An introvert happier with a book, I often wondered how I was born into a family of people with such loud personalities. I was the quiet sensitive one, more prone to tears in moments of conflict, even if it didn’t involve me. My older cousin, Seraphina is the exact opposite. Bold, unafraid, captivating everyone upon entering a room. Always rushing in like a surprise tornado of long limbs and big curly hair, that fought to escape the heaviest of scrunchies. We didn’t get along.
When I was 10 I found my voice, in large part due to her. She got into a fight with the son of a family friend, in the church basement, where they sent us kids, when the sanctuary became overcrowded. Brian, was a young misogynist. Confidently carrying on about what Seraphina couldn’t do, because she was a girl. We all watched as she quickly made him eat the words he so cockily spit at her. Seraphina always found a fight she was eager to finish. I was taught that if you didn’t go looking for trouble, it couldn’t find you. Life showed me differently.
After our older cousins finally pulled Seraphina off Brian, our aunt reprimanded us. Barely paying attention, I continued to read my book and bite my nails (a disgusting habit that I’ve broken. For the most part) because this had nothing to do with me.
The following Sunday, we were called to the front of the church to be shamed over this fight, that wasn’t really a fight. I call it the Reckoning, because that boy thought twice before getting crazy with us again.
“And then Melinda, rolled her eyes at me.” Almost as though this was planned, I responded with “No, I didn’t! I was biting my nails in the corner.” Everyone laughed breaking the tension of our public chastisement. What I’d done was out of character. Up until that point, I accepted life the way it was, never throwing tantrums or asking why. My dad told me that I was wrong to have spoken up. It was inappropriate and not the time to have addressed my aunt. It wasn’t the time for me to respond to a false accusation? Why was it ok for her to speak up and not me?
This was a small event that rewired my thinking. People don’t like discomfort, even if it’s true, even if it’s detrimental to their wellbeing. They rather say nothing over speaking out. Since then, I’ve spent years trying to take up as little space as possible, feeling guilty doing otherwise.
Believing that you will be treated with the same respect and compassion that you give others, is a beautiful naive notion. People will seek you out to tell you your experience is wrong. When that happens, gather yourself, take a deep breath and unleash the Reckoning. Absolutely no one has the right to negate your experience.
If people have the audacity to try to diminish what you’ve endured, you must have the fortitude to put them in their place. Even if they don’t get it now, they’ll hear the echo of your voice when they try to do it to someone else. Keep your foot on their necks, beloved. May the spirit of reckoning always be present in your life. Photo: Hoeshell