From time to time, I move away from writing and the publishing business to write about my own life and perceptions. Tonight is one of those nights.
It is no secret to anyone that my upbringing was violent, raised in a church that takes the Bible so literally that the most heinous acts of violence seem perfectly logical, godly, and properly. Where a claim of “disobedience” from a young child is enough to make her responsible for rape, incest, torture, and worse done upon her. And where no cry for help is to be listened to. After all, it IS the three year old’s fault if her father rapes her and slashes her with knives, is it not?
Well, so I was brainwashed into believing for many years — until I learned not to.
In the first six years of my life I was mortally wounded by my father six separate times — three times on Beltane (April 30th/May 1st) and three times on Samhain (all hallow’s eve). Sometimes I will talk about being shot or drowned. But what I never talk about was the night, I was maybe three or four, when my voice was taken away.
My favorite actor and, by the grace of god/goddess/the universe, the narrator of my biographical novella “Boudicca” talks about the importance of the voice. If you have not seen his presentation talking about the importance of our voices (courtesy of Future Legend Media), it is a true joy to watch.
Our voices are very important. But that dark night — I cannot remember if it were Beltane or Samhain — my voice was both literally and figuratively taken away.
By this time, my father had his routine down pretty well, kidnapping me from my room and making sure everyone else at home was either asleep or too frightened to stir. I was usually taken into the woods near our house. My family home was on the edge of Lincoln, Nebraska when it as first built a few months before I was born — so there were ample woods and wildlife around. As usual, my father cut my throat one to two centimeters below my left ear (this routine left a somewhat pronounced scar — if you look) and offered some blood to whatever it was he felt he needed to worship or revere; I will not claim I know or understand, only that the nearest I can describe the sounds of these prayers would be the “black tongue of Mordor” in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. After raping me (which was also part of the routine), he noticed I was fighting back with the one part of myself that was stronger than the ropes he bound me with: my voice, my song.
There is something spiritual about singing from the heart and soul, especially when you are that young and lack the filtering egos and superegos that enable adults to filter information. At four the mind has not yet learned how to reject incorrect or harmful information, let alone tell the difference between when adults are telling them the truth or lying to them — which is also why many children do not know the difference between reality and fantasy. Because of this, a child’s song is especially pure; there is no deceit to it. If humans ever tap into the voice of that which created all of us — it is at that same age. Healing warmth filled me. My spirit was far from broken. Resistance was not futile.
Enraged, my father drove his boline (a razor sharp ritual knife) into my vocal chords. The singing stopped. All sound from my throat stopped. I Crossed Over. But as it was before, something powerful and divine would not open the door, the tunnel some see during “near” death experiences. The silver cord binding soul to flesh remained strong and tight, holding my spirit to just a few feet or inches away from my blood-drained body. I was, for the lack of a better term, “MOSTLY DEAD.” The flesh had no blood left — but the spirit remained nearly as tightly rooted as it was any other moment in my life.
Satisfied, my father left me for dead for a time. I cannot tell you what happened next except that at some point, my spirit sank downward, back into my body. Was it god or the goddess who restored me to life? Was it some part of my spirit that simply refused death? I am too honest a scientist to guess and have always been so.
The next thing I knew, I was back in my bed — but I could not speak.
Do not ask me why no one noticed — or cared — that my notorious chatterbox fell completely silent for weeks while my body healed. On the surface of my skin, only a tiny mark remained. But I could not speak, let alone sing. No sound came out, not even a buzz. The family dog knew and tried to console me (this was about four or five years before I finally won my argument to get my first bird). But absolutely no one else cared that I could not speak anymore.
I was silenced.
Time of course healed my flesh, leaving little evidence unless you look for it — except when I was asked to sing in school. Though my voice has always been pleasant to listen to (one time, while writing a song on the subway on my way home from something in Brooklyn I was directly asked if I sang on Broadway — quite a complement), I had a technical problem with my voice. No C sharp note! The only way to hit it or get close was to FORCE it — essentially do exactly the opposite of what every vocal music teacher or coach tells you to do — to some unpleasant consequences at times. Today I can sing that C sharp — after a moment of particular healing while attending university.
But though the physical side waned and healed with time, what I never realized until tonight was that my voice was silenced more sinisterly that terrible night in the woods. From that night forward, every single person around me DISMISSED every single thing I said. Truth or lying did not matter (naturally my habit has always been to tell the truth — whether you want the truth or not). No one heeded me. No one listened. It was as if I were invisible.
On November 5th, 1985, the night before lines were due in the only drama class where anyone allowed me to participate on stage, a car hit me in the left temple, slicing across the left side of the brain before my skull shattered entirely to, well, rather gruesome results –and taking all memory, including academic memory, with it. That was the seventh time I Crossed Over — and the only accident. If I were a right handed person like most of you this certainly would have ended all ability to communicate from a neurological stand point because those regions are clustered behind/close to the left ear. As it happens, I am in the 50% of left handers (5% of the general population) who have SYMMETRY in the brain — meaning that instead of a single center for speech and for understanding speech, I have one on each side of my head. My ability to speak, read, and write, remained.
But what good is speech if you are completely ignored, if everything you say and do is ignored or made excuses? This extended to my health — to food allergies, to the headache that never went away after the concussion. Not even falling grades (I had to literally re-learn everything all over again that year in school) were enough to signal to anyone that anything was wrong.
My voice was truly gone.
It is therefore a very humbling matter tonight to not only remember the physical attack that silenced me as a child, but also realize that the attack was also very much a psychological and spiritual one as well, designed to do exactly what it achieved. My father is a very smart criminal who was never caught nor punished thanks to his destruction of my voice, one more than willing to speak truth to power.
Breath creates your voice. You cannot sing without pushing air through your larynx.
Holy Mother Goddess, teach me to sing again with confidence and strength. Let my words no longer fall to deaf ears. Let the beauty of my writing reach the minds and hearts of others. And bring into my life those who will encourage me to sing once more, to climb up to a high perch and dare raise my voice to heaven once more. Let there be, at last, people in my life who care enough to steady me so that I can finally be heard. Let this little bird finally take flight.
So mote it be.