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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Voice Worth Sharing




My terrified mouth opens wide to make the scream. Pressing out, searching for a sound to come, I hear nothing. I grab emptiness from my dry throat. I try to be heard, but still there is only silence. My eyeballs open wide, and I sigh with relief as I drag my exhausted head upright, just above my rumpled, damp sheets. I’m shaking and sweat covered, glad the nightmare is over and my voice has returned.

Lately I’ve been learning about my voice, and I’m pretty sure that the years of nightmares about losing it are not simply coincidences.  Growing up, like most kids, I learned to sound like others rather than to find my own voice. My parents joked about me as the “adamant” child, and the “jabberbox.” To me, those were embarrassing nicknames, and in truth I wasn’t that adamant. Yes, I talked too much about things I knew very little about, but I would back down the minute my popularity or respect was in danger. Like so many kids, I wanted to be liked, so I learned to muffle my voice. Maybe even silence it.  

And then nine years ago, a warm, one-month-old child taught me, a new terrified mom, how to speak for him. I had to find my voice again. Find it for him. I would show the nurses when he needed my body close, when he needed my finger right there in his mouth, needed my milk, needed my whispers of love into his tiny ear as that machine rubbed his chest. I could feel his needs… they were so undeniably true. I could see truth without any doubt in that child. His eyes needed to know that I would shout for him if the needles were hurting too much. And so my voice was heard.

Today, particularly as the mom of a special needs child, I’ve had to discover a voice that is not afraid when there may be few others speaking my language. Few who are able to understand me.  I need a voice planted in love that wraps around every rock thrown its way, eventually finding the path to the light. A voice that tells the true story, not the one people want to hear. A voice that identifies the need, asks for help, and gives thanks when it is heard. A voice that knows when to be quiet and listen, and when it is just fine to speak. A voice that forgives itself when it hits the wrong note.  A voice without fear.

This voice finding thing is so hard. Because the recipients of my messages aren’t the people who love me. Not the kind doctors and nurses from the hospital. I have had to confront the people I fear, the people I have wanted to run from.  I have explained my situation to the high-heels-wearing mom who blocked my way into PreK each day, sneering at me as I tripped in, squeezing past her with my “disregulated” boy. Needed to approach the pastor who looked down on our family and me with judgement for not meeting his criteria for how women and children ought to act. I had to speak to the coach who grabbed my son by the arms and shook him to calm down. The therapist who sat back and waited for my boy to fail before reaching out to help him in school. The specialist who refused to give us critical information about our child because she thought we couldn’t handle the reality of his “bad” behavior. The parent who hurt us day after day with her angry stares as she pulled her children away, urging them not to play with my boy. And finally the relative who needed to tell us what we were doing wrong every time he paid us a visit.

And in the end, I have needed to forgive when I’m not heard. Ask for forgiveness when I don't hear others.  Forgive, but never again lose my voice.  Because if my voice is rooted in love, seeking God, and wanting to find the truth…well then it is a good voice. A voice worth sharing.

My prayer today is that I have the courage to listen to the unique voices of each of my children, my husband and my friends. And to always believe this voice I have is my truth, my soul and perhaps the greatest gift I have been given. br/>

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