“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” ~ Maya Angelou
In my formative years I had a pretty loosey-goosey relationship to the truth. As in, I didn’t tell it—to myself or to anyone else.
I was a sad kid who battled depression from about eight years old onward—a state of mind brought about by a trilogy of factors: my biology, my parents contentious marriage and the fact that my family moved every couple of years making it impossible for me to find and keep real friends. If it sounds like I’m holding grudges here, I am absolutely not, these are just the facts.
One of the main ways I dealt with my feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and anger was to “reconstruct” reality. I told lies so big I made Pinocchio look like an amateur, and the older I got, the more complicated and outrageous my lies became. I trapped myself in an ever expanding bubble of fallacy, which I lived in dread of accidentally popping. Ironically, all this made me feel much lonelier and more inadequate than I did in the first place, but I was committed to maintaining the illusion.
I still don’t know how foolish I must have seemed, because no one ever had the heart to call me out, until I met the one person who did, who was, unfortunately, rather sick himself.
For the first time, someone was smart and aggressive enough to yank all my truths out of me. It felt great in the beginning, but then turned into a nightmare as he used my words against me. In time, he taught me to believe an ever greater lie: that I was a terrible person who deserved to be relentlessly shit on.
Though this guy profoundly damaged me, he did do me one big favor: He tore me apart and shattered my carefully cobbled stories, leaving me—after five years—completely empty. But, the good thing about empty is, it’s a chance to start again.
After I left him, I shook off the terrible darkness I had allowed him to weave around me, and that I had woven around myself. I shook it off with the truth. Each true word was like an entire magic spell that released my little bird heart and let her stretch her long, colored wings.
So, happy ending, right?
I survived and now I write and write and write. The only goal of all my writing is to say the true things, no matter how ugly, how embarrassing or how terrible. Unfortunately, for some of the people closest to me in my life, they can be quite ugly, embarrassing and terrible. You name it, I’m talking about it: drug addiction, stripping, homelessness, abuse, sexual deviance, criminal behavior, etc., etc.
The majority of my readers, including most of my own family, support—despite the possible shadow it casts on them—my tireless rendering of the truth. A few others don’t. These others do not understand that if I don’t shout out loud, I will shrivel up inside like a starfish stranded on a beach.
They’ve wondered why I am compelled to be so frank. They’ve said I’m selfish for exposing myself to the world this way because I am a mother and what will my children and my children’s friends and my children’s friends’ parents think? They’ve decided to disavow me altogether and to disavow my husband and my young son.
“When will I stop banging my drum?” they whisper to each other at gatherings to which I used to be invited but which now I only hear about third hand.
In a word, never.
You see, if we don’t sing, our song dies. Even if our music is discordant and hard on the ears, it must be added to the chorus so it can amplify all the other songs. Imagine the concert if we could all sing out our hearts.
To all my fellow fearless truth tellers I say: thank you for using your voice so that I may have the courage to use mine. And to all of those who wish me to be silent, maybe if you whispered your own secrets instead of worrying about mine, you could find your song.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Travis May