Zippers and Silence

You’re probably wondering what zippers and silence have in common.  The majority of people probably would not make a connection between these two words. But give me the word “zipper” for a prompt and give me time to sit and think on the word, and my mind will generally take me in a lot of different directions.  The first place I went with “zipper” was what it is used for, like opening and closing jackets, purses, pants, tents, and sleeping bags.  The next direction my mind went was  thinking about the saying, “Zip your lip”, which means to be quiet, hush, don’t speak, don’t say what you may need to say, be silent.    

That thought reminded me of a friend who spends most of her life in silence, because as a child she had to zip her lip. What she had to say was not important to her family, so she learned how to be quiet and not voice her feelings. As a result, she has zipped herself into a safe space in order to keep from being hurt. She goes through life alone, doing it all by herself because that is easier than asking for help and running the risk of further rejection and humiliation. I watch her, as she holds even those who care about her at arm’s length, and my heart hurts. I sense her pain and I wish I had the power to make it all better, but only she can do that. So she continues to go through life passively until she gets fed up, then she aggressively blurts out something hurtful to others. When she does that, she is even more alone, because the few people to whom she does open a crack in the door for, are chased away by her anger. She then remains out of relationship with these loved ones until something happens and the relationship is on again. But, because nothing is discussed and feelings are not aired and dealt with, another eruption happens further down the road. It’s a vicious cycle and a painful one. Chances are that many of you may know someone like my friend, who is trapped inside his/her unhealed space.

Which brings me to my next thought about zippers, and having the freedom to express ourselves.  I can’t think of anything worse than feeling betrayed, violated, hurt, scared, or sad, and not being able to express that feeling ,and more importantly, be heard.  When that happens to us as a child, it doesn’t take long to learn how to back into a corner and pull the wall in around us. Or how to disappear into the floor so no one can see us.

I have clear memories of those times in my childhood. My life was impacted in a huge, negative way when my daddy, who was an alcoholic,  left us. I was only four and I couldn’t understand why he would leave.  All of my friends and everyone else in the family had a daddy. Why couldn’t I?  There were other men in our family who could have reached out to me and nurtured my sad little girl, but no one did.   I was often told that my daddy did not care about me or love me, that he’d rather have alcohol than me. As a result, I felt wrapped up in shame and feelings of inadequacy. After all, if my daddy didn’t love me or want me, surely something must have been drastically wrong with me.  There was no one for me to go to who had the ability to hear my suffering heart and offer me any consolation, so I learned to stuff my sadness. As I look back, I see how the more I stuffed it all in, the more I acted it all out. I could have been saved years of shame and low self-esteem had there been one person who wanted to hear what I felt. 

As I look back on those years, I still feel sad, not only for my wounded little girl, but also for the caregivers in my life. I really believe that none of them had any idea of the hurt and trauma they were inflicting on my life, by telling me my daddy did not care about me.  Had they realized my need for comfort and nurturing, they would not have responded to my sadness with anger and disapproval. My life would have been different if even one person had known enough to assure me that my daddy didn’t leave because there was something wrong with me.  However, the truth is, though my family was a loving and caring family,  they only knew what they knew.  Their knowledge did not include knowing the importance of a child having a champion to go to in time of need. So, I kept my lip zipped and learned to hold back the floor of tears and swallow my heartache. Thanks to two great therapists, and years of being on a spiritual, healing  journey, my soul and my heart are continuously being healed.

When I hear adults tell a child to “zip your lip”, or turn a crying, frightened child away with harsh, judgmental words, I cringe. We all need a place to go with our stories. A place where we are heard without judgment and where we are loved unconditionally. I’m grateful, and very fortunate, because I have those places in my life now. I have a husband from whom I have no need to keep secrets, and very close, loving women friends who always have an ear open for me. And I practice being there for them. 

I encourage everyone who is reading this to stop and pay careful attention to the words being spoken to you by the people in your life. We all need someone to be there who will love us, hear us, and be willing to engage with us in an open and healing conversation.  Will you be that person this week and make a difference for someone in your life? What a kinder and gentler world we would live in if we all practiced keeping zippers where they belong, on clothes and things, and not on people’s mouths.


About brendamarroy

blogger, and author
This entry was posted in Family, healing stories, inspirational, life musings, memoir, personal, Reflections and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Zippers and Silence

  1. gingerclub says:

    Oh, by the way. The best therapy for myself is – writing :-), wouldn`t you have guessed?

  2. gingerclub says:

    Hi Brenda,
    I am supposed to go to a gathering of the Green party – very important! Yet, I keep on reading your posts. This is the most beautiful one you have written so far. Very touching. I went to a similar experience. Not that my dad did something like this, but I was always blamed to be “overly sensitive”. This might be true, if it can be said about a girl who gets shouted at for nothing and looks bewildered or just walks away from the table. Having someone with a bad temper around as a child is no fun either. Particularly, when this child also tried to protect her brother. Oh, I guess, you opened up a huge can, of which I was not really aware of. I do not believe in looking back. Yet, sometimes you have to in order to understand yourself, not to blame anybody. My brother now has a little cute girl. Generally he is a great dad. However, sometimes I see the frustration and injustice in her face. He does not see that and probably also thinks that will toughen her up. I wonder where he had been during our childhood. Anyway, thanks for this nice post! Now, I am the one taking other people seriously as a natural health practitioner.
    Best wishes


    • brendamarroy says:

      Hi Ginger,
      I’ve found it’s impossible to walk away from our past because it keeps showing up in our present. Healing our wounded child is not about making anyone wrong, or placing blame anywhere, it’s about loving ourselves enough to go back and grab those parts of us that were split off. Writing is a great tool for healing, I agree. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Bill Tucker says:

    “Learning who we are is a lifelong journey,” insightful and well written thought. I enjoy3: your post ; keep up the good work.

  4. Excellent post, I too was raised in an alcoholic family. Both of my step fathers and mother are alcoholics. I too zipped my lips and still do today more than I should. It’s a place that’s hard to leave.

    • brendamarroy says:

      Hi Courtney, You’re right. We tend to want to set up camp where it’s comfortable and where we feel at home. When we’re raised to zip our lip, that’s what feels like home. As I said in my blog I was fortunate on 2 separate occasions to find 2 wonderful women therapists who helped me find my way out of the maze.

      Brenda Lightfeather Marroy

  5. Betsy Ashton says:

    Ah, my dear Brenda, you could have written about my life. Reading your words made me recall the pain of rejection as a child, the healing pilgrimage I’ve been on for decades, the wonderful help of my husband who always seems to know what I need when I’m being my most obtuse. We do unimaginable harm to the children around us, all in the name of trying to do our best. Sometimes a parent’s best is just not good enough. But we survive and most of us grow up to be good people. Even with our foibles, we do our best and hope it is good enough.

    • brendamarroy says:

      Thanks for your comments Betsy. You are so right. When I think of some of the awful things I did to my children when they were younger…my intention was always to do my best for their best. Who knew????

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