As a kid I had a few quirky habits. There was the OCD-ish counting of steps, especially going up and down stairs. There was my tendency to read. All the time. Even through recess. And there was the voiceover narration that permeated my consciousness. At seven years old, I knew it was pretty weird for me to be narrating my own life in the third person, but I did it anyway, compulsively, and during some long, ordinary stretches of life. Not much of note happens when you're walking home from school in a sleepy Boston suburb. But I can assure you I wrote it all down in my mind like I was freaking Tolstoy.
When I was eight someone gave me a diary, and the voice found the page, oh happy marriage! This continued into high school, college, and beyond, although my writing began to dwindle before I discovered blogging in the late 90s.
After my first child was born the voice got quieter and smaller, as if making room for this new creature. Then, around five years ago, the voice went suddenly, shockingly mute. Perhaps the birth of my daughters, which upped the number of small children in my care to five, finally drowned out the increasingly rare quiet spaces my head usually filled with this contemplative overview. Or maybe the writer in me just gave up trying, since I was less and less frequently committing any of these words to paper or website. In any case, it was over. My head was quiet. Writing for the blog, usually a natural flow, became an arduous task. Writing anything else, especially work-related writing, was damn near impossible. The creek bed was all dried up. The voice was gone.
I'm not sure exactly when I noticed the voice was back, but a couple of weeks ago in New York it was practically shouting in my head, concocting essays and memoir pieces that I couldn't even begin to keep up with. It narrated my subway rides, taxi adventures, walks down the street. It talked, and talked, and talked, like that annoying guy at the party you just want to squeeze by to grab another beer from the fridge. It grabbed hold of my arm and got right in my face with its stinky olive breath and talked and TALKED. But I wasn't annoyed at all. An old friend was back. I was whole. I was a writer again. Things were happening all around me, and I had something to say about it.
It's been a phenomenally difficult decade for me, most especially these last two years. I've played a starring role in wrecking two marriages (my own), I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly at the deathbeds of both my stepmother and my mother. I've moved a million times, stood at the bleeding edge of financial devastation, had a really nasty free-fall into chronic depression. I've lost very dear friends to suicide and cancer. I've been separated from my children for long stretches. There was weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
In response, I have worked hard at being a better person, being true to myself, forgiving myself and others, finding a real, solid place to stand. I worked harder at all of those things than I honestly knew I had the strength for. I've learned to (I know it sounds horribly corny, but really) love myself. Really.
I think the voice came back because it finally had a safe place to land, and because I really do have a story to tell. I think the voice came back because it knows (I know) that it's worthy, that it's allowed to speak, that I'm done shushing myself.
I'm ready to write.