Because I said so.
Shut up and do what you're told!
Shut up or I'll give you something to cry about.
Shut up. Just shut up.
These words were the theme of my childhood, played against a soundtrack of "Jerri always has to be different."
For a child to whom words and ideas were as important as air and sunshine, it was a lot like telling me not to be. It's clearly no coincidence that I later married not one but two men who could tolerate no disagreement, could stand for no opinion but their own to be voiced. Having long since left those marriages behind, it's no accident that I bought a business with my older sister, whose main mission in life is to prove how right she is about everything. Everything.
My son (now 24) was not yet born the last time I spoke up to her. I remember every syllable: "I wish I knew as much about anything as you know about everything.
She still hasn't forgiven me.
Still when she needed help, I willingly rode into town, checkbook in hand, and hitched my time and my energy and my future to hers. When she rolls her eyes when I ask a question and then answers slowly as though to a slightly impaired child, I tell myself her response is not about who I am. When she leaps to anger when questioned in any way, I silently remind myself how painful it must be to be so defended. When she buys more orange accessories or furniture for the spa and tells me she wants me to finally recognize how beautiful it is, I smile and tell her it goes well with everything else in there.
When I was married, Bill had to approve everything purchased for the house. Before we moved into our last house together, I ordered new bedroom furniture. Shockingly, I ordered an armoire he did not approve of—it was the smaller, more graceful of the two available armoires in the style he'd picked. After the furniture was delivered, I came into the room to find him putting away his clothes in the drawers of the enormous dresser. He was using all them. "Bill," I said calmly, "don't forget that I'll need at least a couple drawers."
"Not in this dresser," he replied. "If you'd bought the armoire I told you to buy, there'd be plenty of room for your things. You didn't do what you were told. That's your problem, not mine."
I silently arranged my panties and bras and jammies in baskets on the closet floor. One of the last things he said to me the day he moved out of the house three years later was, "Look at it this way. You've always wanted a drawer. Now you've got plenty."
These are not stories about the terrible people in my life. (They are not terrible people. They're people with their own wounds, their own pain.) They are, however, stories about how well I learned to shut up, how well I learned to acquiesce to authority, how well I learned to grin and bear it. And how consistently I seek out opportunities to practice these skills.
Until Friday morning when I was tapping with my teacher/healer/shaman, I'd never connected these dots. Working around the idea of not speaking up for myself, she asked for my earliest memory of feeling I couldn't speak. Turned out it was my earliest memory, period. We tapped on several statements surrounding that memory and others from later childhood, and suddenly it came clear that in situations of conflict, I feel like a disobedient child.
Shazaam! Now we're getting somewhere!