I’d like to step away from a me-focused blog. This blog has been and will always remain a place for me to grapple on a page with what my inner voices are chattering about. I don’t want this blog to spiral into Erin’s Diary, because that’s not the content I want to put into the world. Not exactly. I want to spark ideas and thoughts and focus a bit more on the idea of finding a voice. I’d like to try to pivot from being ranty and feeling like it’s a therapy session to something that’s both productive for me, the writer, and you, the reader (all, like, 20 of you at the moment). I love the feedback of “I could relate so much to your post.” I want to maintain that—as someone who’s often felt alone in her feelings and reactions to things, I know first-hand the value of reading something that could have come out of my own brain. I know first-hand the weight that’s released when I learn there is someone else out there struggling with the same things I do. I’m just going to try to put a bit more structure around my thoughts, less train-of-thought and more organized, not in an essay but in a way that lets you know of a particular issue or theme I’ve been contemplating, how it’s affecting me, what I feel about it, and what I’m looking forward to. And, open up the space for you to share the same (either joining me on the page or sparking conversations in-person).
This week, I’ve finally found enough open space in my brain to let it churn over a story. A story that has been coming out in fits and starts over the past six months and is demanding more attention. A story I think has the possibility of becoming a novel (that’s definitely the first time I’ve put that thought out into the world… eek!) The main theme I’ve been turning over is the concept, again, of finding a voice. What in the life of the protagonist brings her closer to and further from finding her voice? How do any of us filter out our true voice from the chatter of the inner dialogue and the influence of external voices?
The answer I keep coming to is, suffering.
This sounds dramatic, I know. I’m not (necessarily) talking about suffering some traumatic event. In fact, major trauma might even make it harder to look inside to find our voice, because we basically go into survival mode and don’t have as much space to process. For example, I started writing one iteration of the character as having suffered from abuse as a child, and realized that one, it was a bit too obvious; two, it wasn’t relatable to those of us who suffer in the absence of some big trauma; and three, it wouldn’t lead her down the path I see her taking.
Instead, the suffering I’m considering is the suffering that comes from friction and discord, no matter the volume. When we’re faced with opposing truths. Not the one-time reaction to something that happens to us, but the long-term struggle our minds go through to reconcile what was and what will be, trying to keep both but only able to hold one.
Think about the times in your life you felt your voice most strongly. If you’re like me, those times weren’t when everything was going smoothly, according to plan. They were, more probably, times you felt unsure, depressed, angry, sad. They were almost certainly times you had to use your voice to express a desire, a discomfort, a pain.
We don’t use our voices as much when we’re content. We don’t really have to—we don’t need to ask for anything or change anything. We can take a breath, hopefully enjoy the moment, and feel fulfilled and satisfied.
As pleasant as this image is, our voice only develops when we use it. Kind of like any muscle in the body. I’m not saying we need to go out and create tension for ourselves (that is, find a weight machine for our voices). There is tension enough in our lives, day to day, and it’s just a matter of noticing it. This sounds a bit nuts: why would we want to notice when there’s tension in our lives instead of blissfully sailing through?
I can tell you, that blissful sailboat is on a direct course to anxiety and depression. It’s lovely along the way—no “bad” feelings! Denial! But they’re all there at the end, waiting, growing teeth, ganging up on you when you least expect it.
In noticing the tensions we face, all of us, as part of the human experience, we can deal with them head-on. We can only move on from them if we acknowledge they’re there in the first place. We can only use our voices if we recognize that, hey, I want something different. I want something to change. Otherwise, we’re just drifting along, waiting for life to take us in whatever direction it wants, and then wonder why we never truly feel satisfied. You’ve seen this in yourself or others—it’s that place of martyrdom, where we’re the victim of all this bad stuff life gives us. It’s sad to see friends, anyone really, stuck in this space of limbo. They know they don’t want something but they haven’t put themselves into a position of power. Not power to necessarily change what’s happening—let’s face it, most of life is totally out of our control (there’s your happy thought for the day)—but power to respond to what’s happening in a way that’s consistent with what their voice says they want.
Our voices are the strongest when we can let go of the what was and look forward to the what may be. Your voice is there, waiting to be unmuffled, ready to rise above the din and guide you into the unknown.
For me, I’m still not fully trusting of this voice sometimes, and still find the unknown incredibly scary (being able to plan is safe for me). But I hope that through writing and through taking chances in listening to my voice, I can build this trust and better recognize my own voice over the din.