Use Your Voice

You have a voice; how you use it decides if you will lose it. Do you speak up…too much, or not enough? Our decisions in every moment of when we use our voice, how we use our voice, or if we use our voice ultimately decide if we will be heard. 

It is essential to know when to stay silent as essential as knowing when to speak.  If you are always talking, chances are no one is listening.  If you are always quiet, the perception is that you have nothing to say.  When you control your voice and its output, you control the narrative. 

Think about it; those talking all the time are the ones we drown out.  They are the Charlie Brown teachers in the rooms…

…that we stop listening to because they are ALWAYS talking. 

Then there are those in the room that say nothing and leave us wondering why they are in the room, to begin with.

You want to be the one in the room that everyone stops what they are doing and listens to.  You want to be the one that gets the listener’s attention because they know when you have something to say, it is worth listening to; you want to be that voice, meaningful and with intention.

How to use your voice is a skill that takes practice and self-reflection.  It takes time in front of different audiences where you can test out your voice and witness, usually in real-time, the reaction of your voice on the audience.  Are you just restating someone else’s good idea?  Are you criticizing?  Are you adding value with your voice or merely piling on?  What is the audience’s reaction? What is the read on the room after you speak?

To start building your voice skills, you have to have the patience to stop and think before you talk.  Much like the process of mindfulness in thought control requires you to stop when a thought comes to mind to consider its worth and then choose to let it go or react to it.  Using your voice requires a similar cadence.  Before responding to what you hear, you must first stop and decide if you should respond or stay silent and, if worth speaking up, what your message will be to create value. 

Once you have practiced when to use your voice, the next step in the process is how to use your voice.  How we use our voices determines if our voices will be heard again in the future.  Will you be invited back to the conversation?  Let’s explore a few examples:

Are you a confirmer?  Only speaking up to confirm someone else’s point-of-view?

  • There is undoubtedly a place for this voice in helping to gain consensus on another person’s point-of-view; however, if challenged to stand on that POV for yourself, would you?  Or are you only in agreement for the sake of wanting to fit in or find comfort in the group?  Use caution in this voice, as your integrity will be challenged.

Are you a statement-maker?  Are you always making a “drop-the-mic” statement? 

  • There are times that this voice is relevant and can be impactful if used sparsely.  If you are always trying to make a statement, your voice can become overpowering and irrelevant.  Powerful messages have a place and time; choose each carefully.

Are you “quoter”?  Do you use quotes to add relevance to your voice or message? 

  • The benefit of a famous quote is that it creates recognition with the audience as it is a place of familiarity that can immediately connect the speaker with the audience.  For this to be fully realized, the “quote” must be relevant to the message being delivered.  
  • The detriment in quoting without the subsequent relevance is that you require the audience to do the work to connect the dots.  Quotes used back-to-back lack integrity and tend to lack creativity in finding your voice by using others in vain.
  • “Proceed with Caution” – Eartha Kitt (ha!)

In concluding, it is worth noting that every conversation is not that serious, complex, or dramatic; however, practicing in all circumstances will strengthen your voice and your point of view.  Your voice is your gift.  Use it with discretion and revel in the places where your silence is the loudest voice in the room. 

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt. — ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Life as I live it – L.

Silenced No More

The irony of realizing that I have not posted one blog since pouring my silent retreat experience into words. Silenced for three months? Or a life that has been so noisy there is no room for thought? Or pure avoidance of sitting in one more thought in silence? Whatever it is, here I sit, not quite on the other side or any side at all but overseeing. Having the power to sit objective in your own life is rare and I am not even sure obtainable but through the lens of others and a mirror of my own I try.

My resolve is still not certain and no resolutions have been made as this process is much longer than a few months of reflection can afford. I carry-on, one observation at a time, controlling the reaction better at times than others.

What I know today…

  • Integrity matters to me as I define it. It matters how you define as well but I don’t live your truth and therefore mine is priority. Protecting who you are, portraying who you are is the ultimate freedom and true definition of integrity. After all when someone shows you who they are believe them. What are you showing?
  • Accountability is a two-way street, always. We are held accountable or hold accountable each other and ourselves. Accountability is not expectation. It is being held responsible for what you say or do and less about what someone expects you to say or do. One is a promise made by you and the other is a plea to you.
  • Self-care wraps both of these together and speaks volume about your value; for you are only as valuable as you appraise yourself. How you care for yourself is the ultimate test of your integrity and accountability. You cannot speak a truth or hold others accountable to values you don’t possess.

I sit in confusion of what I was to take away from my time “on the mountain”. This is likely due to an expectation that could never have been fulfilled considering the nativity in going up on the mountain blind to the process. I have also found resolve that nothing needed to be taken away but instead rather given back.

