My friend Casey Erin Wood (Casey, you're just going to have to deal with figuring prominently in my blog) sent me this Danielle LaPorte #truthbomb after our retreat in Carmel together: “Say what your soul needs to say.” Seems easy, huh? Not always easy. Often not easy. Especially when the thought that you might get slammed for using your voice to its full lung-busting capacity was reinforced at home and at school, from boyfriends to friends to dads.
And yes — there were people who wanted to hear the voice, too, like Miss Haigh — the music teacher — and the art teacher, French teacher, English teacher (not too shabby — good company). But the tiny part of us that keeps us from sharing our voice with the world, from saying what our soul needs to say, doesn’t really hear Miss Haigh and Mr. Cevoli. She hears angry dad and mean boyfriend.
But this is not an “oh, woe is me and I hate lots of people” post. My point is — what a magic gift to get from someone. Something that says “Use your voice,” “Share who you are,” “Speak it from where you keep it,” or whatever.
Can we, as a collective of feminists and fucking awesome women, rent a helicopter (or, like, launch some helium balloons with notes inside) and drop those messages all over little towns or somewhere we know young girls populate? Or, better yet, just random in-the-mail gifts of notes that say “Please speak up — your voice is amazing”? Maybe this seems super Pollyanna (frankly I don’t give a shit). But I think it could be helpful. What can we do here? You are brilliant people — please don’t hesitate to share if you think of anything.
I’ve gotten many incredible gifts. A super sentimental handmade photo album from my friend Kristin, the perfect ukulele from my husband, a huge “God Bless Our Pad” framed needlepoint from my sister, certain friends covered in stardust from the universe, this moment of quiet from my dumb ass forgetting how time zones work and having an extra two hours to spare. Oh, the gift of life from my parents. No bigs.
The best gift I ever gave myself continues to be Linda Sivertsen’s Carmel Writing Retreat. Talk about being encouraged to use your voice! I read my work out loud to six talented and wholehearted women, floored at how they received it. They made me see myself and that I am good enough.
For a long time I had thought, “Oh, I’m a good writer. But am I good enough?” (The age old question.) And if you don’t believe you’re good enough (at anything), well, fuck. That said, you’re always going to have that inner voice that is all, “Not good enough.” Which might be, ironically, what got me to a place where I actually became good enough (at writing, anyway), because I kept trying to improve. Weird, right? BUT when I think about it, it was the *doing,* not the voice that said “Not good enough” that made me better. Because the voice that said “Not good enough” also kept me on the couch in front of the TV numbing myself out on Real Housewives for more years than I’m comfortable admitting.
Well, that was a long paragraph.
Anyway: Gifts. Treating your people like they are the gift is a good place to start. Giving people the gift of permission to use their voice, whatever that might look like, is huge. It can change the trajectory of lives. It has certainly changed mine.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.