Is this mic on?
So, listen up.
Every year, for the last several years, I've picked a Word of the Year that I intend to stick by, as I believe it will lead me to all good growth and change. Usually it's a word that encompasses something I need to work on. To make better in or for myself. Something that just says, "this year, it's all about X for me." A kind of one word resolution, if you will.
Usually this word will just hit me sometime in early to mid December. No struggling to figure out what it's going to be. No "making" a word fit. It just always does. Fit. Without question. It just is there, and that's that.
And so it was this year. No hours of contemplation. No worrying that this year I wouldn't think of a word. No trying on different words to see how they felt. Nope. It just came to me, just like it always does.
For this year, my word is VOICE.
As in, I want to learn to use my voice. Out loud. I know I am very comfortable with writing, and with all my practice there, I dare say I've gotten pretty good at it. Yeah, my written voice has a strong game. But my speaking voice, that is an entirely different story.
I am the youngest child in my family and the only girl. My three older brothers have always been there to protect me. I am physically disabled, so my parents have always been there for me, to hear whatever the doctors have to say, to make decisions about various procedures and healthcare paths for me as I grew up, and to all around take care of me. They have helped me along whenever I've been confronted by people needing to know, or just plain wondering, what my deal is.
For much of my life, I've sat there quietly as others work out just how things will be for me. Sure, I'd talk a lot at home about what it was I wanted or how I felt (teachers constantly telling my parents that I'm so quiet in school, leaving my parents to wonder why the same talkative kid they sent in wasn’t the same one who showed up in the classroom), but when it came down to sharing info, telling about decisions made, etc., it was always my parents verbal say-so while I quietly sat by.
“Of course your parents took care of you, spoke for you, and made major decisions for you”, you’re probably saying. That’s what parents do! They’re not going to let a little kid take on all that. Kids can’t and shouldn’t have to deal with all the big grown up decision making, obviously. “You got it no different than any other kid”, you’re saying. And you’re right, in a way. Maybe it was just the elevated number of doctors appointments I had compared to the typical kid. The sheer number of times I found myself in serious situations where really big medical decisions had to be made for me… or how often I found myself in new situations with new people having to learn about me and how to take care of me… my parents were constantly looking after my needs while I learned to sit back, not worrying about it, and to show up and everything will be just fine.
So. Yeah. I grew up very well taken care of and very, very quiet in school. All through school, including college. Really shy, really quiet when I did speak, easily embarrassed, did not like attention drawn to me at all. The whole nine yards.
And now, Hubby and I, and Sweetie when home from college, live with my aging parents who are both now hard of hearing. Both should be wearing hearing aids. Both don't always do that. And I'm naturally quiet when I speak, even if I don't think so myself or am trying not to be. So, whenever I do say something, my parents often can't hear me and need me to repeat. Or they do hear me occasionally, but it seems to be mostly at the times when I make a not terribly interesting side comment to something said on TV or whatever. That is, nothing of any real importance, but they heard me say something, so they ask me to repeat, which feels incredibly dumb to me to have to say again, loudly, something that really doesn't matter at all in the first place. Or Dad has commented more than a few times, after I tell them both something that, "I don't know what it is... something about your voice... I can never hear what you say. I can hear you're saying something, but I can't make out the words." Yeah. I just love knowing, over and over, that something I really can't help much about myself is making communicating with my Dad ineffective. Or, with my mom, I'll happen to make a bunch of noise, not even intending to, as I walk by, either with the clank of my crutches, or me saying something at normal-for-me-volume-level to someone else, or me banging around something accidentally...whatever... and my mom doesn't even bat an eye, look up, acknowledge that any sort of commotion is going on at all right now. I walk right by without notice despite any noise I'm making, vocally or otherwise, and she just doesn't hear. So, given all this... I mostly just don't talk a lot to them. Hubby and I work opposite shifts, Sweetie is away at school. I keep to myself and quietly do my own quiet thing.
Yada, yada, yada... to this day... and lately, I've been noticing more and more...others still speak for me. Which has largely been just fine with me. Or friends and family just know that I'll give a brief answer without much exposition, even when you might expect there'd be some. And that seems fine for everyone, because that's how they know me to be. But, the thing is, I am noticing it more and more. How I'll bring up a family anecdote and intend to tell the whole thing, but Hubby or Sweetie will say, "oh, yeah!..." and go on with the rest of the story, as I listen along, entertained, along with everyone else. Fine. Whatever. Other people are better story tellers than I am anyway. Go on. Tell it...
The tricky thing is that, sometimes I really do want help when I'm asked a pointed question. Especially dealing with anything to do with my surgery and continuing healing and rehabilitation from said procedure. It honestly is tough for me to see in person all the people who know about my surgery and are rooting for me and have, I think, been thinking that surgery = instantly improved me, with no more pain, no more need for crutches, etc. etc. And that... just hasn't been the case. I'm still working on exercises every day, new pains that are showing up, remaining old pain, a lot of what the outside world would still see as the same as how things were for me before. And it's difficult for me to put hope and relief into my voice, with my verbal explanations of just how things are for me now, explained well and with ease. So, with that, for example, I eagerly look to Hubby to help me tell others just how things are for me right now. After all, he (and Sweetie) from the outside looking at me can and have observed positive changes that I'm just not always in a brain space to realize all the time. So, yes. Please help me with this. Speak for me, because I can't verbally communicate all the positivity that this surgery has provided me when I know there is also so much more to work on and strive for.
And, not for nothing, but... we have our Sweetie who's on the autism spectrum, has ADHD, and has a touch of anxiety to boot. Because of who she is, she very often (read: almost always) thinks that whatever she's thinking and feeling about whatever is something Hubby and I just automatically know. And this is most definitely not the case. No matter how often we tell her we can not possibly know what she's thinking unless she tells us, even if she comes to understand that for this time around, the next time will happen. And I'll inevitably presume out loud that she must be feeling such and such way, but of course, she's not. So, Sweetie being Sweetie, she'll probably snap at me that I'm totally wrong and that "obviously" she's feeling or meant or whatever this instead. And so... all that over and over kinda makes a person not want to presume out loud anything about anyone. And so, I tend to stay quiet. I'm a decent listener. I'm just not a great giver of advice or other soothing comforting conversation. (To be clear, I never really have been. This is not Sweetie's "fault" by any means. I love who Sweetie is and do not deny her being her, whatever that may mean. It's just that I don't get much practice being an effective soothing, comforting speaker around her terribly often. And so my quiet ways continue.)
And so! Things are about to change!
Watch out world. I'm going to start using my voice. I may not do it well. I may still even ask for help. It's going to take me some time to get good at it. But my aim this year is to get better at it. Speaking up. Contributing to family conversations. Relaying stories. Speaking my mind on various issues. Saying how I'm feeling. Saying what I need. What I want. What I think. Never mind the discomfort it may bring to myself or others. I have opinions and stories and things to say. And y'all gonna start hearing them. Not just hear it in my writing, but IRL. No more quiet me. At least that's my goal. It won't be overnight. I'm sure I'll fall back into my "regular" quiet ways from time to time. I may think, after some trial and error, that this wasn't such a good idea after all.
But. It. Is.
Everybody has a right to speak their mind. Everyone's voice deserves to be heard.
I've been quiet waaaaayyy too long.
It's time you heard my voice. Out loud.
Do you hear me now? Good.