What I have found is that silence has been redefined in moments, in words not said, in my own restraint if only saved for those deserving. What I have found is that my seat at the table is not defined by the table I sit at but rather where I choose to keep company. In the end, my value is just that MY value and that takes priority.

I am asked often if I would do it again (the silent retreat, that is) and to that I answer yes and no. No, I do not require someone to silence me to find clarity as that cannot truly happen without being transparent to myself. Yes, I would do it again if only to prove that I could, again. Most importantly is that today I do silence on my terms, in my way and my practice is in active form taking back my power, my value, my words for noise has little value, but for me I am priceless in silence.

Life as I live it – L.

Driven to Silence

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Today is the day, the start of a 5-day adventure into silence. What am I doing?!?!

This crazy idea started back in May when talking to my therapist who shared with me that he had recently come back from a 7-day silent retreat out in Big Sur. He was sharing his retreat with me after I told him that there is simply too much noise in my life and it was making it hard for me to figure out what comes next. I was on the cusp of my 50th birthday and he told me to try it. What ultimately sold me was his confidence that if I removed all of the noise the answers I was looking for would appear.

I immediately BOOKED IT! I found a retreat center that was a little less “extreme” than the one my doctor had attended, one that was more approachable for someone that is just starting to explore this world. The first session they were offering was in October and I booked it before my mind had time to contemplate it.

The five months that stood between me and silence went on as “normal”. Ironically enough that normal was the build-up to a much needed break but as the months went on I barely thought about the impending retreat. As September came and went I realized that I was two weeks out from my retreat and travel plans needed to be secured. I booked a flight, then canceled, then booked another flight and then canceled. Wavering on commitments to myself is my “MO” and this retreat was proving no different. My life is full of escape hatches and as the days loomed closer I was coming up with them; work is too busy, my family needs me here, my son is coming to town that weekend, you name it, I have an escape hatch. Not this time, there would be no escape hatch because deep inside I knew I needed the retreat more than all of those reasons combined. I decided I would take the 9+ hour drive to North Carolina from Florida.

On the morning the retreat was due to start I woke at 4:00am and set out on my day long journey driving to the retreat center, driving myself to silence. My sweet, and totally opposite-of-me husband, woke early with me to help with my luggage and offer his final words of advice, “don’t join a cult”…and that my friends is what we call moral support!

The drive as it would turn out would be a journey unto itself. As I was driving from Florida to Savannah, my audiobook was playing, traffic was as expected and anticipation was mounting. At the point that I crossed the state line from Georgia into South Carolina things started to feel a bit different. I could feel a melancholy come over me and then I realized, the last time I had driven this trek was to go to my mother’s funeral in Virginia three years ago, only preceded by the many trips to Virginia during her final year. This trek had always been driven with dread, subconscious as it may have been I always knew that this drive up would always deliver heartache and the drive back was wrought in despair. As thoughts of her came flooding in, I found myself reaching for the songs that bonded she in life and now in death. I Put on one of her favorites and a car concert was in full-session, that has only been better performed when she was in the passengers seat. I was strong but lamenting singing my heart out and then searching for the next song and the next like a fiend. As the drive continued into North Carolina and up into the mountains the view became eerily familiar. Again these mountains, these homes, these roads; they are what I remember of my many trips to Virginia, only this time my arrival would not be met with her coming out on the porch to welcome me.

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View from my porch. My Mom is surely with me…breathtaking in more ways that one.

As I reached the retreat center I was in awe of the beauty. I could feel peace wash over me and immediately knew that I was where I was meant to be…today. In the present moment and ready and willing to take silence on, all-in.

The drive into silence had been a journey unto itself. It was not planned and once I was in it there was no escape hatch. As happens with feelings, when they come to the surface, shoving them back in is nearly impossible. As I park my car I feel like a champion. I have conquered half of my greatest fear; going back to her home. I did not make it up her mountain but I faced the music, literally and figuratively.

She is always “with me”, of course, and this certainly makes other people feel better to say to someone who has lost someone when they have nothing else to say…however today I am one-step closer to the place we last held hands.

As for my heart, she has always had it and still does.

Silence…so far…is not so bad.

13 hours in – 🙂

Life as I Live it – L.

A Place for Silence

Silence. The word elicits a response regardless of the emotion. When said out loud in exclamation it will quiet a room. When said in a whisper it will quiet the brain. It is something we long for and in other times something we run from. It is a word, a state of being, an emotion, it is powerful.

