Sunday, September 6, 2009

Finding Voice

It has taken me 43 years to find my voice. Being the youngest of five children, I stayed mostly silent as a child except for periodic squeaking after ritual teasing by my brothers and sisters. I tried my voice a couple of times, but it too often was met with disapproval or confusion. So, rather than rock the proverbial boat of a traditional home, I just kept most of my thoughts to myself. Mute.

Born and raised in a strict Catholic home, I couldn't help but question Jesus' bodily resurrection. Inquiring minds want to know. My scientific mind could not make sense of it. My faith in Him did not need his rising to be in a physical way. My questioning too often was met with, "If you had faith, you would just accept it." This rationale seemed preposterous, but I accepted that the conversational doors on this issue were closed and so would be my mouth.

"Can we please discuss the fact that Mary was a virgin and pregnant with our Lord? What if I told you I was pregnant and I was a virgin?" I once asked my mother. You can only imagine her response to that question. Seriously, if it happened to Mary, and we're all supposed to believe that it did, is it so far-fetched that it could happen to someone else? I really needed to discuss this. But it was not open for discussion.

I learned to write in my journal. Here I could struggle to host the conversations I needed to have come out of my mouth. The writing was stilted, most of the time, as if the words on paper might manifest themselves into the atmosphere, prompting the predictable disapproval I would get had I spoken them aloud. The voice was not perfect and free, but it was some small way of expressing my soul.

I dreamed of writing like Maya Angelou or Amy Tan. I played with words, tried to make them dance on the page like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, romanticizing the possibility that I could one day write something as beautiful. Even in my journal, the flow of my writing was disrupted by something. As if a big tree had fallen in the river of my natural flow -- the tree was the conflict between how I wished I could write and the silenced voice that was trying to come out. These two were not friends. I wished I was Maya or Amy but what wanted to come out sounded more jaded and sinister. Without this flow, I struggled with simple sentences because I spent most of my time resisting what wanted to come out.

Finally, I wrote my first short story and divulged the unspoken horrors of my heart. I let it pour out of me, hideous monsters living inside of me, scaring me, taunting me. I took a huge risk and put them out on the table. I looked at them. Secrets, thoughts, shame, terror. I let my imagination rip at my fingers and I typed the unthinkable. I read it back and winced. Horrible darkness on paper. Then I read it again. Not so bad. And again. That's actually kinda funny.

What appeared so scary became laughable. Fear transformed into something that could be manipulated into clever prose. By writing the short story, I had coughed up the fur ball that sat in my throat for too many years. I dislodged the tree that had fallen into my river and I let it flow. Ahhh...a free-flowing voice. Finally.

But, after I finally let her roar, I must admit that it came with a mild disappointment. The words came unencumbered and emancipated but not with the intellect of a Maya or Amy or the grace of Fred and Ginger. Instead, the voice I found was simple and used the verb "to be" way too much. But it came, it flowed, it continues to roar and that, really, is all that matters.

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