I chose this topic as a result of the WordPress Daily Prompt exercise https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/recite/ , which led me to the word Recite. And now I am here, questioning. I want to choose a new word, one with more seeming drama. Solitary? Visceral? Unfurl? Recite whirls in my head, emptiness at the thought of it. What do I have to say about this word?
Here comes a memory of me, on stage, at about the age of 11. I was dressed as the Town Crier (how ironic that is, lol) and “reading” off of a scroll to the townspeople. “Hear ye! Hear ye!” I proclaimed, and then suddenly…everything was blank. For whatever reason, be it nerves from being in front of the whole school on stage, or something else, I just totally and completely went blank. I had rehearsed this, and even performed this role many times with no issue. But that day, I went silent.
The only thing I remember after that moment was my co-actors scrambling to make it all seem like it was part of the play. I also happen to remember something about a “popular girl” that seemed to have it out for me at school being in the crowd, her eyes peering at me. Nothing else remains in my memory, only the sense that I somehow left my body during that moment and didn’t return for a while.
Up until that point, I had great joy in acting–reciting lines with friends, participating in monologue or acting contests–it was all such play for me. I loved dressing up, I loved it all. Yet from what I can remember, after that performance I stopped acting completely.
At the same time at home, I was in the constant aforementioned confusing chaos of my mother’s unpredictable expression of her rage and grief. I was becoming a teen, and I was fighting to become an individual, pushing away her intrusive pummeling vibrations. Around that time, as I mention in my soon to be published memoir Food Memories, I had another powerful experience with my voice. One night as mom was going on a rampage in the living room, and I felt myself get so frustrated, so angry that I burst out of my room and walked right up to her, mid-rant. I grabbed her and yelled at her to shut the hell up, shaking her violently in my strengthening teenage grasp. I remember the look in her eyes, of terror, and of the guilt I felt for seemingly having caused this reaction in her. I remember she was frozen, and silent, and then me crying saying I was sorry, sorry, sorry. I remember her walking away in a daze and me running to my room to hide from what I had just done. I had never done this before, I was the “good child” and had no idea what had taken over me to behave this way. Again, after this situation, it was very silent in the house. We both stopped expressing completely.
How that all ties into the eventual descent into depression, Anorexia, and the psych hospitals seems pretty obvious–without a place to express myself, and being immersed in my mother’s cauldron of repressed emotional intensity, something had to break. That something was me. My innate talent and joy for reciting, playing, singing, expressing my voice and thoughts and emotions broke down like our old rusty Pinto often did, sputtering and collapsing in the middle of the intersection of my life.
Its taken me a long time to re-find my voice, to speak it, and with that the practice of being with the feelings of terror it caused was necessary. Shaking, trembling, heart racing and a cold sweat quivering at my brow, each time I challenged myself to recite, I had to weather these reactions I was feeling inside. Each time, my body was transported back to staring into my mother’s petrified glance, her cold skin in my hands. Each time, I was back on that stage, pierced by the eyes of hundreds of judging eyes and laughter.
I laugh at myself sometimes, reflecting on how something that seems so insignificant in light of others’ horrifying traumas could have shaken me so much. But I can’t deny my body’s consistent reaction to speaking my voice, regardless of how silly I sometimes think it all is. The feelings are still really there and seemingly in my way. Yet by now, I have enough awareness to know that these are old feelings, not ones relevant to the current experience of recital. I know that I have to ride them, holding myself through it all, even through my own self-judgmental laughter.
Recite. I guess the prompt did have something to say through me after all :}