To the daughters of mothers who lived without a voice.
I see your eyes flare when someone stirs you. I watch your lips part as you take a short breath only to close them in an instant as you listen to the silence your own mother spoke. I feel your hesitation from across the room. An elegant boxer waiting to land a punch, to speak, to interject, and to be heard. I watch as the years of silence pile upon your shoulders only to force you to collapse under the weight of it all in an unexpected moment. An outburst connected to a history of restriction and swallowed words unleashed upon the one in front of you who is really just every single one who came before them. I watch you tread water in panic as the recipient of your love or rage looks at you with confusion mouthing the words “what the hell is your problem?”
The blood moving through your veins hums and pulses in your ears and the palms of your hands.
She never spoke.
That is my problem.
I never spoke, and that too is my problem.
I see your outbursts as words you have only whispered alone in the shower or in bed at 3 am fight their way out of your mouth laced with hysteria. I see you scramble to collect the words that have scattered across the room. You race to grab them with wild hands and swallow them whole so that they may live in your belly untested, unseen, and unheard.
I see you struggle with an invisible life and fantasies of being found. Your body instinctively retracting from the warmth of comfort, embraces, or encouragement only to find all the cold places and people with whom you may stay small.
I see you find your words in moments of peace.
Turning inwards all these years to comfort your mother finally feels like a conversation with a ghost. The insanity of it propels you forward. You are ready to rip off this skin and leave it behind because walking naked would be easier than walking in someone else’s skin. So you whisper to the person beside you and catch their knowing eyes. They laugh. I see you bloom. I feel your grief in this bittersweet moment as you reconcile abandoning your mother. I feel the contraction within and the tightness that creeps into your throat. The tightness that lives in your elbows and behind your knees. I feel you fight against this loss until you realize it was not you that lives within her but her that lives within you. When you open your voice to speak your mother echoes and roars. Sometimes she screams because she has spent a lifetime dying to get out. Other times she tells you about herself with stories of shame, joy, and fear.
You take up space.
You make mistakes.
You feel shame.
You speak again.