar tissue.

Breaking Radio Silence – The First Crack at Forty

In 2014, I turned forty. Around my fortieth birthday I took stock of my life and thought I was doing pretty good for myself: I had a decent job, a nice little apartment, a nice car (I loved my Saturn Ion), and a cat. I had no social life of course, and I was just playing at being a writer and not giving it near enough of my time and effort. But I was being nice and warm and cuddly to the world and therefore I thought I was doing the right thing. But to my surprise, and what I didn’t know at the time was this: telling myself that I was doing pretty good with my life gave me a sliver of self-confidence that would begin to crack the silence around my mind, my heart, and my soul.

In the summer of 2014, I went to a training class at work to learn how to handle dental insurance. Now if you’ve ever had dental insurance you know how convoluted and downright awful it can be. In the past I would never have voiced any of this out loud but one day in class I did and got a result I did not expect at all.

We were going over some dental policy that gave new meaning to the term ‘convoluted’. It was like someday tried to cover all the bases but just for a few people. And I muttered loud enough for everyone in the classroom to hear, “Who in the world came up with this?” I was sitting at the very front of the class by the wall so I had to turn in my seat to look at the rest of my classmates, all of whom were the dumbest ninnies I ever worked with (let me put it this way, if someone yelled ‘boo!’ in that classroom they would have shot out of their seats like rockets). They looked at me with wide-eyed horror like I’d broken the great seal on the tomb of an evil ancient Egyptian priest and hell was about to break loose.

But my instructor fielded my comment perfectly when she said the following: “Well, a group of executives got together one night at Twin Peaks (a restaurant-bar near our office where the female servers didn’t wear a lot of clothes) and had a few too many drinks.” I burst out laughing and went, “Say no more.” And after that every time I saw some convoluted piece of shit on the projection screen I’d look at her, roll my eyes, and together we would go, “Twin Peaks.” (Yes, it became a running joke between us that no one else got in on). She was one of the best instructors I ever had and not just because she could get a running gag going, but because she treated me and everyone else with genuine respect and dignity.

As I look back at that time, I also realize that some of that newfound self-confidence came from my very first instructor on that job, someone who would later become my supervisor-manager.

In my first class on that job in 2013, I deliberately kept a very low-profile. I stayed quiet and only asked questions when I needed to, or when I felt the rest of the class wasn’t clear on something but didn’t know to phrase a question to clarify that. After a couple of weeks, my instructor had a talk with me complimenting me on my participation and encouragement of my classmates. My instructor admitted she was worried that with all my experience I’d try to flex my ego so to speak and I then told her why I kept a low-profile.

Years before, I had two training classes at two different jobs that were absolute Hell. One had an instructor who raked me over the coals and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise when she basically told me to keep my mouth shut and say nothing in class (this was a place I had worked at before and I had only been away from for a year and nothing much had changed). I will admit with this one I may have showed a bit too much enthusiasm but the way she handled me was wrong and I went along with her power-trip/insecure bullshit and shut myself down from that point forward. My classmates later asked me why I wasn’t very vocal or too helpful and I told them the instructor basically asked me to keep to myself. And I asked them in return not to say anything to her and just leave me be, which they did (I didn’t want them to get in trouble because back then I didn’t think I was worth defending or really supporting at all).

The other training class incident was at the first call-center gig I got after my dad died. We were in class one day reading along and I raised my hand because I had a question about something. As soon as the instructor called on me and I started talking, all of my classmates began talking at top volume and drowned me out. But the instructor, being the worst bitch-instructor I ever had, threatened to throw ALL of us out of the classroom including myself. There was NO demand from her to them to apologize to me and she didn’t make one damn effort to defend me in any way, and she never apologized to me for how she handled this situation. And I was paralyzed with extreme humiliation and fear and said nothing at the time (I fought like hell that day not to fall apart and break down into a shaking, crying mess).

