I have often wondered if I came into the world timid.
Or was there a moment that I could pin my finger on where I went from being tender, alive, and curious, to being small and scared? I was the kid who never thought I was good at anything and always had the threat of a stomach ache looming in my belly.
Here I am, some 50 odd years later sitting at a computer, in suspended animation with a group of strangers, trying to find my voice. The coffee is warm, and it feels good as it hits my stomach (I have a lot fewer tummy aches these days—so that is a good thing). The birds are chirping outside, and I can hear my husband puttering about in the garden.
It is all so good, right? But where is that voice inside me that I am searching for? Did it get lost in the same place my courage did?
What exactly is it I’m looking for?
Comparisons are a trap. There will always be people who, from my perspective, lead charmed lives, and those who I am sure would look at my life with envy.
Even so, I have never felt my experiences were worth writing about. There have been some real lows, but compared to others? C’mon. And yeah, there were some really good highs too, but not exactly the kind of things that make a page-turner, a page-turner.
What I do know is that I’m a storyteller. I actually put words “on paper” for a living, but they had never been my stories. They are tales about other people’s highs and lows, words created for someone else’s voice.
I guess I want to find out if my stories, my lessons, my “ah-ha” moments, are interesting enough for someone else to give a sh*t about.
And that thought takes me right back to the timid kid. I was that scared little girl sitting on a bed with a Holly Hobby bedspread, in my green jumpsuit, unpacking my pink suitcase after a visit with my Dad. He didn’t live with us anymore. He had a snazzy new apartment with a pool and a young girlfriend. I got to sleep on the pull-out couch which, if I was being honest, was pretty cool.
Inside the suitcase was a card Dad had stashed inside. Snoopy on top of his dog house with a thought bubble that read “I Miss You Already.” As I read it, I cried.
Melodrama was my specialty from a very early age. Not that the tears weren’t justified, but I learned early on how good that aching feeling could be. It filled me up somehow, stuffing a hole inside me, that left to its own devices might swallow me up. It is just too cliché to say that the timid kid on the Holly Hobby bed still lives inside me, but there it is. How often had I let her make my decisions? So many missed opportunities. If you ask a scared girl if they should try something new, like travel abroad alone, she’ll say no. If you ask her to walk away from a relationship that’s toxic, she is more afraid of being alone. Asking that nine-year-old for advice on any adult decision is not a wise choice, because she is timid and operating from fear.
Timid. It’s a word that represents so much of my past. It represents all the choices I didn’t make because I operated from fear, all the times I denied myself, turned against myself, or felt ashamed of my very being. All the times I denied my own voice.
I have made peace with that little girl; she’s no longer my go-to person for guidance. I let my inner child know a long time ago that I am here now and she is no longer alone. But as I endeavor to find what it is I have to say, I hear that old tape begin to play, creeping back in, telling me that I, in fact, don’t have much to say at all.
And maybe, at the heart of things, it’s as simple as that. I made peace with that little girl and now I need to have a face-to-face with the voice that encourages me to deny myself. Maybe befriending the voice is the path to unlocking its power over me.
If I can sit with where I am right now, voiceless (or a woman in search of a voice), unsure, yet curious, and just be with it, perhaps I will finally be able to find out what’s on the other side.