Which voice?  I have spoken with numerous voices during these many years.

My first voice was that of a peacekeeper.  I learned unconsciously as a child to say only “pleasing” things.  “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” was the mantra in my home.  That meant anger or questioning or anything less than “pleasant” went underground.

My second voice was that of adapting.  We moved many times during my childhood in a military family.  As I came to a new school, my deepest fear was “not fitting in” and possible rejection.  So, unconsciously I took on the voice of one who would be accepted and popular.  Laughing and perky?  That would be me.  Interested in sports?  That would be me.  A smart nerd and loves book?  That would be me.  And that continued for a great part of my life, becoming who I needed to be to be accepted.

Somewhere along the road, I longed for something more.  Who was I really?  There had to be more than the chameleon who kept changing with each world that I inhabited.  So began my journey to find my own voice.

What I have realized during this quarantine time, as I have been cleaning out old files and closets, is how much this deep cleaning has been a metaphor for finding my authentic voice. If you come into my home, it looks pretty tidy and clean.  If you start opening closets, it is a different story altogether!

At this time in my life, I have a small house and my therapy office is in my home. In my office, shuttered nicely behind attractive doors, are therapy files, saved research, clipped magazine articles, books, a CD player with hundreds of CD’s, an old Dell computer and other things too embarrassing to mention. My guest room closet is filled with winter clothes from living in the Appalachian Mountains that can’t bear to part with, but are no longer needed in Texas.

Since I am not seeing clients in my office during this quarantine, I decided to open the doors and take everything out and begin the “holy task of sorting.”  Right now my therapy room looks like the aftermath of a hurricane.  My impulse is to quickly put it back in the closet before someone sees it!  Isn’t that how it is when we begin to let go of the chameleon and dare to begin the deep journey to explore “Who am I really?” It is almost overwhelming, and we want to quickly go back to what we know.  Long forgotten memories come out of the closet. Broken relationships resurface.  Anger at others for asking us to be someone other than who we really are suddenly flares up. Anger for giving ourselves away bursts forth.  Regrets.   Shame.

I have found that it is overwhelming to tackle the whole journey at once.  We often get too discouraged, too depressed, too exhausted or too anxious and decide it is safer to go back to the way we were.  It is important to know that we can do a small piece at a time.  It is also important to know that it will get worse before it gets better.  There’s a reason those feelings and experiences are hidden away in the closet. The pain and the shame are often too much to bear, so we unconsciously pack them away and close the door while the room looks charming and tidy.

What I have realized is that the grime builds up gradually over the years,  both in my closet and in our lives. Each time we make a choice to hide who we really are because we would be embarrassed or rejected, we go deeper into hiding.

We find our authentic self as we courageously dive into the unknown parts of ourselves, the disowned parts of ourselves, and the parts of ourselves we are carrying for others.  It is only when we dare, piece by piece, to take it out and observe it and feel the feelings around it that we are able to make new choices.  Is this something I want to let go of?  Is this a part I want to heal and return transformed?  Is this a part I need to lay aside for awhile and come back to at another time?

As you enter this courageous, fearful and exciting journey to find your authentic self, the voice that will emerge will be truly yours.  You will sing the song that you were meant to sing!  The magnificent voice that has been hidden under all the accumulated layers throughout the years will begin to appear at the most unexpected times!

May you find trusted companions along the way.  As you come home to yourself, may you find, along with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, that home was always there just waiting for you to open the door.

Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash