Today's question for REVERB14 is What is the sound of your own voice?
|"I couldn't hear myself.|
So I sought out a quiet place
to feel the sun on my tired face
for no one else, it was my choice:
a quiet room to hear my timid voice.
But try as I might, I could never find
a silent space for my noisy mind.
So all my words learned how to spill
onto blank pages until
I'd said my peace and I was at rest
and saw that painted words were best."
My voice is quiet.
Don't laugh...I think it would come as a surprise to a lot of people to know I think of it like that...because I am loud...and boisterous...and I say a lot of crazy, crazy things...
But that's just a lot of flash...a distraction.
Fake it till you make it, right? I've heard that expression my whole life. And I'm a pro at faking it...I'm fantastic at coming across as confident and fearless of other people's opinions. But for a long time, even still, that's just some slight of hand I learned along the way...
I figured out very early in life that if I said an opinion loud enough, if I stuck to my guns and kept up the show, people would believe that it was my opinion. But the trick to it was to never, ever let anyone know the truth. Because if people know the truth, they can hurt you with it. I learned that I could spout any old nonsense and when someone tried to use it against me, it didn't hurt because it wasn't what I really thought or felt.
And that's all fine and dandy...until it got to the point where I realized that no one really saw me. They saw the person I pretended to be. The saw the person I wanted them to see...but that wasn't me. And I didn't see me either.
I was in my late 20s before I ever realized it, but I didn't see me. I didn't know what it was that I wanted. I didn't know how I really felt about anything. I spent so much time saying things I didn't mean that I couldn't separate that fiction from my true self. When I finally did see it, I knew I wanted to take action. And it's been a process. I struggled with it.
I have a bad habit of assuming. And the thing I assumed for most of my life is that, if I am myself, I will disappoint someone. I can't be who I am. I have to be better than that.
Then one day, out of the blue, there was this tiny whisper in my head. It was an angry whisper...it was a disappointed whisper...a little whisper in a voice I thought I recognized. And it was telling me I can't be better than who I am. No one can. And my instant reaction was to try to squash that whisper...to push it out of my head...because I didn't want to hear that...because it was telling me something I didn't want to believe...something that scared me. But that little voice was persistent.
And at some point, I got the message. The whisper wasn't telling me I was perfect the way I was. It was telling me I could be...but not in the way I had always tried to be.
No, that nagging little voice was telling me something much grander... That I needed to figure out who I was and what I wanted...and then work to let that version of me out into the world. And that version of me, said the little voice, is the one that I wouldn't be able to improve on.
It's a scary thing to put yourself out in the world, but I knew I had to be brave and do it...otherwise that little voice would never shut up.
I owe a lot of thanks to art journaling in this battle. My journals have become a sounding board...a series of conversations I have with myself. Through art, I've discovered what kind of person I want to be. I've been able to say things with my art supplies that I couldn't have said in any other way. It's helped me come to terms with the past, appreciate the present, and decide what direction I want to take in the future.
I thought for a while that all the changes that I'd gone through were only internal...that all those steps I'd taken to be ME were in my head...that I couldn't act on them. But it turns out that wasn't true.
I've noticed changes in the way I interact with people...it hasn't been a huge leap all at once...more like it just creeps out into the world a little at a time...but it's out there.
I've let people know I care about them. I've had hard conversations where I let people know my needs weren't being met. I've been honest with people, even when it wasn't what they wanted to hear. When once wasn't enough, I've repeated myself...I've explained myself...I've consoled and advised...I've argued and discussed and demanded. All these things are new to me.
It took a lot of time and energy and courage, but I have started to be able to say what I really want to say. I admit that I'm not without fear of judgement...that I still worry about disappointing people...but I think I'm becoming more afraid of disappointing myself. I'm slowly losing the need for other people's approval. And it's a loss I don't mourn.
What is the sound of my voice?
It's quiet...it's shaking and timid...but it's out in the world demanding, in it's own way, to be heard for what it is: MY voice.