I have been longing for silence in its many forms for years. I long for it in my brain that is overactive and relentless at times. I long for it in my day to simply get away from the chatter of life. I long for it in my demeanor to provide restraint in my personality and sometimes I long for it after too much has been said.

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.

Paulo Coelho

The quote from Paulo Coelho sums it up. Be what you want the world to see. Don’t state it, don’t talk about it, just be. If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be successful, succeed. Stop talking about it, do it. In my case, I aim to stop talking. Not in the literal sense but I find that my conversations tend to be on repeat. I say the same things I said before, I state the same goals, themes, opinions…yes opinions…but why? Am I convincing myself or others? I feel confined in these conversations that are on repeat and offer little in the drive to move forward, or even sit still, they hold me back and keep me in a place that is meant to be left behind.

By practicing silence we can resolve those things that nag at us, define us, and create angst. By practicing silence we get the gift of taking in more around us; hearing, listening, and simply being. It is when we stop announcing what we will do that we actually become.

No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.

Agnes De Mille

When I think back to the most impactful times of my life they were decisions that were made internally. They needed no external support. When I think about it, it rings so true, it is only those things that you are not resolved in that you put out for the world to weigh-in on. Those things that you KNOW and do not question you DO without applause, accolades, or validation. When I made the decision to change my life or better said every time I have made the decision to change my life, I did not ask, I did not state it, I just did it. I did it because I did not want anyone to thwart my efforts or convince me otherwise. There is not one of those life-changing decisions that I regret. This is to say there is great resolve in silence.

A close friend of mine once told me that she learned the most about silence from a mentor who when in the Boardroom would say very little, however when he spoke, the room would hush and all ears would be on him. Everyone knew that when he chose to speak, he would bring value, he would bring wisdom, and that power in his silence spoke volumes in his contemplation that was as loud as his voice. I long to be this man.

As I fall silent on this blog, I think about how to put this into practice as it is not as simple as just not speaking, that is not silence, that is something else entirely. The silence I hope to explore is what I believe it is to be wise. To allow others to share their experiences without you adding on. To allow others to try it their way if you know it will create the same result or better yet if it will cause no harm and instead stands to serve as a lesson.

The silence I hope to create for myself is to find my own resolve that will lead to contentment. The silence I hope to create will make me MORE not less; allowing me to shut down one “sense” to peak the others. The silence I hope to create will allow me to accept more, resist less, and resolve.

Silence…nothing left to say – L.

Previous post on “Silence” almost a year ago https://alwaysstarting.com/2019/07/25/silence/

I am going to just leave this here for you…

Let me just leave this right here. This thought, this feeling for you to ______.

Sometimes we don’t have to fill in the blank. Sometimes the drama is in what we don’t say or do. This is a great strategy to make an impact but takes practice. Just saying enough, not giving it all up and leaving it is an art form.

I was reminded of the impact of this idea upon reading a blog called “Six Word Stories”. Reading the first one, six words, left me saying “wow”. The impact of those six words hit me like a freight train, just as the author intended.

We don’t owe the entire story or explanation. We owe enough to create the thought or understanding and then leave the rest, the remaining work to the audience. Thinking through this it works personally and professionally.

Professionally it is about only speaking when you have something of value to add and then leaving the rest for the audience to pontificate. Offering a “what if” scenario to change the paradigm but then allowing the audience to determine the various outcomes. You don’t have to give the “what if” and the effect. It will take away from the power of your “what if”.

Personally it’s about not solving for all. “You hurt me” are three powerful words that don’t require another thing to be said. I don’t need to tell you when, the fact that you hurt me is now yours to own. Think of how we use “I love you”. We do not have to say “because” or “when” just the fact that “I love you” is enough. It’s more powerful when it is not defined because it suggests that there doesn’t have to be a reason. In the first example it is much the same; “you hurt me” is enough. The fact that you do…is enough.

The next time you find yourself searching for the words, stop. Maybe you have said all you need to say. Just leave it, leave it right there for the audience to pick-up and do with it what they want. Once you put it out there it is no longer yours and only yours, it now as ownership that spans beyond you. Let it be. L.

Shut your mouth…

What you say is what you will become; our words are our most powerful medium. More powerful than thoughts because they put into the universe for all to hear, digest and emote. Being an outspoken person I have seen the ups and downs of being heard. The good and the bad, the moments I wish I hadn’t said it and those moments that I was glad I did. I think a lot about the messages we send and offer you some of my own insight.

My latest venture is not telling on myself. I have always been one to put too much out there and now I am holding back more and more. I am not sure there is a specific reason other than now being in a place where I don’t think that everyone needs to know everything. So a fine example of this is, if I have to move a meeting on my calendar rather than sending out a note explaining why I am moving it, I now just make the request to move it and let it be. While i realize there are times that it is simply a courtesy to let someone “in” on why you are doing something that will affect them; rescheduling, canceling or simply saying “no” this doesn’t apply 100% of the time. I simply remind myself when I am in these situations “why am I telling on myself” and then decide if the additional personal information is going to add value or is even necessary.

Ultimately the greatest power in holding my tongue has been in my daily exercise of staying silent unless I have something meaningful to add to the conversation. I use the acronym W.A.I.T. – “Why Am I Talking” to remind me of my plight to stay silent. I have lived a lifetime of experiences and always have something to add but have learned that when you are always talking people stop listening. Eventually through this practice you will find that when you do have something to offer people listen more intently. I do this in all of my interactions. If I am in a meeting, I hold back to let everyone else express their ideas before I add anything to see if here is anything to add. When talking to a friend that is telling me of an experience they had I hold back on telling them of my similar experience fearing that it may look like one-upping or not allowing their experience to standalone in importance. Don’t get me wrong it’s important to participate and be a part of the conversation but not to be THE conversation. I am still guilty of all of the above as when I feel passionate about something I simply cannot help myself and have been known to railroad or grandstand.

interesting as I sit her and ponder these thoughts I realize that I am saying more now as I write this daily blog offering my thoughts through writing that I ever have before. While the voice is not audible it is absolutely still heard. The pressure I feel daily as I figure out what I am going to write about is “what do I have to say” that offers value to my readers. It’s important that these thoughts be my own and that I write about what I am passionate about or at least feel strongly. In some ways it’s W.A.I.T. in reverse…I am going to write so there has to be thought behind the intention it becomes “What Am I Talking About…”. Similarly if we simply put this same thought or intention behind what we were going to say before we said it we would be well spoken.

Last but not least, I have to pontificate on the power of our words as this is what got this topic started for me today. The words you say have immense power over YOU and everyone around you which is anyone that hears it or is told what you said. We have heard many times to be careful what you say because you cannot take it back. I think it’s important to note that while this applies as we know it in our “Golden Rules” it also applies to oneself. Be careful what you say about yourself because what you put out there is what you become. Don’t call yourself names, don’t put yourself down, treat yourself as you would your very best friend. If you would not say those things to them or about them, why are you saying them to or about yourself.

Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” -Yehuda Berg

I will just leave this here and let it speak for itself. L.

Silence

Silence is the complete absence of sound.

Wow, I just read those words and am left with reverberations through my brain. I have never been one that liked silence much. In the car I always have the music on, at home the TV is going (even at bedtime until I fall asleep) and while I am working my radio is on. I am not sure why I need the noise in the background because it certainly does not drown out my busy mind; it just adds to it…like a choir of chaos.

Silence has always intimidated me. I remember when I started at my current job, I was worried that I was not going to be able to work in the environment because everyone worked in their individual offices in complete silence. I imagined I would be in a padded room in about a week after sustaining that environment! 🙂 Even at the beach, the one place I find solace I have a radio going; not so loud that I cannot hear the waves but nonetheless more noise. When I run I must have music blaring loudly in my ears. The idea of running with NO music is impossible; I don’t think my feet could take the first step.

Something is changing.

Of late I find myself enjoying the silence, soaking it in, longing for it, searching for it and when I find it I sit in it, silent. I have enjoyed entire car rides home without a sound, I enjoy sitting on the back porch just listening to nature and the wind rustling though the leaves, I enjoy the silence of my home when everyone is still asleep. Something has definitely changed.

I am embracing this change, it is good for me. It is through my work to dis-identify from the brain that there is room for silence. Before my brain was always “on” and driving my actions, reactions and emotions. But now in the work I have done to dis-engage I am no longer seeking chaos to solve chaos, noise to overpower noise, I am seeking silence.

I think what changed is simple, it is because now there is room for it. There are more moments of silence in my life now and that new normal is resonating with me. I am not running after my children who are now grown, I am not doing ten things at one time attempting to create the life I want…I now have it, I am not needing the last word for I have learned that through silence I am louder. It’s an amazing revelation.

In my new found silence I now work in my office quietly or in my hotel room when I travel in complete silence. It feels powerful. It feels calm. It feels like I want to be both powerful and calm, how mature. I will continue to revel in my new found state and explore this world. I am not sure if I am quite ready for a Silence Retreat but to enjoy an hour or two a day well…Silence is bliss! Life as I see it – L.

