The Art of Practice: Discovering your Voice

This week’s small voices–big messages  post comes from my friend, client and new blogger, Lesley Howard.  Any further intro from me would just take away from Lesley’s amazing gift with words, so I’ll step back and let her tell her story.

My momma done me wrong, but taught me right . . .

Those of you who already know me have most likely heard the sorrowful story of my mom’s early years (abusive, alcoholic father & corresponding Dysfunctional Family; frequent, violent, dead-of-night moves one step ahead of the debt collectors; inadequate nutrition or education; etcetera etcetera etcetera). Her response to that childhood was to become an intellectual woman with bucketfuls of discipline – enough to keep her conscious mind free of memories of molestation for fifty-plus years. This level of control also rendered her frequently unable to respond appropriately to my emotional needs.

As I tend to be on the “delicate flower” end of the emotional spectrum, it took me ‘til I was about thirty-five to see my way clear to peace with my mother’s legacy (complicated by her death when I was 31), and ten years since then to pick out the bits of my Self from the rubble (thanks to the engineer husband and some remarkably sane and forgiving friends. And those therapists and antidepressants and Julia Cameron I referred to in the first post!).

A big part of the rubble- sieving occurred when I became a parent myself and witnessed, to my horror, my (unintentional) mistakes flowing forth freely and profusely every day I interacted with my kids. I witness evidence of those errors every time my older son yells at his brother for a minor infraction, or my younger son storms out of the room in frustration (yep, we are an intense household. Nuclear power plants got nothing on us when we really get going).

My errors have slowed to a (steady) trickle now that I’m not wiping butts and supplying milk 24-7  for small, irrational humans (observed a friend: “watching three year olds play is liking watching tiny inhabitants of an insane asylum.”) But. Mistakes were made and apparently will continue to be made into the foreseeable future. Forgiveness all ‘round is in order.

Now, my mom’s intellectual rigor was not in sync with my uhm, flowery nature. But! One thing she told me has changed my life, and perhaps the world, if I may be so bold.


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When I was a shy fifth grader with wretchedly frizzy hair (during the Farrah Fawcett era!) struggling in math, she said, “Lesley, if you have a question, ask it. Someone else probably has the same question and will be glad you did.”

I have no idea if I asked the multiplication question that troubled me then, but her words echoed in my head during discussions at college (Earlham College, can’t sing its praises loudly enough). I  s l o w l y  gained confidence in asking the questions in my heart and head, the ones that others weren’t voicing. When I was thirtyish, my confidence had grown to the point that I inquired of The Powers That Be in the local land use planning community if anyone ever considered conserving land rather than developing it. The answer (nope) led me to ask if anyone else was horrified by this response. Yes, others were aghast — and we organized ourselves and founded the New River Land Trust. Acres protected with Conservation Easements since then: thirty-three thousand! My mom taught me how to change the world!

So. The point today is … amidst all the crap our literal and figurative “mothers” visit upon us, there are plenty enough precious stones. Whatever your art is, whatever question you wrestle with through intentional practice: Claim it. Ask it. Ain’t none of us mind-readers and the only way we’re gonna figure out our next steps forward —  individually and collectively — is if we speak up. If shy or uncertain, practice in your diary first. When you’re ready to utter it aloud, listen to the answers. Extend forgiveness to yourself and others when you fail to be honest, or clear, or whatever else your personal failing is; or when others fail to listen carefully.

Ah. Let’s all bask in the light of our higher selves for a moment.

OK. Lovely words. Putting them into action? What exactly does that look like? No, no, don’t tell me, I’m too busy. Right? (Continue reading at the Art of Practice)

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