When I told my instructor in 2013 the story in the previous paragraph she was horrified. And then she made a promise that she would never, ever allow that in her classroom (and that was a promise she kept). After that, she and I developed a really solid working relationship and when she became my supervisor she went to bat for me when my gallbladder acted up and I was out of work for a week (this place had one of the most chickenshit attendance policies ever and I was terrified I’d have to beg and plead for my job). My supervisor excused all my absences saying I’d followed procedures for calling out and she also called me every day I was out to check on me, too. She was one of the best I ever worked with and if she ever got in touch with me and needed a favor, she’s got one coming from me.

So when two people who I respected greatly for their honesty, their integrity, and their genuine kindness and empathy believed in me , I think that’s when I really began to believe in myself. I didn’t realize that at the time nor did I have the words for it. But that little spark of belief became a laser inside me that began to cut through the silence I’d encased myself in. And that crack would lead to the first break in my silence almost one year later, which I’ll tell you the story of next week.

Breaking Radio Silence – Expressing My Opinion

Yesterday I participated in a focus group. I can’t say what it was for or about due to confidentiality agreements but myself and my fellow participants were there for our opinions (we were also fed breakfast and lunch and paid for our time). I’ve done focus groups before and they’re interesting because you get to meet new people and learn a few things. Now I’ve done these focus groups not just for free food and money, and to meet new people, but to try and break out of my silent shell.

All my life I’ve been told by various people I have no ability or no right to express my opinion regardless of what my opinion is. I’ve been told no one wants to hear my opinion because it’s total bullshit. Why did I believe these people for so long?

1. In the extremely-misguided notion that if I just shut up and went along with their bullshit they would include me in their group. That never happened because it wasn’t my silence they wanted in the group. They didn’t want me in the group at all but they just didn’t have the tits or the balls to come right out and say that.

2. Because they knew my opinion might be different from theirs and they were not tolerant or open to other opinions despite lying to my face and saying they were.

Okay, I know I sound kind of mean and petty, or that I’m fishing for pity and sympathy.

First, people who really can’t accept an opinion or anything that deviates from their extremely narrow-assed existence are not tolerant but for the most part, they don’t have the tits or the balls to come right out and say that.

Second, if you come at me with pity and sympathy I’ll tell you right now to shove that back up your ass where it belongs.

Most girls are raised to be ‘nice’, and I put the word ‘nice’ in single-quotation marks because it’s not nice to be quiet and submissive so people can shit all over you whenever they want to. Our society right now is still deeply patriarchal in that men still take precedence over women, and too damn many women still defer to men even when those men are totally full of shit and don’t deserve any help in wiping their asses like women are expected to.

Okay, I know I’m being blunt and ugly here but we live in a world where the most opinionated people are the ones that are the first to whine and bitch when someone has a different opinion, or is just different from them in any way.

Now, are all my opinions right and true? Hell no. I’ve fucked up things before and will continue to do so until I’m just a bunch of dust particles sailing through space. But guess what? Everyone is just full of shit as I am sometimes, too. Life is a learning experience and I think the only grade that matters is at the end when you face off with God or whoever the Supreme Being in charge is.

Getting back to yesterday, at the last session of the focus group we were all together and the guy running the session was trying to push us pretty hard. He got to me and he said something to me about being slightly angry as I was responding to his questions. Most men don’t like women to express any shred of anger or negative emotion but I didn’t dial it down and I didn’t apologize like I would have done years ago. Instead, I shut him down with one razor-sharp statement from my heart and soul and I looked him right in the eye when I said that. And guess what? No one gave me any shit about that. No one avoided me like the plague or muttered shit about me behind my back. My worst fears from my past were no longer true. I came out of it whole and strong.

