My mom once told me I was a quiet child, somber, but not sour. I always had my face in a book. To be fair, I was probably louder than she recalls but the din of the other seven kids made it difficult to hear me. I prefer quiet. I prefer to think my thoughts than speaking them. I prefer writing them to speaking them.
And then things happened in my life and I did not have the courage to speak.
Or, most likely, I didn’t want to be heard. And I quickly learned that sometimes I could say things out loud so I would not be heard.
I recognize this. And I still do it. All these years later.
A teacher asked me my senior year of high school if I was going to the prom. I said no. The teacher, myself and a couple of boys were working backstage on sets for the upcoming school play. He asked why I wasn’t going. My heart froze. I didn’t want him, or the boys to know why I wasn’t going. What I actually said was that I didn’t like dresses (truth) and I couldn’t see myself devoting so much time to dress, dancing, and I didn’t really like that kind of thing. It was discussed casually enough. He didn’t try to convince me I didn’t really feel like that. But what I didn’t want him to hear was that I was afraid. I was afraid a boy would never see me as a normal girl who wanted to be asked out. I felt old. I felt different. I didn’t want him to hear my fear that if a boy asked me out I wouldn’t know how to respond, how to act, and I didn’t think I could be a teen age girl who was excited about a guy asking her out and a school dance. I didn’t want him to hear that I so very much wanted to be normal but that I didn’t allow myself the luxury of considering it a possibility for me. I didn’t want him to know that I didn’t know how to be a teenage girl.
No sorrows here. I don’t write this for sympathy. I write it for what it is.
I’m far removed from that moment backstage of my high school. And for all of the things I never said and all of the things I will never say there is a comfort in the things I don’t say.
I have learned over the years that the things I didn’t say so I wouldn’t be heard was a self defense. A way to protect myself. Maybe it wasn’t always the best way to handle things. But it’s what I did. And I’m okay with that. I understand why I do what I do. I understand where my voice is and how to use it.
I still say things so I’m not heard.
Sometimes I say things quite boldly. Ask Husband. Poor guy.
But more often than not, even in the midst of my complaining, or commiserating, or blathering on about what ever, regardless of how boldly I speak-I am still speaking so you do not hear me.
Some of this is still self protection. It’s a learned thing that I really don’t want to change. I take comfort in it.
It not only protects me, it sometimes (though I sometimes fail at this) keeps me from hurting others.
Seldom do I feel that my angry, irked or frustrated feeling of the moment is worth hurting someone else or upsetting someone else over. I may complain. I may try to resolve things. I may be quite moody. And though I’ve come a long way from that child who didn’t want to be heard I am still not comfortable exposing my truths, my feelings and my voice.
This way I am has led me to believe three things:
1. It’s why I cuss. It’s a very quick and powerful release valve.
2. It’s why I write. The words in my head never ever stop.
3. Even when I write there is much I never say.
And when I think of that somber, but not sour child, I feel blessed. I understand who I am. Why I am. And I like that little kid with her face in a book. I like that she does what she can to protect herself. I like that she doesn’t want to purposefully hurt others. And I like that she chooses what is heard and not heard. Not because she is scared. But because she has the courage to be who she wants. And she picks me, just the way I am.
And yes, there are still things I didn’t say.
And that’s the way I am.