Fiercely Independent…

Happy Independence Day America! Happy Fourth of July! I am so grateful to the men and women who fight for my freedom. I am proud to be an American and know that living in THIS country is indeed a privilege. While I honor the day I have to take advantage of the theory of INDEPENDENCE as it relates to the human condition.

I have always defined myself as “fiercely independent” as both a reminder of what I want to be and ultimately who I am. I was raised by a mother that personified this throughout her life. As her daughter and biggest fan I watched my mother navigate this life with grace first and independence always! it was through watching her that I became very comfortable with my own company (yes, I go to movies and restaurants by myself…oh the horror!! HA), silence and dependence on NO ONE! My mother was very introspective and private (Unfortunately, the thrill of finally getting to read her journals proved fruitless as of course she wasn’t revealing a thing…ugh!) but her independence is one of many of her characteristics that I cherished most and attempted to replicate.

I was meeting with my therapist recently (yes, I believe in mental HEALTH to avoid mental sickness!) and he was telling me the lengths at which he had gone in his life to be comfortable with simply being alone, silent and in his own company. It started with a friend inviting him to go up on the mountain to “watch the monks” (literally! Monk-watching!!). He said that it moved him so much that he went back every month for the next ten years of his life. He would sit in silence (enter the “Sound of Silence”-Simon and Garfunkel) and observe the monks but most importantly in that silence he could observe his thoughts and ultimately learn to quiet them. As he told the story I am sure he thought I would be appalled at the extreme nature of this effort but instead I was in awe and jealous of the opportunity. To simply BE, just sit, quietly and allow it all to happen around you is the fiercest level of independence I can think of and respect.

When thinking on this topic I am reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert author of “Eat Pray Love” as it is one of my favorite books and movie. This is a memoir about the undoing of her marriage and her journey to find a new life. There are so many things that resonate with me through her story but two stand out:

  • She goes to an ashram where she is given the opportunity to be “silent” for a period of time. She was not to speak a word to anyone and wore a button that noted that she was practicing silence. I think about the challenge as I enjoy interaction, communication and yes, sometimes the sound of my own voice as I indeed talk to myself. Ultimately the way I see it is that when you are silent you are forced to take in because you cannot put out. (Not that kind of putting out…dirty minds!!) It’s in this state that you will observe more as it’s when we shut down one of our senses that we enhance the others. Try it and comment below to let me know the longest you have been silent and what you learned about yourself.
  • I am moved by Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Physics of the Quest” and have it in the notes app of my phone as a place to go for inspiration on how I want to live this life. I share it here with you:
    • “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything) and set out on a truth-seeking journey, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.”

I would be remiss if I did not note that my greatest accomplishment to date is putting two extremely independent human beings out into the world. My oldest children are exactly the kind of independent I wanted for their lives. Molly is fierce in every sense of the word. She cares not what the world thinks and simply lives HER life according to her standard. She has taught me so much in this life about independence and owning who you are inside out. Cameron is the softer side of fierce as his independence is a bit less “F you” (Did I mention Molly has a smiley face tattooed on her middle finger!!) and more “I got this”. Cameron puts his mind to what he wants in life and he goes for it with a relentless focus that is exhausting from the outside but fueling his fire on the inside. He comes across as amicable but don’t confuse that for agreeable. He has very strong thoughts about life and how it is to be lived and will offer a healthy debate on all the wrong things to talk about in public if engaged…by this I mean religion, politics and his sister; even when she doesn’t want to be the topic! HA! These children are 100% their own people. They have views that do not reflect mine or Gary’s and stand for something. As I said at the top, they are by far my greatest accomplishments to date…now about Brendan…well that is an entirely different blog post! Ha!!

I will conclude with an excerpt from my journal after visiting my therapist and having the greatest aha moment about my independence and what was actually an unhealthy dependence on my mom that I never realized the power of until she was gone.  

Written 11.17.18 – I realize that I put so much into her; faith, trust, love, EVERYTHING, that when she died all of that died with her and that which is ME.  I get it. At some level I also realize that my dependency on her life was not healthy, although it NEVER felt that way but it is/was what it is/was.  Now it’s time to heal, it’s time to learn how to live a life without reliance on another human to hold all of what you find valuable in life. Funny that what occurs to me right now is that while I have always believed myself to be fiercely independent I was fiercely dependent on her.  Interesting.

I learned that my independence was not truly as fierce as I had portrayed as it was very dependent on her, my everything. In order to be truly independent in this life no one thing can be your “everything” as the very idea of being independent is being surrounded by nothing and being perfectly okay in that place.

I wish you a Happy Fourth of July and may this Independence Day inspire in you freedom from all that holds you back. #HonoringHer