Yesterday was a direct result of my ‘breaking radio silence’ project. Years of soul-searching and questioning have given me a confidence I always had a right to all along. My opinions do matter and I have the right to have them, and to speak them out loud. If someone doesn’t agree, or doesn’t like them or just doesn’t like me because I’m delightfully quirky, they can find their tits or balls and tell me to my face. I’ve heard so much shit to my face that I honestly don’t know if anyone can come with anything original anymore. But I know I can survive shitty words said to me and shut people down if I have to. And I don’t have to walk away a shaking, neurotic mess like I used to whenever my hold on myself slipped enough to where I spoke with honesty. That’s something I don’t miss and I will never, ever go back to.

So in addition to having thoughts and feelings, I have opinions, too.

Breaking Radio Silence – Standing Up to Bullies

Over the last few days, I’ve been doom-scrolling and watching the news out of Ukraine (and I blogged about it yesterday, too). And I began to ask myself why I’m having such a strong emotional reaction to it other than fear of a huge conventional war breaking out in Europe or worse, nuclear war. But then I realized it was because I was watching a nation of forty-four million people stand up to the bully that is Russian President Vladmir Putin and the corrupt government and military leadership of the Russian Federation.

Now I’m not equating my life with what the Ukrainian people are going through in any way, shape, or form. They’re fighting for their lives, but they’re also fighting to live on their own terms. Under seventy years of Soviet-Russian occupation, the Ukrainian people were brutally oppressed. They were banned from speaking their own language and practicing their culture and customs. And now they’re being told by their neighbor that they can’t determine their own path in this world by joining the European Union and NATO simply because some asshole in the Kremlin is a joyless, soulless ghoul? Fuck no.

Bullies are loud, rude, obnoxious, and totally convinced they’re in the right even when they know they aren’t. And it’s not my job, or anyone else’s for that matter, to figure out why they’ve jammed their heads up their asses and decided being asshole is better than being a decent human being, or to figure out why they have decided to live without conscience, empathy, and compassion. I’m here to talk about the damage these people cause and what I’ve learned to repair some of it.

Some of my earliest memories are of being teased and bullied as a young child because I was fat and clumsy. I am probably one of the most un-coordinated people you will ever meet. I have balance issues like my late mother did though not with her motion-sickness thank goodness. But it lead to a lot of teasing, bullying and worst of all, alienation. Or to simplify that, it sucked and hurt like hell to always be picked last for any team.

While I suffering through the hell that was PE (physical education) class, I was suffering from another hell in the classroom and elsewhere by being shy then proving I wasn’t stupid for not babbling and running my mouth without trying to think about what I was going to say first. I have a brain that runs at about a hundred and fifty miles an hour on a good day and that means I over-think a lot of shit and have since my age was in the single-digits. I still do that though I’m really trying to get that under control.

Now here’s the really shitty part about all this: the human brain imprints repeated exposure in order to learn. Basically, if you hear something often enough you start to believe it even if it’s not true or just plain wrong and awful. And because of that, the human brain itself doesn’t really learn how to filter out things negatively impacting you emotionally as well as it should. Learning not to believe the lies and bullying about yourself is very hard to do. It took me over thirty years to realize that not only were people wrong about me being stupid and weak, but the way I had internalized their shit was wrong, too.

By the time I reached my late thirties, I believed every single person on this planet had their shit together and knew everything, and that I knew absolutely nothing and was a total loser. I did this in the severely-misguided belief that if I beat the shit out of myself first then other people wouldn’t do it to me. But then I realized something: most people honestly don’t give a shit about you after they’re through mouthing off at you about something. Because I used to fear people mouthing off at me then if I made even just one peep of noise or movement, they’d pound the shit out of me and put me in a cage somewhere far away.

That never happened. All my bullies were gutless cowards who didn’t have any heavy weaponry to come after me, and if they’d had access to any of that they wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I realized this when I had this thought come into my mind and started believing it: everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes but that doesn’t make me a bad person. What that means is no one has all the answers, and if they try to bullshit and bully you into making you think they do, call them out on it even if it’s just in silence and not letting them live rent-free in your mind, or saying it to their face.

From that lesson more came to me and they all culminated in the big one: people can say whatever the hell they want to, but I have the right to respond in any way I choose to, even if it’s in a way they don’t like. If you stand up to someone and say they’re hurting you, you’re not wrong.

