I was not rebelling by smoking dope or drinking, I was testing ideas. I was experimenting with voice, what I could say and still be heard in an atmosphere of prescribed truths.
I remember the first time I questioned something I heard at church out loud. I must’ve been around twelve. I remember the answer I was given: “Good Christians don’t question the Bible.”
That meant I wasn’t good.
Belief, as I was raised to know it, was blind faith without investigation.
What I was told, I was to believe. Without examining it. That would make me good. And I wanted to be good.
But also, and more deeply, I wanted to seek out truth rather than be told it. Which was bad.
So life became this constant flux of “good” and “bad.” Trying to be good, as I learned it, but really, without telling anyone, discovering on my own what “good” actually means.
It might seem silly now, but in 1980 in Utah within my community, there weren’t a lot of alternative role models to emulate. I wondered if I had the strength to pursue my own education and postpone having children. When I would see infants being held in the arms of new mothers, I would count back to my last period.
The church I grew up in had married couples. Couples with biological children. First and only marriages. There was not a lot of variety. It was clear what we must do.
The moment Eve bit into the apple, her eyes opened and she became free. She exposed the truth of what every woman knows: to find our sovereign voice often requires a betrayal. We just have to make certain we do not betray ourselves. For a woman or a man to speak from the truth of their heart is to break taboo. The mask is removed. The snake who tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was not the Devil, but her own instinctive natures saying, “Honor your hunger and feed yourself.”
Devil spelled backward is Lived.
Where I come from, getting divorced was not an option. It took me a long time to admit that it was right for me when I had always heard, no matter what, it was wrong. I mean it took years.
I’ve never felt like I could tell the people I grew up with about my authentic self, since it is so far from who I was raised to be. I told my family I was getting divorced only when the papers were already drawn up.
For far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes.
I’ve been finding my voice lately, which sounds crazy. Like, didn’t I have a voice before? And I guess the answer is yes, I did, but I didn’t use it. I lived as I thought I should. I lived the life of the role models I knew. So my voice is weak and feeble and needs therapy to get stronger but it is here, this voice I always had but didn’t use before.
Finding one’s voice is a process of finding one’s passion.
When I was twelve, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote on the back of church bulletins, I typed on my mother’s blue typewriter. I wrote short stories and poems and journal entries. I documented everything. And I found pages the perfect place to record my thoughts. The blank page gave me the space I needed to explore what I wanted to know.
The bass notes of our voice are found in what we do naturally.
Twenty-three years later, I am writing with the same fervor I had in 1995. In doing so I’ve found this courageous woman I am proud to inhabit. My own reflection is a startling and welcome sight.
*Italicized quotes from “When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams