Friday, November 12, 2010

Writing The Voice

Writers, artists, singers, poets, spoken word artists, songwriters - we get to take back the stories, be the voice of the silenced, we get to express the painful, the memorable, the unforgettable.  We are the muse, the emotion, the communicator.

We often come from experience, from places we have lived.  Especially the poets, the spoken word artists, the turf poets, the essayists, the memoirists, they take back the emotion and give validity to a life lived.

There was a time when I was given the pen, the knowledge that writing is in my blood.  I was about nine years old.  I wrote stories, up-to-then, I hadn't processed the life events that had already happened (I barely had memory of them) or the storm unfurling around me.

Then I became a teenager and had lived through four of the most horrific years of my young life.

And my voice was taken away.

I had stopped writing stories and started writing a diary, a place to chronicle my life.  I kept it hidden on my dresser.  My voice had long been stilled in the house of horror that was my home, the emotional trauma, and the crippling fear.  The pen became my friend and a way to have these conversations that I could not have outloud.

And my voice was violated by an intruder who wanted to score points with the tormenter.  She read that I wanted to run away, that I couldn't wait to grow up, and she told my step-mother, and my step-mother beat me, and my father didn't protect me, and I stopped writing, I kept the stories in my heart and learned that to stay alive, I had to be silent.

Until two years later when there was more of the mental and emotional, the taunting, the fear, and my father's cocooning himself in his work, his travels, his office, not noticing me or protecting me, as much as I loved him, he lived in fear also, his physical disability forcing his strong voice to be silent also, to not go against the wife who hated his daughter from his deceased other wife.

I finally told my brother.  I told him about the beating with the extension cord, the threat to kill me, the time she woke me up literally punching me in the head, I was sixteen.  I was not a bad girl, I had only been on two dates and both of these the guys were preacher's kids also who asked my dad for permission, it was like going out with my brother, very innocent and benign, my virtue was still intact.  I didn't hang out with girlfriends, wasn't allowed to, I had never set a toe on The Foot, didn't have sleepovers, or friends over, and never broke the rule "what happens in this house stays in this house."  Until she threatened my life and I was afraid I wouldn't live to see high school graduation.

My brother was an athlete, he managed to carve out a life outside the house of horror and stood defiantly against both my dad and my step-mother.  He was on the swim team and the football team and his athletic pursuits gave him an out.  He was 14 and stronger than me, I told him and he told my dad.  And my dad stood up for me.

I was removed from my home in that town and sent to Michigan.

And I got my voice back.  For a while, anyway.  I was surrounded by someone who became a lifelong cheerleader and advocate for me to connect to those words inside me, to bring them to life.

Pops listened and encouraged and throughout the years until his death, he always supported me with the pen to paper.

He passed away before he could see my name in print or know the freedom I have in words now, at forty-six, but his encouragement and protection of me live on every time I tell the painful, the emotional trauma, the  things some would want to keep silent.

There are many words and muses in the ensuing thirty years that were part of the journey back to my muse and courageously saying the words, to speak out against the unjust, the untrue, and the unloved.

We writers bring it to life.  We are the griots, the storytellers, the muses who can take the tragic and bring out the humanity in it, to connect to the person behind it, to reach into the soul and touch the spirit.

I took back my voice and having found her, I will never let her go.  This is why I write, why I tell the stories.

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