She had read the manuscript of my memoir, which eventually became an ebook, Never Tell: recovered memories of a daughter of the Temple Mater and she meant the narrator’s voice.
Since it was my daughter speaking, it seemed likely that she had heard all my voices, so I kept my protest to myself. I did, however, ask myself how it was different and I came to an interesting conclusion.
It was a survivor’s voice, certainly, but not a grim survivor, nor even an exhausted one, more like a bouyant survivor bobbing to the surface. When I thought of the events of my childhood, I might feel grim and exhausted as well self-pitying, sad and angry, but when I wrote, I spoke in a different voice. “Upbeat” doesn’t describe it, nor even “darkly humorous”. It was the voice of the child I was, striding forth, sailing through, undeterred. It wouldn’t even be right to say “determined”. There was more ease to it than that. It was more like a fixed assurance that in spite of everything, all would be well. In fact, it owed a great deal to my Aunt Mae, whose joyful optimism shaped it.
I was surprised to discover that it was not just the recitation of past events, but finding that voice that had made writing the story such a healing experience.
I speak with many voices in the 115 journals I have written so far, some familiar and some distinctly foreign. Who was the person? How could I have written that? On the other hand, where did this admirable, independent, confident self go to? That’s the great thing about writing consistently in a journal. You see yourself whole, developing and changing, in all your complexity and subtlety. You experiment with tone and attitude. One day’s entry is cutting wit, another a scathing rant and yet another a melancholy dirge.
A part of myself I discovered while writing the memoir was one that felt deep compassion for my little self. I wrote, “Ah, young Joyce, here we are again. Why have I ever feared you or sought to silence you? Let us sit together this night and tomorrow and as long as it takes, listening. When there are no words, we will listen to the feeling. Feelings are no less real because they are not named. We will be together. Steadily, steadily we will listen and gaze upon this pain and the sound of our listening and the light of our looking will mend us.”
Who are you ignoring? In that pantheon of personas (personae?) that make up you, which silenced voice, seeking expression, could help you hear yourself?
Free and frequent writing can discover such voices and they can lead us to self-discovery. A journal is a mirror that lets us see and hear what we are.