My Voice Is Valid, Damnit.

I have always considered myself a girl with a loud and strong voice. Growing up I had an opinion about everything. Everything from what we were eating for dinner to not understanding why I wasn’t allowed to play tackle sports, like the boys were; I voiced what I thought no matter what. As I grew up my voice about women’s issues, politics, gay rights, environmentalism all got stronger. The voice about what I want for dinner and which movie to watch began to get smaller. That was okay–I typically felt and feel indifferent about those things. Or if not indifferent I felt that I could deal with whatever choice was made because I didn’t and don’t want to make the wrong choice and upset someone else.

Recently I’ve been put in the position where I have to ask for what I need. It seems like it should be easy. You have a need from a source that is supposed to be giving you that need and you ask for it. You ask for what you need. Simple. Period. Simple. So why am I struggling with this?

My friend Nikki Nigl is a huge proponent of the term “My voice is valid”. She makes a living by reminding women this fact. So why do so many of us battle with this? Why am I sitting at a coffee shop binge drinking my favorite dark roast anxiously awaiting a response to an email I just wrote. An email where I stated facts that I believed to be true about what I was told I was to receive and what I actually need?

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Where did my self supporting voice go? Where did that little 9 year old girl with red cheeks, tears spilling over and a voice so sure of herself end up? Memories of tears, and plea’s, and absolute absolutes that I needed to have this or that toy or adventure, where did that go? Did I use all of it up? Is there a finite amount of confidence we’re allotted and I just used mine up before I became a teenager?

I still have a voice. I know that this voice can be loud and proud and angry. I get tears of frustration and anger that well up in my eyes when I hear on the news that my lesbian or gay friends could be fired for being who they are, I give a small amount of money to the Human Rights Campaign monthly to have a voice and support it. I call bullshit when Planned Parenthood’s funds are threatened and will fight tooth and bone with anyone for women’s right to chose. I also find myself defending co-workers and friends to people starting rumors and talking crap.

But ask me to stand up for what I need and I crumble. I sit in therapy for an hour and half and talk about how XXX isn’t working for me. I’m not getting what I was told I would get and I cower, hide and cry. I cry because I’m scared to say what I need. I cry because I’m afraid of how I’ll make the other person feel. I cry because I don’t want to be attacked and made to feel wrong. I don’t cry out of passion and stand up and shout what I need. I cry and curl up and whisper I don’t want to rock the boat and cause issues. 

Nine year old me is unimpressed. 29 year old me is frustrated and working on it.

 

 

 

 

 

Stop The Should-ing

For some reason I carry around a lot of guilt. I do a lot of “should-ing” and I fill my brain and heart with these ideas of what I’m doing wrong instead of what I’m doing right. Day in and day out there is constant flow of negativity running through my mind. It’s like an endless wall of ants marching to bring their Queen Ant food. You put something in the ant’s way and they just find a different path OR just climb over the obstical. There is no room for any other way to think. I don’t know if I can stop that train of ants from creeping into my mind but I can try and devert them and slow them down by listing a few things I’ve done well or right for myself so far in 2016.

  1. I rested. I didn’t work out for a full week. My FitBit read 1,087 steps on Friday and 1,123 steps on Sunday. I rested because I’ve been sick. I WAS SICK–NOT LAZY.
  2. I said ‘No’. Latly, when it comes to my career, I’ve been running around the city of Chicago like a crazy person. Picking up new clients, new jobs, hours and skills. My new boss asked me for more of my time. She asked me to come in on Tuesday morning and then come back for a closing shift. That would be I would be there at 8am-3pm. Clock out. Come back at 5:30pm-9pm. It takes me 45 minutes to get home from work. So I would basically either have 30 minutes to chill at home before coming back or go sit at Starbucks for two hours. Nope. I said, “I just can’t do that at this point.” Saying ‘no’ is so scary. But so empoowering.
  3.  I asked for company. Being sick is boring. I asked someone for company and he came from across town and watched cooking shows from the early 2000’s with me on Netflix. He let me be whiny and terrible. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t contagious.)
  4. I stretched. I’m the worse at stretching. And my sore back and tight shoulders are the ones that pay the price. I’ve made it a habit to sit with my clients and stretch along side with them. Teaching them how to stretch on their own and giving my muscles the attention they deserve.
  5. I got to therapy. Every. Damn. Week. Life got rough and I needed help, (I know, white girl, first world problems) but you know what? SHUT UP. . Problems are in the eye of the problem-holder and I’m not going to apologize or explain to anyone about my life and my issues. In October I started seeing a therapist and it’s honestly the best health-thing I’ve done for myself, ever.

This list was a lot harder to sit down and write than I origonally anticipated. I kept reverting back to “Well, I could say this, but actually I SHOULD have done it this way…” My brain is hard wired to “should on myself” and I’m sick of it. I can’t be the only one that does this. Share with me. Share times you’ve taken time for yourself and DIDN’T beat yourself up for what you “should” have done.

You Yell In Your Head A Lot

That day at work, the one that is so mind numbingly boring where you can’t even remember what you talk about. You sit and stare, you cross and un-cross your legs to keep your ankles from going numb. That day where you know you’re not going to want to go home right away so you make plans with an old friend, you find a new bar and you plant your ass on a stool for a few beers and talk.

You talk and the shit that comes out of your mouth sometimes makes you realize that, in this moment, your voice is unrecognizable. You’re half way through your first 8% beer and you realize the bar now looks blurry, only because you’re looking through saltwater and your friend pats your right shoulder.

Looking down, your left knee is supported by the bar while your right ankle crosses over it, you look over and your bearded friend, a friend from years ago, that is only ten years younger that your father, and his legs are crossed the same way.

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been like a strong, proud, black woman. He says, lifting his hand off your shoulder, complimenting you. He begins to share his stories about his relationship, because you decide to get another beer and change the subject to him. You want to stop looking through saltwater and getting the focus off you will help that.

The bar fills up as you realize the coffee stout you ordered is actually good. After years of loving coffee and loving beer and hating the two combined, this brewery does it–it goes down easy, lights you up with a buzz and mellows you out with a different buzz. The conversation continues onto beers, breweries, brewers and bars.

He compartmentalizes your life by drawing circles and squares on the bar top with his fingers, connecting them with imaginary lines and arrows, showing how they all really are connected–see, if things are good here, they have the potential to be better HERE, he taps hard on the upper right circle,

Meanwhile, you use your thumbnail to pick the coaster and to avoid eye contact, you’ve been refused coaster use in bars you regulared at in the past but the tender doesn’t notice you tonight. You blink back, close your eyes a moment and return to making scraps that he’ll later have to clean up and throw away–you’ve worked at bars and know how annoying it is to clean up other peoples messes.

The four compartments are all different, yet work together, if you create balance, you equal a happy, healthy life. Who can juggle balance? Where does this come from? WHERE, HOW?! You yell in your head, you yell in your head a lot.

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