“The time will come when with great elation, you will greet yourself arriving, at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome and say, sit here, Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart…” —Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”
As a young girl I can remember experimenting with this totally cool gadget called a “tape recorder”. That’s right, a device that could record sound on a tape with the touch of just a couple of buttons! I remember getting a little nervous and excited as I pressed the play and record buttons simultaneously. Clearing my throat, I said a few lines. What I said, I can’t remember. What I can remember is how I felt when I heard my own voice. It sounded odd and disconnected and it felt bad to hear it. I was ashamed of my own voice At that moment, I was absolutely certain that I had the ugliest voice in the world. Later that day I told my mom about it. She told me without hesitation that no one liked the sound of their own voice and that it was quite common to be turned off by the whole thing. I had not remembered this until I sat down today to write. What a perfect memory to have dancing through my head! It ties in beautifully with my journey of rediscovering my true voice and learning to value what She has to say.
Learning to hear and like the sound of my own voice has been a long and interesting process that is far from over. For me it has much to do with weeding out the other voices installed in my head years and years ago. The voice of parent, teacher, peer and sibling all seemed to have free reign in there, while my voice remained quiet and unsure, tucked away in the back corner so she didn’t take up too much room. My voice, was being a good girl.
I am beginning to hear her now. Years of painting have helped me. Also, belonging to a community of other people wanting to hear their own voice has helped. Discovering our own voice when we’ve been taught it’s OK and expected not to like or trust it, can be a challenge. For me it starts with loving myself and making friends with the sides of me I feel don’t deserve love, inviting only the pieces of me that work and win to my “table of belonging” isn’t enough. The key is to set a place for the parts I have deemed invisible and unworthy.Those discarded bits of myself are in great need of gentle compassion and a nourishing meal that only I can offer.
Another memory emerges, of hearing my mother calling me home for dinner. The sun was starting to set and the air had a bite to it. Her voice weaved it’s way through our entire neighborhood and it was a welcoming sound. Finding my way home after a full day of bike riding and creek dwelling felt like the best part of things.Once inside, the smell of food and the warmth of familiar voices was nourishing. I felt loved and that I belonged.
This is what I intend to give back to myself. This is how I will begin to encourage the lost pieces of my own voice to come home for dinner.