As I visited the public library to return Ferrante #4 last December, I stumbled upon Dolores Redondo’s Legado en los huesos (The Legacy of the Bones) in the New Books section. As I eyed the f…
Happy New Year!
Have you made any resolutions? I haven’t, instead I’ve decided on a revolution. I am going to like myself, to give myself permission to be myself. To not navigate my life trying to please everyone else. I’m going to take the blocks off, stop holding back, trying to be liked, shape-shifting, keening, silencing and filtering myself, I’m going let it go. It’s a radical act in a world that profits from our self-hatred and silence. But even as I write this I find myself questioning every sentence, every thought. I edit and reedit – but not for clarity or expression, but because the habit of mistrust in myself is hard wired in. I am a toxic editor of my own thoughts, opinions, questions and story.
There was version of this where I consider how being told I was like marmite – you either love me or hate me – has helped shape who I am, but thought that was too confessional. But not as confessional as telling the moments of silencing that accumulate and assemble a gag over my mouth – like when I was told to shut up as a little girl because the telly was on, or that my accent was too common, or the words I used pretentious and above my station, or how I’ve been throttled and punched to shut me up, or just belittled and laughed at or interrupted or told I was wrong before I finished speaking when actually I was right, or how I’ve been held down and violated because I deserved it, as I was not pleasing enough. Or how when I told someone I’d been hurt, they said, ‘You shouldn’t have been such a slut then.’ Or how when someone I loved died some else said, ‘I wish it had been you instead.’ And I read this back and feel sick at my self-pity, but I’ll leave it here anyway.
Another idea was making a poem out the ideas, voicing a nameless ‘she’, because then it speaks to more than just me, but that is cowardly, I decided, because I would be hiding behind the poem.
Another considered how much of this is gendered, how women are conditioned to please by social norms or worse, by threats and actual violence. But I was afraid of the anonymous haters on the internet. Coward, that’s me.
I had a strong role model. It isn’t as if I come from a family of meek and mild women, the opposite in fact. My grandmother would say, ‘I speak as I find and if you don’t like it tough.’ But sometimes she was cruel, and I don’t want to hurt, only to stop silencing and hurting myself.
I have silenced myself, made myself smaller – to fit, to please, to protect myself from hurt, from rejection. Because I am ashamed, ashamed of who I am, what happened to me and what I did to survive.
This isn’t easy. But, here it is, a beginning. A revolution. Starting small. Send emails that aren’t rewritten a dozen times to ensure a breezy inoffensive tone. Trust that common courtesy and manners are enough. I will speak up when I am hungry, or thirsty, or bored, or in pain, or frustrated and angry or need the bloody loo. I will say no. I will say yes. I will still question myself. But bit by bit, word by word, I’ll learn and help others to do the same.