Losing My Voice
For years, I was gregarious. I wasn’t very STABLE, but I was funny. Loud. Self-deprecating. Introspective. Intense. People sought me out, in part, because of this humor.
When I speak these days, people have to lean in. My voice has grown soft. I did not realize this. People have pointed it out to me often in the last 10 years. And I have thought a great deal about it—as I still think of myself as a loud, nearly obnoxious, kind of person. This is what I think. For many years after I left my faith and marriage I was very, very frightened by my circumstances. I felt I had erred so necessarily but unforgivably, that I had no RIGHT to speak. No right to interact. Almost no right to exist. According to everything I had deeply believed for 25 years, what I had done was wrong. Imperative for me if I wanted to stay alive—but wrong. So I acted—in order to stay alive—and, then, I shrank. I withdrew. I stopped talking. And nothing was funny very much any more.
Beginning the back story----
From the time I was a very little girl, I wanted to know God. That’s the best way I know to describe it. I once heard it called “ontological thirst”. I very naturally pondered meaning, being, beauty, existence. The natural world held a kind of awe that drew me to it. As a child, these notions were immature and romantic. Stars. Sunsets. Oceans. Relationships. As an adolescent, I imagined they unfolded into something poetic and compelling. Contemplating these things felt like worship. Reverence of life and beauty and to their source.
Growing up in the South in the 1960’s and 70’s, God-options were minimal. There was the “NO GOD OPTION”—which some, but few, preferred. Or there were the varied fundamentalist, Protestant God options. We were largely the land of Baptists and Methodists. A smattering of Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Pentecostals. Catholicism, stunningly, was seen as heretical. I can remember being taught that Catholicism was “just another cult”. I attended a lovely, little, fairly liberal, Methodist church as a child. I felt no pressure. Just comfort and familiarity. But when, as a 15-year-old, a friend presented me with the sold-out, born-again, follow-Jesus-belief-option, this felt like the most serious stance I could take. I could show this creator of my most innocent conjuring just how serious I was.
OH, and also, I did not want to go to hell. This part is baffling to me. Somewhere along the way I had internalized the certainty of my own wickedness; that I was fundamentally flawed—sinful—and that, without a savior, the logical option for me, postmortem, was hell. THIS I DID NOT WANT. I wanted forgiveness. And I was, as most humans are, hungry to be loved. So I clung to God and to the Christian version of salvation. I studied it. I ate it and drank it. I taught it. I worshiped it. I loved it. It was, for many years, the absolute heart of who I was.
And then, many years later, things began to change.
(NOTE: I have written a book-length version of all of this entitled, Naïve Beyond Belief. I have not yet attempted to publish it.)