I grew up hearing I was too intense.
My parents told me I had to learn to keep my mouth shut. My family required my silence for so many reasons.
Boyfriends were threatened by my enthusiasm. My passionate excitement scared them. Each would suggest I ‘tone it down’ a bit. Sentiments I shared were no different than those of boys in my circle. Somehow, coming from me, it was always unwelcome. From my girl-mouth, it all sounded harsh. I was called opinionated, bossy, idealistic, demanding, pushy, controlling, rude, excitable, emotional, Bitch. I married a man who said he appreciated my spirit. He seemed at first to applaud my strong will and big heart. And then he worked at trimming my wings and quieting my voice. His harsh reactions to my ideas became larger than I could bear. He would throw his hands up to his ears at the sound of my voice. I learned to bite my tongue and pause my step in order to keep the peace. I stopped singing. I learned I was to blame for his discomfort and shame. I failed to see the wearing away of my self in service to his pain until it was too late, until my words struggled to make sound and my legs grew so heavy they rooted where I sat. I stopped making waves. I learned to shush the children. I learned to bend their tiny bodies in order to make my man comfortable. It took me far too long to see what I had become; what I’d asked my children to become so we could just get by one more day. I don’t know what happened, but I began to see how I’d come to accept this serving of my self and my children on a platter. I can’t identify which straw broke me awake. I know my shame was too great. I’d become the kind of woman I loathed. I’d nursed this unquenchable beast; motivated by fear believing it was love.
I hate that I waited so long.
I hate that I waited at all.
I wish I had been more intense—intense enough to keep my spine straight and my feet walking. I wish I had been intense enough to shield my children and keep them walking. I wish I understood sooner that my love and hope for change would never be enough; that no amount of private laughter or bedtime stories could ever substitute for their safety.
I hope they can be fierce and secure in their passionate intensity. I hope they can do what I could not.
I hope they know that love is action.
I hope I can one day find a love that sees me for who I am and not as he wishes I’d be.
I hope I can walk away if he thinks I’m too intense.