In a family of loud, colorful extroverts, I was the quiet one. Boisterous, argumentative gatherings set my teeth on edge, which meant that I would often seek the solace of burying my nose in a book, my only way to tune out the clamor.
I needed peace.
That need for solitude meant that I was often viewed with suspicion.
“You’ve got to watch out for the quiet ones.” my mother would say.
So it was confusing to me that when I voiced a strong opinion, suddenly I was “the troublemaker.” Speaking my mind meant a stern talking to. “Young girls like you shouldn’t lose your temper. It’s not nice.”
Being quiet wasn’t an option but neither was being outspoken. Bottom line: you can be loud as long as you fall in line. Whatever that line may be.
Sometimes, an opinion or a desire was met with mockery. Like the time I was sitting in the guidance counselors office with mom and, when asked what I planned on doing with my life, I said “I want to be an artist.” The guidance counselor laughed and so did my mom. Then they both signed me up for secretarial classes because that seemed like a good career for a girl.
Inside I was seething. Humiliated. But over dinner when mom regaled the family with the story of my “stupid” aspirations, I stuffed that down inside and started plotting my way out. Which meant: not giving them the opportunity to sign me up for one more thing I didn’t want. Sneaking out to hang out with friends they didn’t approve of. Doing theatre, art, all the “useless” things they, in their farmer-wisdom ways, couldn’t understand.
If I wasn’t going to be respected, I would be quiet. Sneaky.
I fell in love and got married straight out of high school. I was on my own! Escape at last! Yet I wasn’t. I married a man who was more interested in control than my soul. His cruel words and jealous attempts to micromanage every aspect of my life began to beat me down.
One night, while he was out on a drunken tear with his friends, I called my mother in tears to ask for advice. I can still hear those words: “Do like I do. Say nothing.”
That wasn’t good enough. I was tired of keeping quiet, exhausted from being surrounded by people who thought I was good enough to take care of them but not entitled to my opinions, my voice, my spirit.
So I left.
“You’ll leave with what you came in with…nothing.” he said.
I took nothing. He got to keep it all. My family was horrified. After all, this reflected badly “on them.” But this was no longer about them or him.
It was about ME.
The day I left, I never looked back – and I never shut my mouth again for anyone. It was my initiation into higher ways.
In tarot, the silent woman is The High Priestess – my birth card. She’s wise, intuitive, deep and mystical. She doesn’t give much away but she has much to give. She is feminine wisdom, the wise woman, the shape shifter. She is abundant, lush, yet cool as can be. But when she opens her mouth, she leaves no doubt. She knows and she speaks when she feels she wants to share but she doesn’t waste her breath on anyone who is not worthy.
Like the High Priestess, I am a quiet woman. But like her, I choose when to be silent. That power belongs to only me.
This blog post is my contribution to Sas Petherick’s ‘Voices Rising‘.
This free ebook is chock full of stories, poetry, art and more,
to inspire you to find, trust in and use your voice.