Let it out

Erynn Brook
Nov 9, 2016 · 6 min read

You give words to my feelings.

My sister-in-law told me that this weekend. She was telling me how much she liked my writing, how it made her think, or how it made her excited. How she would point to my words and exclaim “that’s what it is, that’s what I feel!”

I’ve been in a fog all day. It set in late last night. I became very quiet, very still. I wouldn’t breathe too deeply. I felt the way a little kid feels when their parents are arguing in the same room. When they freeze and don’t move, when they pretend they’re invisible so that the wrath won’t turn on them.

It’s not just me, I can see it. Everyone I’ve looked in the eyes today has had that same look. We’ve taken an extra split second, just a moment, to see the pain in each other, to acknowledge that thing that we don’t have a name for.

Part of my anxiety is triggered by complex emotions. I’m fine with one or two, but when it becomes a big ball of something I get really, really anxious. It’s too hard to unravel to make sense of. When I first started therapy I was told that 60% of the time shame is in that ball of stuff. So to work through that anxiety I find the shame string and tug on it, I unravel that and let the other emotions fall into place.

This is not shame.

This is grief.

This is rage.

This is pain.

This is disappointment.

But this is not shame.

I’m taking this personally. I have to, if I don’t the only way to heal would be to shrug and ignore, move on, forget. But that’s not an option. Not for me.

I grieve for Hillary today. I grieve as a woman. And yes, that solidarity is enough justification. I watched her maintain her poise, her smile, her composure while she was abused by Donald Trump. I watched as her gaze flicked with each dig, death by a thousand cuts, and still she stood there and fought. I don’t want to get into her policy, or her emails, or her political history. I’m talking about how she spoke. How she carried herself. How she listened. Regardless of what you think of her this woman gave her life to this, and as a woman I can guarantee you that giving your life to anything brings an onslaught of criticism and nay-sayers. So I grieve.

This is grief for a flawed but still hopeful narrative. We were told that if we did the work, if we looked the part, if we wore flattering colors and spoke in dulcet tones and leaned in a little, then the problem would be solved. We would be taken seriously. We could succeed with a little elbow grease. Sure we’d have to be a squeaky wheel once in a while, but we didn’t have to reinvent the whole system or bring it all down. We could win with empathy and conversation, with shifting viewpoints and growing diversity. We could teach, learn, change. We could do it all and have it all and maybe someday not be judged at all.

Last night we watched the death of that lie. And today we mourn for what was our best shot at a peaceful resolution.

When I look into the eyes of those around me I see fear, anger, pain. I see confusion and dismay. I see hunger, I see desperation, I see vengeance. We were all Hillary. Whether we agreed with her or not we all felt the pain of being spoken over, of being shut down, of being interrupted and having to smile through the anger. Everyone who has ever bitten their own tongue and felt their heart crack to protect someone else’s feelings knows this pain.

It’s not bad instinct to be polite. Hell, I’m Canadian and we basically gained our independence by asking nicely. We bump into inanimate objects and apologize to them. Our immigration minister is under pressure by the public to bring in more refugees. We’re pretty damned polite.

So when I say this next bit I want you to understand how big of a deal this is, coming from a polite Canadian lady.

I will not be polite anymore.

I have deleted over a dozen tweets today because I was afraid of the response to my rage.

I have bitten my tongue all morning because my words would be unintelligible.

I have sat with this weight on my chest since last night because I’m terrified of what needs to come next.

But it is coming, and it must. Because the alternative is to give up.

I will not be polite anymore.

I’m not speaking in the philosophical, I mean literally: I will not be polite anymore. In the face of sexism, I will not be polite. In the face of racism, I will not be polite. In the face of bigotry, hatred and greed I will not be polite. I will not apologize for hurting feelings when I tell someone they’re being homophobic. I will not calmly take on the soothing tone of understanding and reason in the face of ignorance and walk someone through my reality at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

I will not play this stupid game anymore.

If we learned anything from this election it’s that the system is in fact, rigged. We can’t point fingers at any one person and place the blame on them. At the end of the day the numbers show that more people voted for Hillary Clinton. Which means a woman can be more qualified, more experienced, more poised, better-spoken, and more informed in every conceivable way and still lose an election in an industry she spent her entire life serving to an unqualified blowhard who did not once say a single thing of substance. And that means the system is fucked. Hillary Clinton followed all the rules, she played the game and the system fucked her.

There is no winning this if we play by the rules. We need our own rule book and I suggest the first rule be:

Let it out.

This is how I will protest. I am no longer biting my tongue, I am no longer sugar coating my feelings. When I’m asked to take notes because I’m the only woman in the group I will look at the room and say that request is sexist. When I see a professor refusing to acknowledge gender pronoun requests I will say that they’re being transphobic. When I see a person of color being questioned on their intelligence for using a five-letter word I will say that’s racist.

They lied. They told us to play nice and we would get what we want. They lied. I don’t have a path to victory, but I can tell you that this road of nice words and smiles and leaning in does not lead there.

They let out all their feelings and place the burden of rationality and reason on us in order for us to be heard. Well, fuck that. Let them hear our cries, our wails, our screams. Let them hear the rage and tears and all the grief that flows through us. Let our voices rise until we find our own words for our feelings. We have bitten our tongues for so long we may choke on our own blood.

Let it out.

I have heard from countless people today who are grieving. I understand. I’m with you. This is deeply personal. If you’re taking this personally, I completely understand. The system is to blame, but it must be dismantled. A cog in the machine doesn’t know its larger purpose, but it’s still a part of the problem. Whatever they tell you the rules are, don’t play along. Don’t hold it in, don’t play nice. Do not bite your tongue.

Let it out.

There are many things to be afraid of, but frankly, whether or not some people on the internet get mad at me isn’t one of them right now. I’m more afraid for those who don’t have the words, who don’t know what to say or how they feel, who are drowning in grief so thick they may not surface. I’m more afraid of those who champion ignorance, who fight for the right to insult, dehumanize and erase others.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go to war, but I’m too afraid not to. And when you’re at war, there is no damned time to be polite.

Let it out.

Erynn Brook

Written by

Studies media, people, culture, and storytelling. https://www.patreon.com/ErynnBrook www.nicewhiteladies.com

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