For years, I was not allowed to have a voice.
Screaming was not tolerated. Most talking was not acceptable in our house. I was accused of lying every time I tried to tell the truth about things. I didn’t give up my voice as a child, I hid it. In journal pages and diaries and poems written in crayon and marker. I stored it in images ripped from magazines and secret photographs taken on disposable cameras I would develop with birthday and christmas money.
In college, I began to find my voice. I spent years writing, exploring, discovering. Fighting and standing up for myself and for others. I was rarely silent, only in meditation (and sometimes sex). I spoke not just with words but with my actions. I lived a life infused with love.
And then I had sex with a woman who was a stranger, just weeks after meeting a woman I wanted to be my next spiritual teacher. I gave up my plans for graduate school, and I moved to Washington to live with the stranger, a madwoman. I gave up my voice for her, to stop the anger, to save my life. I stopped speaking, I stopped doing. And since then, I’ve spent nine years trying to survive.
I never took my voice back.
I am a strong and intelligent woman, full of beauty and creativity. I am a fighter, and I don’t give up easily. Except when I do. When I feel trapped and alone and uncertain that I can succeed. I settle for less so that I do not harm others. I give up. And not just my voice.
I refuse to do this anymore. I cannot be a strong, relentlessly authentic woman if I do not speak up. If I let myself wallow now, I will never find the happiness and the life I seek. I will not achieve my dreams. And I’m furious that I let myself stay silent for so long. But speaking up now requires a level of compassion. For myself, and for those around me who never noticed my silence.
My voice is street-smart and savvy, but also gentle and full of tact. Strong of will and strong of character. My voice comes from my very core, the center of my being, and radiates with love through my body. My voice is strong. But my voice right now is still listening to my mind, to the scared parts of me that need to feel safe to move forward. My voice is being held back by my fear of leaping.
I am a woman of value. I am a human being who wants to be respected, and that won’t happen until I respect myself enough to get out of a situation based on surviving, not thriving. And so my voice trembles but it is clear: “Listen to me. Now.”
I never planned on being a victim. But now is the time I have stop being one and speak up. My mind is smart enough to not put myself in danger, but my voice, my voice is willing to take some risks. I am capable. I am ready.