Developing a voice... (click on the image to see more of Cassidy Curtis's pictures)
Thursday is a VozSutra day, talking about the practice of voice.
This morning I woke up when the alarm went off at 5.24, but then hung around in bed for another half hour, sleeping and wrangling with getting up — thinking of lines of poetry. The only one I can remember now is something about the bright eyes in our vaginas, or the bright vaginas in our eyes. I think it was the latter.
This is the morning. Today is Thursday, and that means MedEd Writers at UCSF, and it also means a VozSutra post.
(Tea update: the tea this morning’s spiced, again, and today with a little sugar and a little milk — we got milk last night for yogurt, which I made with a little bit of vanilla bean again, to give it some flavor, and which is still setting up.)
Initially I see these two wiry bony consecrated hands, sharp-tipped and skinny, long fingers with severely, gorgeously articulated joints, reaching down into a throat, through mouth, beyond lips and teeth and tongue, past the epiglottis, I think, past uvula and gag reflex and there is no hope of vomiting because this is going down. I see them inside, the two hands, the fingers catching hold of a wizened greenish-greying mass, this sticky dripping lump, something squeamish, tender, almost furry or corrugated, entirely encapsulated in slime — something like a hairball or a carcass, the body of an alien life form, but without tendrils or tentacles — something without hope or fever or mental status.
Something incoherent. Or inchoate. Or both.
The hands pull it out of its lodging the way you yank something nearly rotted and festering out of the disposal chamber in your sink — gingerly, quick, with steady pressure, hoping your fist will fit on the way back out with you holding to the pile of not yet decomposed foodstuffs mixed with peach bits or bones or a spoon, all of which is tangling up the blades of your disposal — I mean your throat.
One of the pieces of “survivor” identity that I wrangle with is this idea that we must “recover” our voices. I mean the notion that our voices are lost, have been snatched away from us.
The literal truth for most of us is that our voices were always here – and yet swallowing this concept of “lost voice” (en)forces a deep body collusion with the prevailing myths and metaphors of those in power. We internalize the idea that we’re silenced in order, I think, to break free of the reality in fact that we are/were ignored. That there are those who heard what we said, and then just turned their faces away from ours.
I spent years believing that I was silenced, that I had no voice. The fact is that I was unheard–an important distinction. As is true for most kids, I learned not to tell my complete truth while I was growing up, and then, and, like many millions of children around the world, I was trained in secrecy by a stepfather/rapist who took my (en)forced silence as his birthright, and used it as a weapon against me. How do we who are survivors of abuse (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse) tell our truths in a culture that doesn’t want to really hear people’s words and meanings? We are not heard by abusers who demand a silence they can interpret as “Yes.” We are not heard by a patriarchal, capitalist society that demands our silence so they can overlay our lives with their image of us. We are not heard by a government that usurps women’s tears in order to justify the killing of other women’s sons and daughters.