Odd, how life in dreams can be. Anything is possible. One night, in a dream, I was “visited” by a black, lesbian poet. By “visited” I mean I was a black, lesbian poet – feeling all of the outsiderness of being a black, lesbian poet in mainstream america. Being inhabited by “another” is a deep way to connect, to feel; and what that dream brought to me was all the feeling of the depth of the experience of being an outsider.
Coincidentally (?), a couple of weeks later
in my waking life, Audre Lord, a black, lesbian poet found me. She was a
new discovery to me through a book that practically jumped off of the
public library bookshelves and into my hands called 'The Cancer Journals'. She wrote
this book back in 1980 born out of her personal experiences, and although
outwardly her background and experiences were far different from my
own, inwardly, I found we had more in common than different -- the
shared commonness of having 'fallen down the rabbit-hole'.
- the great equalizer. The truly equal opportunity employer that
doesn't show preferential treatment as it sweeps through the population,
touching almost half of us at one time or another. Half of us. Think
about it. A daunting statistic most people don't know until they
themselves are touched. Once fallen, we find ourselves in a very dark
place, but upon looking more closely, as our eyes adjust to the darkness
we find footsteps, paths made by those who have gone before.
found Audre Lorde's very clear footsteps down there. With her words
like a machete, she cleared a path for me to follow - reminding me:
we're not alone. We're never alone. Just follow the footsteps.
was gifted when I first had that dream that alerted me. I was further gifted
when I recognized her arrival into my life and her words lit my path;
when she so honestly shared her fears with me, not always being brave
and courageous, but human; human in the rawness of her vulnerability -
our shared vulnerability.
I hope and work to listen to
her call, to rise above the fears that want to swallow me, that want to
swallow all of us into powerlessness and silence, whatever the
circumstances of what might feel like our own very dark rabbit-hole.
In 'The Cancer Journals' she writes:
“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had
ever spoken myself. My silence had not protected me. Your silence will
not protect you.”
"Sometimes fear stalks me like
another malignancy, sapping energy and power and attention from my work.
A cold becomes sinister; a cough, lung cancer; a bruise, leukemia.
Those fears are most powerful when they are not given voice, and close
upon their heels comes the fury that I cannot shake them. I
am learning to live beyond fear by living through it, and in the
process learning to turn fury at my own limitations into some more
creative energy. I realize that if I wait until I am no
longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a
ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. When I dare to be
powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it
becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid."
these words serve as encouragement for others to speak and to act out
of our experiences with cancer and other threats of death, for silence
has never brought us anything of worth.”
these brave words in 1979-80, when there weren’t the open conversations
and supports that exist in the world today, and if this old dawg, el
poquito, can find solace and inspiration in a breast cancer/mastectomy
survivor's testimony, then probably most others can, too. Some of our
strengths lie in our diversity of experiences outside of our own, where
we find we are a lot more the same than different.
Thank you, Audre. I am no longer silent.