I remember the day I sauntered into the movie theater to meet a friend so that our kids could have a play-date. I was stepping out in public, so I had to make sure I was worth looking at twice. Jeans complimented my hard work and daily deprivation. Wedge sneakers combined comfort with femininity. Some random shirt hid under a leather form fitting motorcycle jacket. Hair done fresh out of my home salon. I was a walking resume.
There they were. My friend and her three waiting for me and my two. Smiles and hugs all around. Then without pause came the moment of just speak……“Auntie, I don’t like your hair.” The voice of my four year old niece resonated above the sounds of the crowd. Although I was informed, I wasn’t embarrassed. Her mom immediately countered, “You don’t say that.”
It was okay. I was once a young girl, carefree, and living in a perfect world. My feelings were raw and honest. Simple and straight forward. Untamed by custom and ceremony. If I thought it, then I said it. If I said it, then I meant it. But then someone immediately countered, “You don’t say that.”
My feral thoughts were lured away from the jungle, bathed and clothed, schooled and mannered. Careful consideration was like a thumb of restriction as I always had to calculate the consequence or the aftermath. Nonetheless, I would often run into self-responsibility and I became tired of the collision.
Imagine your courage dying with your youth. Envision having a solution to a problem, chapters to a story, verses to a poem, lyrics to a song, or words to alter an outcome.
I completely closed myself down believing whatever I needed to nourish my inner discord:
This person won’t understand;
Nobody is going to change anyway;
It really isn’t that bad;
Don’t be so contrary;
I gave myself every justification to impede my urge to share. My silence multiplied itself and spread to other areas of my life. I didn’t speak at work or at home. I didn’t say when something was wrong, and I hid my real feelings. One of the most devastating things that happened to me during this time was not saying, “I love you. I have always loved you” when I had the chance. Unfortunately, that disaster didn’t compel me to turn off the road. I kept driving into more storms. Because I seemed to come out unscathed, people assumed that I was fine and in some cases stoic. I was labeled someone’s superhero. So, I wore the mask. Despite the signs of imminent danger, I accepted the risk.
Inevitably, the day came when I stood looking down at that casket thinking that she was only asleep. I couldn’t believe that I had lost the most important line I had to this life. When I lost my voice, I had also lost my identity. I had vanished. My very being was buried beneath the shadows of silence. But I was still so young with so much living left to do. I wanted to shout. I tried to resurrect the voice that had become mute from disuse, but the people around me were deaf to the unfamiliarity of my voice. Do I dare disturb the universe? Some close to me eyed me with skepticism, didn’t take me seriously, or accused me of selfish mutiny and purposeful division. After the flat line and the failed resuscitation, I scurried off to my own quiet place. I stood in front of the mirror and laughed then wept. A light came on.
Just Speak was born out of a desperate realization that the light of freedom was more contagious than the tomb of fear. I used to wish to know how it felt to be free because I identified with the caged bird. Belief helped me to see that one’s voice can be as significant as a mustard seed if we would JUST SPEAK.