Today, the 17th of April, I took part in Women of Letters at the Thornbury Theatre. Before an audience of about 400 people, I read out the following letter to my identified "security blanket". I am publishing my letter, complete with links, for those folks interested.
To my fellow world traveller,
They say silence is golden. My world is rarely completely silent yet when it is, I’ve grown to fear it. For silence means something is wrong. Silence physically is a sign of my fallibility. My entire life has been spent on this precipice, knowing that a common cold can mean significant hearing loss for weeks. Knowing that the refined nature of my voice is the product of speech therapy as a child whose recurrent inner ear infections left her with comprehension issues. Knowing that with each passing year, my hearing dulls and should I be lucky enough to make it to a ripe old age, there is no way I will do so without operations and aids.
Yet this is nothing. For I’d take physical silence over emotional silence any day. Emotional silence means isolation. It means rejection and mind games. It means walking on egg shells waiting for the inevitable shattering. It means being taken for granted. It means nothingness. It’s the battles I’ve fought my entire life, which I’ve survived and which I never want to have to fight again.
There’s nothing which can fix all that is broken, physically or mentally. There’s mainly just the mechanisms for getting through it and ploughing on. Yet placing you on my head has, at times, been what has gotten me out the front door and into the world where I belong. When I’m being driven mad by my incessant tinnitus to the point of where I simply cannot focus on what anyone is saying to me, you’ve been like salve on my frayed nerves, drowning out the ringing. When I’ve been dragging my feet on those unbearable cold winter’s mornings I whinge endlessly about, you have, at times, moved me to a rhythmic strut. When I’ve been healing you have reminded me I’m a continual survivor through some simple notes. You’ve told me that while life is not always easy, my strength lies in the way I continue to live it without limitations and apology. When I was sitting there with whiplash following a high speed, head on car crash, you were telling me I was getting away with it all messed up. When I was ferociously hungover after a night at the pub with the comrades, I was comfortably numb. When I was surrounded by white dude hipsters explaining all my politics to me, you were calling them star-belly sneetches. When I was on my way to a rally, I wasn’t tolerating this so my children won’t be next. When I was in a pile, trying to put the pieces back together bit by bit and wondering why I was continually expected to do this and smile about it for everyone else’s benefit as I am an Aboriginal woman in a world which says we don’t belong, I was doll parts.
You’ve delivered, direct from my ears to my very essence, time and time again.
I like the way you engulf my head. Not only do you ensure that sound surrounds me and is unbroken but you have, at times, kept my ears warm. I have been told time and time again that as I woman, I am not supposed to wear you at night, as this is apparently an invitation for men to attack me. If anything though, your presence has made me less fearful of walking around alone, for all it takes is a few strains and I’m relaxed and striding confidently. I remember those angsty and horrible teenage days where I had two parents and three younger siblings to block out in order to get through my homework and move on to uni. You were always there, propelling me toward my inner grunge goddess or confessed 70s throwback. Your presence has comforted me in a crowd when I’m dealing with my consummate introversion and personal space issues. Writers may be extroverts on the page, but we tend to mainly be introverts in real life and you totally get that quandary. I may not wish to talk to, or be touched by, anyone there but a simple hug around the back of my neck reminds me you’re not far away should I wish to cut them out. I’ve been busted on more than one occasion singing along to what is silence in other people’s worlds, or even busting some moves because my feet just cannot stop. Though this must look awfully strange to those people, your ability to get me out of my ever-questioning head where I will show such a lack of inhibition is truly a gift, for there’s few humans in this world that manage that feat.
It’s more than this though. Through your function, you have conveyed the worlds of others to me, showing their beauty, their fallibility, their strength and their extraordinary talent. You’ve shown me that the most astoundingly talented lyricists also seem to be the most tortured souls; wrestling with their demons in ways I know too well. I’ve witnessed a lifelong love journey conveyed via the plucking of just a few strings. They’ve included me and made me proud to be a fellow weirdo, for their journey is aligned with mine. Their anger, conveyed with such beauty and integrity moves my own anger and anguish to a better place. It shows me time and time again that out there, there are some extraordinarily talented and passionate people whom I share the planet with. Who give, so that the rest of us feel a little less isolated, a little more coherent and capable, a little more worthy. Thank you for conveying their messages to me.
My fellow traveller in life; my wonderful stereo headphones; I thank you. I thank you for putting a spring in a step, for comforting me, for creating a safety bubble when I have needed it. I thank you for getting me out of my head on occasion and through some grim times. I thank you for the peace you’ve given me when my ears remind me that their time will be up someday. But most of all, I thank you for breaking the silence. For silence is never golden. Silence is fear, submission, isolation and pain. And when you’re around, silence need not haunt me in the complex ways which it manages to.
I cannot wait to break into a fine stride with you on the footpaths of Berlin in ten days’ time. I only hope that in our exuberance, on our long awaited journey, we remember to stick to the right hand side of the footpath while there. For breaking silence via an angry German person whom I’ve just collided with is not my ideal scenario…
Sincerely, your faithful companion,