For those of you who don’t know me well, I am a talker. I share, laugh, yell, gesture, explain, and so on. I pride myself on “open and honest communication”, a term my therapist long ago introduced me to. There are downsides to this approach, like when my boyfriend and I disagree, and he has a tone I don’t recognize: we sit, and talk. And talk. And then I call my lunch date and cancel, and Nate and I continue to talk. Aside from the long-winded speed bumps, I have to say I love this vantage point on communication. I’ve taken it in and made it my own.
One consequence of this “open and honest communication” gig is the people who return the favor. This is not a negative result-don’t get me wrong-but it is a serious repercussion. It highlights for me the strength and power I can have. I can put someone at ease with words; make them feel supported or encouraged. I can inspire bravery or confidence. I can explain how to cope or manage life in new ways. I can also be brought face to face with my inability to fix things. Sometimes, sadly, words are just not enough.
I wanted to show some examples of bold women who are taking “open and honest communication” to the next level. Or to the first level-which is hard enough, trust me! J One example is a woman I just met last weekend, Veronica Russell. She is performing in W.E.L.L.’s Vday production of “Any One of Us: Words from Prison” in February. Veronica is a writer and an actress. She recently wrote a one-woman show about a Texas schoolteacher who lived in the 1920s. This teacher, Edna Gertrude Beasley, was another “open and honest” communicator. So much so, that Edna’s book, My First Thirty Years, was banned internationally upon being published in 1925. The reason it was banned, as Veronica explains movingly in her performance, was due to the brutally honest reality Edna revealed about her incestuous upbringing. For decades-maybe longer?-incest has been one of the great last taboos in America…but that’s a blog for another day. My point here is that Edna was communicating, and was shut down. Now, eighty-six years later, Veronica is using her open and honest communication to liberate Edna. Two women, spanning nearly a century, both getting down to the nitty gritty for the sake of truthful talking.
Another strong woman that I am inspired by is Gina Autrey. I met Gina working with W.E.L.L.’s Vday play also, in the research phase of the play. I stumbled across Gina’s blog and emailed her, asking various questions about her work, and how she may be able to help me find information. What I got in return was a funny, open, kind woman who poured out her soul to me. I found later that Gina has also written a book of her experiences. She’s open and honest, admitting to a crime that placed her in prison for years. She’s grounded in reality, shouldering the weight and benefits of this radical truth. Recently Gina consented to writing an article for the W.E.L.L. newsletter, which was published in January. I was moved to tears the first time I read it through. This kind of communication is powerful, and it will change lives. It has already.
The last woman I’ll talk about today I can’t actually name, because she is in the midst of exposing her truth and dealing with the side effects. My friend is living in an abusive home. At the end of her days in college she returns home to sleep under the roof she has been violated under. She braves the family members who have hurt her; through physical assault or blind neglect. She carries on, because she’s “not ready to die yet”. She goes to school. She gets good grades. She’s an attentive friend. She is a part of campus activities and groups, some sports, some important humanity causes. To the outside world, she’s a beautiful, respected, intelligent person. Inside, she’s probably afraid to go to the one place that should be safe for everyone: home. While this may seem like an example of anything but open and honest communication, it’s actually a freeze-frame of the process in action. She came to me, and told me the open and honest truth of her situation. She’s turning towards the truth, and trying to find the gentle folds beneath the sharp pains.
I’m willing to be that this road my friend is embarking on has already been traveled by women like Veronica, Edna, Gina, and countless other courageous women. It’s a road we’ll all be presented with at one point or another. Maybe you already have crossed this intersection, and maybe you turned away for now. That’s okay. You’ll meet the cross-section again one day, and you may choose to find your open and honest voice then. It doesn’t have to happen instantly-it in not something that can be forced or rushed along. It takes seed in us first, as an idea-strange and impossible. Then it grows into a dream; a goal even, perhaps. It blooms into reality, and then, as all things, it starts to die. It’s not easy. There are cold nights, cries out for help, panic and exhaustion. But it’s worth it. Despite it all, it’s worth it. When you make it down the road, when the first blossom dies and re-seeds itself, you’re safer. You’re closer to yourself. You have a sense of security and trust in yourself and what you can do. Because you can do it.
Veronica referenced a quote of Edna’s in her preview, and I’ll close with that here. “It is perfectly clear to me that life is not worth living. But it is also equally clear that life is worth talking about.” Life is hard. The reality of being an open and honest communicator is hard. There are days where it feels like it’s not worth living that way. But it is. After everything is said and done, I’m happier being adamant about my “open and honest communication” ordeal. I would not have it any other way.
For more on the women I’ve referenced, please check out the following:
Veronica Russell and her show about Edna Gertrude Beasley:
Banished Pride by Gina Autry; published in 2007 by PublishAmerica.
Both Veronica and Gina are members of W.E.L.L. on facebook, and I’m sure would be open to messages that you wish to send, if you feel so led.