I think the best way to stand up to a bully in daily life is this: you don’t run and hide. You say, “I’m still here. And you need to go off and ask yourself why you think and feel the way you, and keep asking until you find all the answers you can though I will warn you, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later you will have to deal with them. Just like I’ve been dealing with mine.”

Breaking Radio Silence – An Origin Story

In the Fall of 2016, I set out on what I thought would be a straightforward journey: to use writing to try and figure out why I thought and felt the way I did. At that time, I knew there were things I needed to deal with and I thought writing them out would help me see exactly what they were and what I could do about them. I titled this project, “Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid” as I felt this project would be a combination of self-help and memoire used to illustrate the things I was working through. But in the Spring of 2018, that began to change when the title, “Breaking Radio Silence” came to me.

In the Summer of 2018, I felt like I was going through a Category Five hurricane of emotional storms every single day. I was physically exhausted by this and just barely holding on. In time I realized I was breaking the silence I had imprisoned so many thoughts, feelings, and memories not just to try and get away from the pain, but to keep them from coming out of me and being used against me as a weapon. I felt like I was having a conversation with myself like I never had before, felt like I was allowed to.

In the last months of 2018, I reached what I call the ‘storage unit’ of my mind. This is where I put my most-painful thoughts, feelings, and memories. In those last months of 2018, I went through that storage unit and opened some very painful boxes and sorted the contents out. Most of all, I put those contents into words in my mind and by doing that, I lifted weights of shame and guilt I never should have carried around in the first place.

But I still had a very long way to go to get to the point I’m at now. From 2019 till now, 2022, I had to keep asking questions to figure out why I couldn’t write this book. The big question that got answered over the last six months was this: why have I never followed through on anything I ever wanted to do? The answer to this one was one of the most painful realizations about myself because it was full of regrets and anger, a very volatile mix I had to work through.

The emotional storms are nowhere near as intense as they have been in the past. There is a calm and focus inside me because I’ve come to the most important conclusion about myself and the answer I didn’t know I was looking for. And that answer is at the end of the day, I am worthy and capable of love, and being loved in return. I have also realized that I can try my best to truly connect with people in any way I can, including through writing.

I will tell you right here and now that “Breaking Radio Silence” will not be an easy read, but it will be a hopeful one. And I hope that readers will get something out of it that will help them deal with their own thoughts, feelings, and memories.

The ultimate purpose of writing this book is to help other people, people like myself who have been through things like I have and are trying to deal with the wounds and find healing, and for people who are going through things like I have and need something to hold on to.  

In the end, healing can be had. It’s a long, hard road that never really ends. But it begins with one thing: breaking radio silence. And it continues with a conversation that wasn’t had before.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book in progress along with related pieces to the theme of breaking radio silence. I feel this is going to be an ongoing project for me even after the book is finished and published.

Breaking My Silence – A Manifesto and a Conversation

I call this blog ‘Conversations from the Road’ because I view my writing as a conversation between me and the world, and from the road because I feel life is a road we’re all on. This will be a daily blog and this week I’ll be showcasing what each day will be dedicated to for the foreseeable future (or until some book projects are finished).

Today I’m starting with a manifesto and a brief explanation behind it. This has been very hard for me to post because I’ve never really said anything like this out loud. But I know I have every right to say what I want to say, and respond in the way I want to even if someone doesn’t agree with it. The piece below is razor-sharp and is about as plain and straightforward as I can make it. But it’s all about me and no one else.

My Personal and Writing Manifesto

  • My writing and how I live my life are not an act of defiance, or an act of revenge. My writing and my life are not about getting even, settling scores, winning an argument, making a point, or any bullshit like that.
  • I will not apologize for anything I don’t have to apologize for, or just for being myself. I will not defend myself or my words and actions when I don’t have to.
  • I will not bend or break for anyone, and I will not go silent for anyone.
  • I will always have hope for a better future and I will always work towards that.
  • I will always believe in myself and my abilities, and that I am so much stronger than I will ever know.
  • I will always remember that everyone is just as full of shit as I am somethings but that doesn’t make me a bad person. No one has all the answers or knows what the future will be even if they say they do.
  • Most of all, I will always believe in love, and that I am worthy and capable of love and being loved in return.

