Tuesday, March 13, 2012

For I Cannot Could Not Speak

Soon after I started dating A. I became a regular member of the writing group he'd been a part of for several years. It's a laid-back affair where members are free to show up as often or as infrequently as they wish. We meet in different people's homes every 10 days or so, quietly write for an hour, socialize, introduce ourselves, and then provide comments and critiques for those who want to share what they've written. I've been a member for two years and have grown close to a few people, but I've never been brave enough read a single word. I rarely offer any comments either as the mere thought of speaking in front of a group makes my brain glitch.

But last night I finally pushed myself to sign up for the very first spot and read out loud. It was scary from the moment I had decided to go for it and even during, but as the rest of the group noticed, my voice and thoughts gained more confidence the more I read on. Here's what I said:

I'm a writer, not a speaker. You'll never hear my written words in my own voice, only the one you've created of mine in your head. And if you've only interacted with me in a group setting then chances are you've probably never heard what I've truly wanted to say. See, whenever I've had anything worth telling, I've headed for pen and paper before requesting a friend's ear. An image of my teenage self can be conjured up by connecting the dots formed by a dozen journals laden with feelings I could never express out loud. When I was craving attention, comfort, and love from a place I learned I'd never find any, I'd fend off imminent rejection by stopping myself from seeking it in the first place. So I sought refuge within my head, rattling around and flipping things over whenever it all became too intense.

When you write, you can remain behind the scenes. You're reduced to a name, solely the vehicle through which these ideas have come to life. You don't have to see the reactions your thoughts cause in others. Whether they agree or disagree, you can engage with the audience as much or as little as you feel comfortable doing. And so writing has been the dusty veil through which I've engaged with the world. It is safe back here, yes, but there is just not enough air.

After a childhood's worth of being told to shut up, be quiet, no cursing, stop popping that gum, don't interrupt, you're laughing too loudly, "y que se callen, coño!" you learn to police yourself automatically. So eager to please, you let yourself grow into your constricting pot until a thorny vine silently starts to creep up out of your heart and wrap itself around your vocal chords, watered daily by tears, all the while squeezing…and suffocating. Soon there is little distinction between your shell of a life at home and the happy façade you try to sell to your friends.

I wonder where she ran off to, this little girl the elders have told me about who used to fly around the village courtyards with wild stories to share. I don't remember her at all and much less remember being her. I wonder if she still plays somewhere, if I've permanently trapped her between the lines of my diaries, or if she now only exists in my speechless mind.

How can others not only do, but actually enjoy something that I've grown to find so terrifying? The ease with which they share their thoughts is such a foreign concept to me that I don't know if I'll ever be able to grasp it. To me, this is torture. The very thought of saying these words out loud makes my heart run 5Ks around my chest. I'll breathlessly speed through so as to quickly yank myself right out of this uncomfortable situation I've pushed myself into. "Woman, what were you thinking?!" I'm saying to myself. "These people are sitting there looking at you! They're waiting for something worth their time! Don't be lame!"

So why am I here doing the very thing I avoid at all costs? Because I must. Because I can't leave my voice behind in my past. Because at 30, this shit ain't sexy. And because I'm tired, of excuses, of living life scared and telling myself "It's not worth the risk" when all I really want to do is fucking scream. This right here, cannot be what will continue to hold me back for 30 years more.

And with that, I extend my sincerest apologies to the following reader for I will be too woozy from the adrenaline and too busy bringing my heart rate back down to normal to listen to a single word you'll say.

Image: jscrapalex.tumblr.com

7 comments:

  1. Good for you for finally conquering a fear! So do you think now you'll challenge yourself to continue sharing or will you hang back a bit more and share from time to time?

    Thinking about this is interesting too in the context of blogging. Many of us who blog struggle with the same thing, but use it as a way to be heard without necessarily having to speak.

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  2. Thank you for writing this, Dorkys - even more for being brave enough to say it.

    Kelly

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  3. Well done for finding the courage to sppeak out in the group! :)

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    1. They were all so nice and encouraging so I'm glad I got over the fear, too.

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  4. Good for you! The way that you write is so genuine and you are so courageous for letting them see that side of you! Public speaking is my biggest fear so I know that was not easy!

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    1. You should try it once even if just to see if it's as bad as you think it will be. I wrote those things thinking I was going to be terrified, and I was leading up to it, but then I realized that it was okay. Things were going to be okay. I also thought my voice was so shakey, but apparently that was all in my head. Maybe the adrenaline was screwing with my ears, too.

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