On Silence

We are still waiting. And waiting. And waiting. My patience skills are way underdeveloped. I’m crappy at waiting. And so I thank goodness for the trips to the river and the pile of interviews to code and the silly texts between friends and for my sweet Sammy who makes me see movies like Mission Impossible that don’t even pass the Bechdel test (that the movie has at least two woman characters in it that talk to each other, about something other than a man. Mission Impossible didn’t even have two women characters that ever spoke to each other, and one of them was on screen for only 10 seconds). Anyways, so we wait.

And as we wait, I’ve been thinking so much about silence. Some people in my life have recently approached me with utter silence. They have dropped away completely, to the tune of no response to emotion-filled texts and no responses to missed FaceTime calls. Sometimes, that’s welcome. Some kinds of silence make me feel safe. Silence from drama is generative. The ability to turn away from people who stir tension and worry feels really fucking good for right now, for this sensitive, raw, time in which we are waiting for our sweet baby girls. And sometimes, there is an echo in the silence, an echo of “why on earth is there so much silence?”

I am definitely someone who likes contact. I love group texts. I like to hear voices over FaceTime and am apt to meet up with friends in the middle of the night at the 24 hour cafe. It’s really hard for me to say no to social events, even if my plate is already piled high. I’m sad to miss a musician-friend’s concert tonight and I wish I could have all my dear ones here with us in Nanaimo while we wait. I’d piled them on the futon and make them sleep on the floor, and I’d make us all pancakes and I’d rub their backs with sunscreen while we swam at the river. I like people around. All of them. All of the time.

So sometimes, the silence stings. It stings when I put something out to you- a text, a call, an email, a coffee-date- that describes this joy-filled-hard-as-fuck-really-weird-and-awesome experience, and you don’t respond or you forget to respond. I am so grateful for the many folks who have called, messaged, chatted, laughed with me over the last little while, because I need you. But each of you had a you-shaped imprint in my heart, and I need all of you, and you can’t and don’t replace each other.

So why are you haunting us, silence? Is the person on the other end jealous? Does she feel left behind, left outside of having babies? I think so. But does she remember, that we have a surrogate, because cancer? Can I share with her, how this feels like tearing my heart out and making me whole all at the same time, all at once?

Being and becoming a mama creates wide open gaps among different people, for some reason. Jealousy. Anger that women flaunt their baby making success. Feelings of invisibility. I too felt this, once. When I was mid-chemo, my dear friend Jennie came to visit. Only days later, she confirmed what she suspected: her first pregnancy. At a time when my hair was falling out and everyday felt like someone was slamming my face into the fact that my baby making plans were derailed, I was sad. I told her. I told her I felt jealous. She told me about how things in her life were hard, too. And then after I said it, after I let those words out into the space between us, I could be overjoyed for her. Happy she was expecting a wee one, who she aptly named Grace. Jennie’s enormous, sun-sparkling smile carried us all through. She cared so much, and when it was finally my turn, she was overjoyed for me, and it meant even more because she knew how sad and jealous I felt when I was getting chemo and she was getting pregnant.

It’s not all peachy, this pregnancy. Trust me, I’ve sat with my cancer-friends and raged, oh yes, raged, about fertility. We have screamed because our Facebook feeds are filled with newborn announcements and we feel like we are on the outside, looking through a glass wall, a glass wall that won’t let us through because, cancer. A glass wall that, when we bang on it, doesn’t transmit a single sound of our distress to the other side. A glass wall that makes us mute, our traumas invisible, our desires impossible. It feels like a fucking glass wall, sometimes.

And so we get creative. We claw our ways to what we want. We draw on family and friends. We are relentless and strong and broken and tired, all at once. It’s beautiful and fucked. I still want you here with me, even if you’re hurting. I think it hurts a little less, when you can say, “dude, this hurts and I’m jealous.” I said that to Jennie many months ago, and you know what she said? She said something like, yah, and also…. and then she let me into her life, which isn’t perfect either. And then we connected, because we were both vulnerable and raw and real. It’s better that way. But it takes work. It takes risk. It takes reaching out and wondering, and listening, and being honest.

I don’t know, maybe the silence is moving. Maybe the silence is protective. Maybe the silence just is.

But when a friend doesn’t respond to the calls I make for connection, when the silence echoes and echoes and my heart is in the middle of it, at some point I have to turn inward, to protect myself, and I have to reach instead, for the hands that I know will grab my fingers when I reach out. I don’t do silence well. It’s too echo-y. It’s too painful. I need voices and hands reaching out and little giggles. I need cute emoticons and funny emails and late night visits.

So I’m learning still. Learning about the kinds of friendships I want to invest in, figuring out when I can throw my whole heart into friendship and feel secure that I’ve given my heart to someone who will protect it and shower it with care. I’m about to move, and then I’ll have to build community. And I know who I’ll be looking for. Heart-full, sparkly, thoughtful, safe, creative, joyful, real, complex, silly, honest, full of feeling. It’s what I want, what I need, how I think I’ll be. So communities of mine, I am grateful to you for showing me who to surround myself with, how to build the community I need and love and want, but mostly, I am grateful to you for offering silence only when it’s safe and peaceful- I am grateful to you for being heart-full, sparkly, thoughtful, safe, creative, joyful, real, complex, silly, honest, full of feeling.

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