“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” ― Shannon L. Alder
Just a couple of months ago I found my voice. One of the most common means in which we communicate was gone. I thought of putting up “Lost” signs, but I don’t have a picture of my voice and I don’t know how to draw it.
When I was arrested, incarcerated, subsequently released my voice was lost. A substitute voice taking its place. The register in which I spoke was altered. My voice became soft and empty. Sometimes it would vanish completely. Hiding behind my lips, the words perched on my tongue like a child on the high dive. Too afraid to jump.
Part of this was on purpose, a conscious change to separate myself from my actions. I was attempting to be a different person. Speaking more softly, fading into the background. The words I spoke were spoken with genuine feeling, but they felt hollow. The words came from the top of my throat, not from within. I did not have the confidence to deliver them in the proper way.
My opinion no longer mattered. I was a criminal, I had no say. I had to convey a feeling, a sense of being contrite. I owed, among other things, this debt to society.
I thought, and I still struggle with this idea:
That forgiving myself does not make me a bad person.
It is through time and moving forward that change occurs. Within this time my voice has returned. I don’t know how long its been back, nor does it matter. I wonder if those that know me even noticed a difference.
What matters is that I know it, that I feel it, that I can hear it. And it is good to hear and feel. The reverberations through my chest, my words coming from deep inside. Sometimes I am caught off guard by it. I have my hiccups, my voice faltering at times. When the ghosts of the past permeate my thoughts the bars of the prison grow and push my voice back into the cell.
There are so many facets to dealing with adversity and growth through pain. But finding my voice has been an important step. For two reasons:
1. Not having my voice taught me to listen. To truly listen. To be present in the moment and listen to what is being said. Not how will I sound intelligent or funny the second the other persons lips stop moving. Pay attention to the next time you are speaking with someone. You will look at their lips and hear the sound of their voice. You speak the split second there is pause in the movement of the lips. This isn’t listening. This is thinking. I am in no way great at this, but it has pointed me in the right direction.
Also, if you’re talking to me and you see me take a deep breath I am not sighing out of boredom. I am focusing on my breath to bring me back to the present moment and what is being said. Probably doesn’t look great from the outside though.
2. Your words matter. What you think matters. Through listening you learn to speak deliberately with thought and meaning. Speak your mind, be honest and authentic. Once words are spoken they exist in the universe for eternity. They cannot be taken back, the sound waves travel to the furthest reaches of the universe and beyond.
It’s so important in the healing process to find your voice. To not hide behind a voice of guilt, sadness or shame or whatever imprisons you.
I will share a couple of ways I got my voice back.
First, writing this blog. The act of writing, for me at least, is a silent task. My mouth closed tightly as I type, my lips pursed. But these are my words and they are being spoken through my fingers. There is great power in that. Whether you write free hand or type, your words are being expressed. And I have written this before, but this is key: hit the publish button. Share your work. Be heard.
Second, and this may seem silly, but I don’t care.
“Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of my favorite songs. Top five at least. The words carry so much meaning to me and have accompanied me as I walk this path. I want to be able to sing this song and sing it well. Most likely my only venue for performing would be karaoke. I have a tremendous fear of performing karaoke. It combines two elements I have a fear of; public speaking and performing.
Which means I have to do it.
So I practice. I sing along as I read the lyrics on YouTube. I sing in the shower. Original I know.
Through this practice my voice grew. The voice I wanted to speak with and sing with slowly started to emerge. Chipping away at the bars that held it back. I could hear my voice under all of the layers of emotion it was trapped behind. It wanted to be heard.
Practicing and continuing I was able to find that voice. Spoken now more genuinely than before the arrest. I walk taller and with purpose.
“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
That is your voice.
So, sing your songs, dance your dance, write as if you will die tomorrow, throw paint on the canvas of life. Don’t worry what others will think.
Find your voice, it’s in you.