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How I Lost My Voice, Then Found It

I was awakened Tuesday morning—moments before the bossy phone’s alarm went off—to the sound of rain on the roof. It was a light but steady rain. I touched “tap to snooze” and thought, I don’t think I’m going to the Georgia State Capitol today.

walk in our shoes

I had joined the Facebook event—one among 66 maybes—and had every intention of making a statement with my feet. I remembered wistfully the time I boarded a bus headed to our nation’s capitol, a bus filled with Barnard College students, to protest an attempted repeal of Roe v. Wade. Reproductive rights, women’s health, freedom to make decisions about my body, these were issues that still resonated, more than twenty years later. Yet, while I wanted to storm the legislative hearings and make some noise, I seemed to have lost my voice.

Instead, I drove my son to school, answered email and, when the rain slowed to an intermittent drizzle, took a short walk with the dog. Just before 9 a.m., my phone lit up with a text message from a friend: Are you going to the rally at the state capital today?

Feeling guilty about my decision not to go, I replied: Unfortunately only in spirit. Are you going?

I was thinking of going, but the weather and my daughter are making me re-think it. She is home sick.

At that moment I realized that I hadn’t lost my voice at all. Motherhood had merely restrained my voice of protest, at least for now, in favor of my voice of compassion. Raising children had taught me to speak in varied tones.

I shared my regret that an afternoon meeting and parenting duties after school were keeping me close to home, because I worried that my children might suffer the consequences if I got delayed downtown.

I feel this protest in my kishkes but also the competing commitment to be the responsible parent. So you and I are in the same boat…there will always be another opportunity to protest. This one isn’t the right one for me today, I guess.

I said this—well, typed it—in my authentic voice. The one that expresses my solidarity with women who are likewise struggling to find the right tone of voice for the right occasion. Sometimes we need to speak about the things that matter to us, modeling for our daughters and granddaughters how to protect our autonomy and freedom to make decisions about our bodies. Other times we need to listen quietly, to discern how best to meet their more immediate physical and emotional needs.

If my friend hadn’t texted me to ask whether I was going to the rally, I would have blamed myself—my lack of commitment to the cause, my loss of momentum—for staying home. I would have used my voice against myself.

Instead, I read her text as a challenge to find my voice and use it to honor our choices, to commiserate about our common challenges.  What she said next is exactly what I was planning to say to her:

Thanks for making me feel better.

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