Could be that it’s the day before my period and hormones are assholes. Could be that my mom’s second deathiversary is coming up. Could be that the girls were cruel to each other today and I thought it was because I’m a bad mom.

Could be all of the above.

At any rate, I was driving around town tonight, stuffing my face with bread, listening to 90’s gangsta rap and trying to cry. I couldn’t. Just had that heaviness on my chest, that pancake in my throat. I was staring ahead at a red light, bread crumbs falling out of my mouth, when I saw a gaggle of teenage girls looking at me and laughing. 37 year old white lady in small town Montana eating baguette out of a paper bag in a dirty Subaru that is literally vibrating with the bass while Snoop Dogg is calling everyone all kinds of names.

Clarence had told me to leave, take some time alone, while he was watching a movie with the girls. But the library was already closed, so I just came back home and now I’m sitting in bed, writing, while they’re eating popcorn in the living room and I have no reason to be sad.

And yet, I am.

For nearly seven years now, I’ve felt silenced. I left the Mormon Church and got divorced in 2011, finished my degree in 2012, and moved in with Clarence and our kids in 2013. At the time I had a blog about my exit from Mormonism that my ex attempted to use against me in multiple court custody hearings since. I deactivated my blog, and stopped writing almost completely. At least personally. Professionally, I wrote every day. Communications, marketing, fundraising, public relations, technical writing, advertising. All the things. All the words. Pitching products. Selling services. Communicating value. Editing copy. Words words words about all kinds of stuff except the stuff that really mattered to me.

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I wanted to write about growing up with a hippie mom, becoming a Mormon, and turning into an atheist and was scared I would be accused of belittling my ex’s faith in court. I wanted to write about my parenting struggles honestly and was scared it would serve to paint me as an incapable mother in a custody hearing. I wanted to write about my difficult relationships with my own parents, their mental illnesses, their addictions, and I was scared it would be used in front of a judge to claim that I was exposing my children to unsafe individuals. And so on. And so forth.

And here I am waiting for yet another hearing in a few days. And while I’ve resigned myself to seven more years in court until the youngest is 18, including all the time, energy and money I have already spent and will continue to spend, it is still so nerve wracking. Every time I get an email from my lawyer, my stomach drops. For a while, it was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. My hair started falling out. I got rashes and breakouts. I would shake uncontrollably. For minutes at a time. I stopped eating, which was the first and only time in my life this happened to me, even though I’m normally a stress eater. I don’t “forget” to eat. You know that I’m at least doing slightly better, considering my bread-heavy opening paragraphs.

Yes, I got a therapist. Yes, I got support from friends and family. Yes, I leaned on my partner. Heavily.

But I didn’t write. I didn’t put the shit storm of my life into words because I was scared. This person I chose to cut out of my life for good reason still had enough power to silence me. I would imagine confrontations in my head and what I would say. I would drive around listening to metal and screaming, trying to summon anger when there was only fear.

Fear that I would lose my kids. Fear that I would never have peace. Fear that I would be ruined financially. Fear that my words could and would be twisted to mean anything and everything.

Each time I wanted to write and didn’t, I became smaller. Quieter. I lost color and dimension. After years of this, I feel less like myself. My words don’t sound right. It’s like getting a phone call early in the morning after a deep sleep and saying words that almost make sense, trying to make my voice sound smooth instead of raspy, my thoughts not quite coherent.

I’m fighting the urge to save posting this until after the hearing. Or maybe never.

This is so dumb. So small. But I need to start somewhere.

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I love words and people and “…conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one.” — Hitchens