It took me over 30 years to learn to speak with my own voice. Before that time, I did what others thought I should do and said what others thought I should say. This poem by Marge Piercy captures what that feels like:
Unlearning to not speak
Blizzards of paper
in slow motion
sift through her.
In nightmares she suddenly recalls
a class she signed up for
but forgot to attend.
Now its too late.
Now it is time for finals;
losers will be shot.
Phrases of men who lectured her
drift and rustle in piles:
Why don't you speak up?
Why are you shouting?
You have the wrong answer,
wrong line, wrong face.
They tell her she is womb-man,
babymachine, mirror image, toy,
earth mother and penis-poor,
a dish of synthetic icecream
She grunts to a halt.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
staring with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
By learning to trust myself, I finally began to speak my own truth, however fumbling it may be at times. And I learned what a fierce and wonderful thing my own life can be. Now I've made a pact with myself that no one will ever shut me up again. This causes its own challenges at times, but I'll take it over silence any day.
The Opening of Eyes
by David Whyte
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
The passing light over the water
And I heard the voice of the world speak out.
I knew then as I have before
Life is no passing memory of what has been
Nor the remaining pages of a great book
Waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
Seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
Speaking out loud in the clear air.