Today, I decided to share an excerpt from the memoir I worked on when I started writing again. Rereading it, I realize just how clearly it describes what happened to me–the slow erosion of self, the gradual erasure and subsuming of who I was to the personhood of the man I married–because, as my mother told me: it is our duty as wives to submit to our husbands.
In time, that erosion of self led to a complete forgetting of who I was and what mattered to me.
During one of my first sessions with my therapist, she asked me if I could name anything that I liked doing before I married and moved to the Netherlands.
Tell me, she said. What are the things that you enjoy.
The only thing that I could name and that I could cling to was writing. It was as if I had forgotten the self who lived before I came to this country.
Before I came here, my world was filled with life and art and sound, music and dance and song and laughter; discussions and debates over the dining table; books and words and loud speculations about the future.
I learned to hide those things because Dutch folks don’t like loud voices, because the way we laughed at home is considered unseemly here, because grown up people do not dance, do not indulge in fancy–not in this small town where I live in.
Today, I am engaged in reclamation. I have colored my hair–not an atrocious color, but still scandalous enough and I am wearing my colorful clothes.
I call my eldest son, Kuya (Filipino for older brother). I laugh and dance with my youngest child. We chatter, we make noise and we don’t care if the world shakes with the sound of our cheerfulness.