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Friday, February 18, 2005

Silence

Silence is taught. Passed down faithfully from one generation of women to the next: "He is your husband. It is your duty to obey him." From mother to daughter: "He is your father. Listen to him, he knows what's best for you." And so the tradition continues. Women who forget how to speak, forget their own voices, pass down their silence to each of their daughters.

I am part of this tradition. My mother handed it down to me when she remained silent in a 25-year marriage of verbal abuse from my father. And I passed it down to my younger sisters when I pretended that there was nothing wrong with our family, that it was "normal" to have parents that never got along. That's just the way things were.

But I am not a victim. I chose my silence, when I was 5 years old. I chose it to preserve my sanity, because the reality was too horrific to be faced. Reality sometimes is, especially when it means the loss of a little girl's innocence and trust in the adults who were supposed to protect her.

Today I am a smart, intelligent, Pakistani woman. An "academic achiever", as they call it. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from a prestigious liberal arts college, having majored in Economics. I have a good mind and I'm capable of using it, to take care of myself and to make my own decisions. And I have friends who care about me and support me.

But, I choose to live my life in silences. I am part of a tradition, passed down faithfully from one generation to the next.

I've come home after eight years. Eight years of living on my own in the States. Eight years of creating myself again, after I broke the silences of my childhood. Eight years of learning
how to think, how to feel and how to speak, as me, as the person I have chosen to be.

But I have slipped back into the silences now, into my identity as a woman in my family. I am part of a tradition, passed down faithfully from one generation to the next. I am my mother's daughter.

And once again, I choose my silence.

I choose to write because I've forgotten how to speak. It's true that words come out of my mouth, but they are mundane, meaningless words. Asking my mother what we're going to have for dinner, or asking my sister if she's finished her homework before she sits down to watch TV. The real words remain unspoken, buried inside me.

I choose to live my life in silences because I've forgotten how to speak.

The same sentence keeps going through my head, over and over again. "Do you hear my pain in the silences? Do you hear my pain?" I think it every time I want to write to someone, or to talk to someone, one of my friends, and I realize I don't know what to say. It's been three months since I came home. I don't have the words anymore. And the same litany picks up in my head again. "Do you hear my pain in my silences? Do you hear my pain?"

I know they don't. How can they hear something that isn't said?

So, I live my life in silences because I've forgotten how to speak.

Anonymous

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