Sometimes I hear voices. Not real voices, like I’m crazy or possessed by demons, but the invisible ones from long ago, embossed on the lowest layer of my skin, hidden so deep only I can hear them. I’m guessing they’re my mother’s voices, familiar, well-worn, edgy and dark like the black bottom of a pool.
It’s unpredictable when the voices decide to surface, returning me to the depths of self-hatred. One moment I’m fine, and the next I’m tense, worried and feel a strange animal clawing at my back. When I turn to shake it off, nothing is there except the voices…
“You’re such a little bitch. No wonder you have no friends!”
“Those boys don’t really like you. They only want you for one thing…”
“Hanging around the Rec Center makes you look desperate. You’re like a dog in heat!”
“You’re disgusting, doing that stuff with a boy. I didn’t do any of those things until I was married!”
Loud, cruel guilt voices, passive aggressive words that can still grate my skin, rub it raw with repeating. But I’m done fighting until my knuckles look like red meat. Too many years I screamed, “Stop! No! Fuck you! None of it is true or real or who I am!” That screaming only made the lies dig deeper and harder with time until I was bathed in them and couldn’t breathe anything else.
* * *
Do you want to know what I fear most in the world? I’m afraid that someday, the day I breathe my last breath, the noises I’ll hear won’t be the birds or wind or whispers of a true love. I will only hear the voices. I fear I’ll never be free of them. I fear I will walk the planet until my heartbeat slows and putters to a pure white stillness, and my last thought will be “Those voices were right all along. I’m a worthless, unlovable, despicable piece of shit.”
But thankfully, gratefully, the fear of my last breathe being riddled with rancid lies encourages my bold and steady trudging. I’ve grown and learned and instead of fighting like a welter-weight with gloves on, my soft embracing wraps the voices in a warm blanket of love. Voices speaking lies and untruths from long ago choke and spit and can’t survive in the presence of warmth and love. Observing the voices, accepting them as part of who I was, a precious young girl growing up and learning her way into the world; loving the voices as if I love myself — all of this quiets them and rocks them back to sleep like a new born baby. So when they arrive, surprising me in their tenacity, I softly say hello and shower them with pure, unadulterated love until they defiantly but defeated, leave me free to spread my wings and fly.