Borrowing Mary J. Blige’s Voice

Thoughts on finding your own voice…and using it!

I’m kind of a mouthy girl. If you know me, you probably already knew that. I’ve likely told you my entire story upon the first 5 minutes of our meeting. I also have opinions. Lots of them. I detest being wronged in any sense of the word. And don’t call me honey. (Ask the pushy salesman working a kiosk in the middle of a mall in Florida about that one. I still feel sorry for my children who were present and are likely scarred from it.)

But, I’ve come a long way on determining when and where I should use my voice. I no longer feel like I have to yell. I don’t feel like I have to be the only voice making noise in a room. I no longer feel like I am responsible for filling up pieces of silence when they’re present. I don’t even care anymore if you “hear” me and understand what I’m saying. (DL, that last line doesn’t apply to you. 😉

For my entire adult life however, up until about 10 years ago, I lost my voice. Even worse, I got to a point where I had lost myself completely. I wouldn’t even know what to think unless someone told me to think it. It was years of conditioning being taught to me that I could not trust myself and that no one would want to hear anything I had to say. I learned to try and be complacent in an effort to keep the peace and not be murdered. As in actual murder.

I learned to be passive-aggressive, I guess you would call it, in odd ways to create some sort of an outlet for the ultimate in oppression. I had gone from an abusive marriage into an even more abusive dating relationship and coming out of both required that I muster up the courage to do so. Even if it meant I would lose my life.

I think a lot of people believe I’m just being dramatic. And I’m not saying I am fully capable of such, but for those who knew me when, and knew the person and persons I was dealing with, are all shocked I emerged alive. Victory, bitch!!

But finding my courage and my voice took baby steps. Ones that make me laugh a little now. At the time though, I swear it saved my life.

Let’s start with the fact that I cannot sing. Oh, I love to sing. I REALLY love to sing. I have a range of two notes, both of which are flat. I love music. It saves me on a daily basis. It moves me! Inspires me! Makes me cry! Gets me through long painful runs or bike rides. There’s this one song by Jackson Browne that every time it comes on, it makes me cry. My boyfriend thinks it’s funny, and it is. It comes on. He turns it up. I cry. I don’t even know why.

The one thing my abuser didn’t take away from me was my music. I was under the illusion he was in complete control. As you all know now, I realized eventually the power was and will always be in my hands. I think he knew better than to touch my music. Of course, I didn’t see it at that time. But, as I started to prepare and plan my escape, which took 8 months, I would make bold, little, passive-aggressive, actions.

The first of which was getting my two cats. He HATED that. Most narcs do because it means your attention is going to something other than them. It’s kind of funny because I wouldn’t fight that hard for myself, but LORT I will fight for an animal. Any animal.

The other thing was singing certain lyrics to certain songs in the car or wherever we were as loudly, albeit painfully, as possible. And I meant it. I meant every damn word and in my head was shoving them in places you don’t want a song shoved. It was cathartic. It still feels good when songs that I used to use for that purpose come on.

I just left the gym and was on my way back home when Mary J. Blige’s version of One with Bono came on. Suddenly, it became some sort of victory song. There I am stuck in traffic with my breaking voice, screaming, (you can’t call it singing) these lyrics.

Well, did I ask too much, more than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it’s all I got
We’re one, but we’re not the same
See we hurt each other, then we do it again
You say love is a temple, love is a higher law
Love is a temple, love is a higher law
You ask me of me to enter, but then you make me crawl
And I can’t keep holding on to what you got, ’cause all you got is hurt

One, U2 – Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul David Hewson

The punchline is, I got out. And I’ve used my voice ever since. It still shakes from time to time when my old ways creep back in and I don’t think I’m worth having my needs met. Or that Im worth anything, for that matter.

I even went overboard when I first got out of abuse. After being oppressed for so long and being silenced for what felt like an eternity, I used every bit of my voice in an attempt to even figure out who I was, what I felt and what I thought. I was crass and rude. I would fly off the handle at any moment. But I settled down the more I came into my own. It launched a political career. Go figure.

I use my voice now to give voices to other people. How cool is that?

And I learned to love myself enough that I won’t ever be silenced again. I just promise not to sing for you. Thank you Mary, for letting me borrow your voice until I found my own.

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