Voice

Voice

I held a yellow Post-it note in my hand. Written on it was a phone number and the name of a doctor.

My emotional meteorology had always been extreme. From sunny days of ecstatic bliss to dark tempests that nearly rendered me immobile, my temperament was a fierce one.

Moodiness. Sensitivity. Emotional energies that, I believed, were flaws in my design. I spent years attempting to conquer them.

This was before I (mercifully) learned about the delicate beauty of high sensitivity, the lunar ebbs and flows governing those born under the sign of cancer.

That week, I had been struck by another emotional torrent and was wondering yet again if something within me was broken. Perhaps I was afflicted with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Perhaps a medication would turn my choppy ocean currents into a tranquil lake, and render my inner world smooth.

The yellow Post-it held the phone number of a psychiatrist who could write a prescription.

It was a familiar juncture. In the past, I had chosen not to make the call, and eventually threw the Post-it away. Would I call now?

Medication seemed to be a wellness trend like yoga. After all, most of the women I knew had taken medication to remedy their emotions.

This thought suddenly struck me as bizarre. A question mark began form.

Why did I know so many women who had taken medication for their emotions?

Forgotten knowledge was lifting forward within me, and something hideous was being revealed.

We had learned that our emotions were problems. So we were squashing them away.

Emotional currents are powerful information. They can detect what has been relegated to the margins, what has been forgotten or erased.

When elements of voice are stuffed underground, they churn and boil until they overflow. Many voices have been flattened into projections. Two-dimensionality is simply easier to understand.

But depth and richness extend beneath us.

Pent up voices are bubbling.

My voice emerges from my bone marrow.  Like surges of energy pulsing underground, like electricity with no outlet, it erupts in circuits of internal fire.

My voice does not need to be sizzled, defeated, nor smothered. It needs to be released.

When we remove the lids and uncurl our limbs, our voices take flight. And our existence, it turns out, extends in infinite dimensionality.

Voice

Refugees

“It used to be our neighborhood,” Tony laments, “but now they are taking over.”

Tony is an Italian-American college student from an old Italian-American neighborhood. I am his writing tutor. His assignment is to explore an issue affecting his community. He has chosen to write about the changing demographic.

New York City: the womb of America. It is a place that roils with possibility and uncertainty, shudders with the deepest of terrors and glimmers with the heaviest of hopes. At its shores, huddled masses yearning to be free strike the soil and grope through the dark to find their footing. They build ladders and bridges, and their children climb up and away.

New York City is a landing space for refugees. It catches people who are fleeing and seeking, who live in a journey between worlds.

I was born into this primordial soup. Like a tadpole peeling away from the mass of its brothers and sisters, I have peeled off to swim away to find somewhere empty and unmarked. I left to find a world beyond extreme humanity.

I smile at Tony. I smile at his attempt to cling to a world that is fading away. I empathize with his fear of the unknown, with his frustration at his powerlessness to prevent change.

An old wisdom comes up through my roots, sprouts from my bones, and spreads through me. It is a deep knowing that extends backwards into history, tucked into my genetic inheritance.

“It has always been that way,” I said. “Every neighborhood here is merely an incubator. Our part in the story of this place is ephemeral.”

Voice

Vertigo

Here in Oklahoma, the earth is red and the soil is clay. It is a simmering place, noisy with birdsong yet quiet with the hush of ghosts.

The name Oklahoma comes from Okla humma, meaning “Red People” in the Choctaw language. “Red People” for the 39 Native American tribes that live, breathe, and die here. “Red People” for the tribes forced into exodus from their ancestral homes in the bitterest of uprootings.

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. He mandated the removal of Native American tribes from their homes. At military gunpoint, families with wise elders and newborn babies were forced to walk across thousands of miles to Oklahoma. By the time the Cherokee arrived from Georgia, they had lost a quarter of their people to starvation, disease, and exposure.

The human suffering produced by that Act landed here in Oklahoma and sunk down into its soil. Today, the pain still vibrates up through the ground into the air as emissions of old anguish. Eckhart Tolle calls this energy that carries the pain of the past into the present “the pain-body.”

“We used to be like Europe,” my Choctaw friend says. “Our different nations were separated by a rich diversity of language and culture. Now we’ve been condensed into one square of land and the symbol of a dreamcatcher. We no longer speak our own language.”

Okla humma. Red people. Soil soaked with blood and tears. Mouths invaded by alien tongues.

Even though I’m a newcomer to Oklahoma, I feel an instant connection to this land and its peoples. We are tied by an umbilical cord of brokenheartedness.

I also came here by a forced exodus. Removed from Europe, my Jewish ancestors carried with them the legacy of a heavy pain-body.

When I first arrived in Oklahoma, I was overtaken by a state of dizziness that has not left. Deep, dark reverberations give me vertigo, the faint echo of a mourning mother’s howl tingles my ears.

It is impossible to eliminate the violence of rape.

The land remembers. The air remembers. Our cells remember.