I wrote this on January 9, 2022 by hand and told myself I could not throw it out under any circumstances and that I had to publish it. Why? Because these are my core beliefs that I live and work by, and I know I’m going to piss someone off with what I say or do so I might as well go all-in. That fear of pissing someone off and having to deal with their bullshit has held me back more than anything in my life. I’ve always backed down and gone silent even though the people who have mouthed off at me or bullied me forgot what they said ten minutes after they walked away from me. People have the right to say whatever they want to me, and I have just as much right to respond to them in whatever way I choose, even if it’s in a way they don’t like. People say they can agree to disagree but that’s not the case most of the time. They can agree to disagree if the other person shuts up and runs and hides like I always did but will not do anymore.

The story behind all this is very long and complicated and will be told over time here through blog entries and my non-fiction triumvirate of books as I call them (Breaking Radio Silence, Stand or Fall, and The Written Road). But I’m not all doom-and-gloom and writing-therapy here. I’m also about having fun, finding joy and peace in this world, and sharing knowledge. So let me give you the low-down on the tag line under my headline banner: Writer, Creator, Explorer.

Writer

I have wanted to be a full-time working writer since I was twelve years old. I’ll be forty-eight this May so you can see how long that’s been in the making. A lot has happened and the world has changed a lot, too. But the dream has always been there and has refused to die. And my goal in life is to live simply out of an old shuttle-bus I want to convert into a house-on-wheels so I can live and work on the road and see as much of the world as I can. To get that started will be this blog, my three non-fiction books, my Uber book (Uber Tales), my fiction-writing (novels and short stories), and extra writing features like Deep Dive Friday. This week I’ll go into more detail on each one.

Creator

Since I need to earn money I need to create stuff to sell or monetize. I will be putting out fun merchandise to help me develop graphic design, branding, and marketing skills. I’m also going to be putting out YouTube videos and working on developing a podcast.

Explorer

I’ll be starting out locally here in San Antonio, Texas (my hometown) but I will venture out into the world using writing and photography to show everyone here how lovely our planet was before it’s nuked or poisoned to death (hopefully I’m wrong on that but I’m a Generation X pessimist sometimes).

Now, a bit about me.

I’m single, never married or had kids. I’ll be forty-eight in May of this year (2022). I have a dog and a cat. My dog is Darcy, a ten-year old rescue mix who I think look like the result of a blind date between a border collie and a golden retriever. She loves people, cats, but hates other dogs (long story there). My cat is Ronan, an eleven-year old black-and-white chonky boy who isn’t the sharpest claw in the paw sometimes but very sweet.

I’m a flaming-liberal progressive Democrat and have been all my life and always will be.

My tastes in entertainment and culture are all over the place though I do have a very special love for 80’s music and the bygone era that was MTV and cable television. I love all kinds of music in addition to rock ‘n’ roll: jazz, soul, r&b, rap/hip hop, country, blues.

My favorite foods are tacos (I’m from San Antonio so tacos are life down here) though I will try anything new. I drink my two cups of coffee a day and the world should be forever grateful for that. I am trying to eat healthier and exercise more for a woman entering middle-age that’s a good thing (it could keep me from becoming a hunchbacked old crone).

I currently work full-time as an Uber driver because I fell in love with the freedom to make my own schedule and not have a human boss to deal with. Prior to driving, I worked in call centers for seventeen years, also known as call-center Hell. I don’t miss my former life and have decided of all the bosses I’ve ever had I’m my absolute favorite.

I hope you enjoy what you see here and will come along with me on this conversation from the road of my life going forward now.

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