Thursday, 29 September 2011

Learning to Keep the Silence

I remember clearly my first attempt at breaking the silence. My parents, siblings, and I had gone to "town," for what reason I can't recall. We lived in an especially rural area, so almost anything we had to do required one of these trips. We were at the gas station preparing to make the trip home. I can't recall the exact time, but it was getting to be rather late at night and we had not yet eaten dinner. At least one of us younger kids had requested a stop for food, but we'd been told that wasn't possible. As was our custom, we also asked for snacks from inside the gas station, but were again turned down. It was winter and my father's work was dependent on decent weather, so winters were always difficult for our family financially.

Although we had not stopped for dinner, we had all waited in the car while mom and dad went in to the liquor store. While we had not been able to purchase any snacks, my mom did instruct my dad to get her a pack of cigarettes when he went inside to pay for the gas.

The stops at the liquor store were a regular occurrence, as regular as the smoking habit, but neither was ever discussed. Ditto the excessive drinking of the liquor and the yelling and violence that would sometimes follow, or the parental disappearances when liquor was consumed outside the house. None of these things were ever to be mentioned. I felt the importance of this, despite the fact that no one had ever said it aloud, but I did not understand or know the reason.

On this particular night, however, I was just frustrated, hungry, and grouchy enough to open my mouth: "Oh, so we can't afford to get something to eat, but we can afford wine and cigarettes!?" The moment I said it, I knew I would regret it, but it was too late. It was out.

Much to my surprise, all that followed was silence.

I expected to be yelled at or told how ungrateful I was. Something. For a moment, I was relieved by the quiet. Maybe I wasn't in trouble. Maybe my actually speaking up was going to change something. A few days passed, however, and the silence continued. My mother would not talk to me. When I came near she only looked at me, face filled with deep anger, but she did not speak a word. Eventually, enough time passed that the incident was forgotten and my relationship with my mother returned to what, for us, was normal, but I had learned a valuable lesson: never speak out. Never discuss the family's problems. Keep your mouth shut.

Many, many years later I broke the silence again, but this time the outcome was different. Once again, I haven't managed to change anyone else, but I have started my own journey toward healing. The conspiracy of silence has been broken. I'm finally speaking my truth, finding the empathy I desperately needed for so long, and mustering up the strength necessary to break the cycle of which I was a part.

This virtual space is designed for those among us who have been kept silent. It is for all of us bearing a heavy burden alone. It's for anyone whose truth has been stolen from them. Here, we can reclaim that truth, speak it, and be heard. If you would like to add your voice to The Honesty Conspiracy, you can email ideas and submissions to honestyconspiracy {at} We are committed to respecting privacy and maintaining anonymity so that all who wish to be heard can do so safely and without fear of judgment. 

Photo from Imagine24 on Flickr.


As a writer you're told to “go where the juice is”. But in blogland, chances are a lot of the people who read your blog know you personally. If your mother and father, three sisters, five brothers, your best friend and her mother, your two-year-old and her friends, your social worker and his boss, your husband and your lover read your blog, there is only so much “juice” you can share without repercussions!

So this is the place where we can talk openly – about sex, love, parenting, our most private thoughts and our untold histories.

We can say what we really think, uncensored and uncut, in the hope that openness might lead to healing for ourselves and for all who read this. 

We believe that through honesty we can find freedom. 

This is our confessional. We come to reflect, to unburden, to share.

And who are we? Well that would be telling! With anonymity comes safety. But we are many. Scattered around the globe.Voices, telling how it really is to be human.