I’ve been outspoken for most of my life.
There have only been a few life transitions that have left me speechless, and always triggered by a flood of traumatic events. One was HIV, one was an unhealthy work environment and another was a tally of deaths that filled a calendar year. I stacked these experiences in my core, and waited for relief and resolution.
Looking back, I can now see that these turbulent times were somewhat out of my control, and I had to take time to pivot myself to find my voice again. It seemed pointless, at the time of personal struggle, to keep sharing the same story to professionals and support group members.; the rechurning of traumatic events kept me quiet and disengaged in other areas of my life. There were voices from other people that were often out of turn…whether offered as advice, opinion, counsel, or structured therapy, I remained quiet.
But not for long.
When you gain insight, and take measures to forge on, the sting of trauma often subsides to personal acceptance leading to next steps …and your voice returns. You build your life back and look around for trusted souls who you can confide in - those folks who never stomp on your vulnerability when you speak of unspeakable things.
Along my life journey, a word dropped into my vocabulary. It was used in a conversation with a health care professional one week after my HIV positive diagnosis Jan 2006. That word?
"I know you are out there! Men and women who accelerate opportunity in HIV work or public forum to feel validated, busy or connected. Nothing wrong with that…except constant disclosure can wear you down."
Since that time, 10 years in total, that word has fueled my frenetic energy. I remained true to my outspokenness by asking a lot of questions, participating in workshops, conferences, and trainings to gain some ground. I was asked often to speak in public forums or share my story in newspapers. radio programs or on TV. I added my voice to provincial and national committees, working on policy and reform. I helped train volunteers and student placements at AIDS Service Organizations and supported clients in navigating self-care and public programs. Now, I am completing a book about my casework journey – a new platform for my personal voice.
I say all this to bring out a common thread that I now see in all the busyness and noise that arose in all my disclosure. There was little accommodation for quietness. Those who stepped into my HIV world never told me to embrace solitude or carve an identity outside of the public forum of HIV advocacy and support.
Everything in life is connected. Each experience we face requires different approaches or strategies to lessen the blow or impact of sudden change. I know you are out there! Men and women who accelerate opportunity in HIV work or public forum to feel validated, busy or connected. Nothing wrong with that…except constant disclosure can wear you down. It can convince you that you might be doing okay, if everyone is seeking out your story or asking for your input on important matters.
I found out that it really is okay to not share everything in public. I have had more “aha” moments in quiet spaces, free from the distraction of physical noise, the consensus of a crowd, or the current feeds on social media.
When I pull away from any crowd, I am left with myself.
The good, bad and the ugly.
I begin to be aware of my own body, and how it feels. Do I need rest? Do I need to make new goals? Is there something I am forgetting about?
In being more comfortable alone, I seem to fuel an ability to face difficult circumstances with a more expedient response, not allowing it to consume me. Solutions surface and I tune in for strategy and resolve. Collectively, these noise-free moments, are worth their weight in gold.
I won’t always be quiet. I will sometimes speak out. The joy in life is getting the balance right and knowing who you are at the end of the day. When I read posts, see pics, absorb online news and articles, there is an imposed pressure to join the debate, yet, choosing not to chime in is okay. Cyberspace is not the real world - it is a collective voice that has much to say… at any time of the day.
I don’t always have to be “on”. I can stop myself and hit mute anytime.