He Almost Took Away My Voice
And now I’m struggling to hold on to it
I had known something was off in my family for a couple weeks. I can sense it. It’s a feeling of impending doom I can’t shake. I have done something wrong. They’re mad at me. They disapprove of…something. I just don’t know what it is this time.
This has happened a lot in my life. I frequently disappoint my family to the point where people stop talking to me. My father then makes a grand declaration of disownment, always via email. Everyone else just kind of avoids me after that. It keeps the peace for the rest of the family.
Something I feel compelled to note: I’ve never stolen from my parents. I do not neglect my child. I have never left my child in their care to go on some wild party adventure. I don’t do drugs. I’m not a drunk. I have always been gainfully employed. I pay all my own bills.
The most frequently identified example of how I have routinely disappointed my family is this: I am absolutely horrible at sending greeting cards for special occasions to people in a timely manner.
I’m not kidding. Three times it has been used as an example of how self-centered of a person I am. I always call. I make every attempt to visit. I offer to take people to lunch or meet for a glass of wine. But that card though…
I finally called and asked my mom what was going on and what she said was something that I dreaded for some time. “Your dad found and read your blog.”
This moment reminded me that my fears were incredibly real and warranted. I have lived my whole life in fear of my father’s judgment. He has given it so freely to me that, no matter what I do, it is always in the back of my mind.
A day later I got what I have affectionately termed a Flaming Email of Death. This is the one in which my father lists out every thing that is wrong with me with large statements about what a horrible person I am.
My father read every word I wrote on Medium. His assessment? I am disingenuous, narcissistic, delusional and psychotic. Those were his words.
The decisions I have made in my life and dissected in my writing are “disgusting” and “unforgivable.”
The email was so caustic that if my ex-husband sent my 15 year-old daughter an email like that, the first thing I would do would be to immediately hire a lawyer to petition for full custody with him only being able to see her under direct supervision. And I would win.
The email included an attachment with sections of my writing with his notes added to explain how my writing supports his assertions about my character. It seems he missed the beautiful piece I wrote about how my life seemed changed after deep sea fishing with him.
Getting My Priorities Straight in the Middle of the Ocean
I am a woman of obligation. I am a woman of “should.”
He didn’t even mention that one.
The email concluded with the statement that I no longer am welcome in my family and that I no longer have a father.
I wrote about my feelings. I wrote about my life. I chose not to hide my issues. I shared experiences and struggles. I was real. I was authentic. It seems that the real and authentic me is not palatable to my father.
What happened next surprised me.
I have not written in a week. Not one word. I couldn’t. I would open Medium and I couldn’t even look at my stats. I ignored my Slack writing groups. I didn’t read anything. I did not engage with anyone. I would think about writing and feel sick to my stomach.
I have spent this whole week paralyzed with fear. And shame. So much shame. I have been too terrified to use my voice. My father had silenced me.
I almost went along with it. I almost deleted everything off Medium. Everything I had worked for. Everything that made me feel whole. Everything that reminded me that I had worth that I had found in myself.
I knew if I did it, though, I would never write again. That would be it. Then I remembered something I wrote last week that people highlighted. I write to stay sane. Take away by ability to write and you might as well pad the walls.
I began listing in my head what bad could happen if I kept writing. I came up with only one thing: the family that has already disowned me will continue to be displeased and upset with me being who I am.
Then I listed what bad would happen if I quit writing. Everything kept circling back to one thing: I would lose myself.
Still, my head has been a mess and I haven’t been able to find one word that wanted to come out. About anything.
My father’s shadow has loomed over my shoulder like he’s waiting for me to hand over my voice. I questioned whether I wanted to write about this and why.
What happens in my life I own, whether I like it or not. I will process it and move through it as I choose and as I need. I get to do with it as I please. It’s a story worth telling because it’s mine. This is NOT his story.