I have lived most of my life being fairly quiet, doing my work quietly, not wanting to draw too much attention to myself. This was what I learned to try and do to feel as safe as I could in the world. This wasn’t too easy, since I was an only child, which made it much harder to hide. So I figured out a way to become less visible, less vibrant, less in the spotlight, less seen, less vulnerable.
I have handled my career this way (I was a social worker), even getting the comment from a psychologist that I worked with that I “quietly do what needs to be done”. No fanfare, no pointing out things that I had done. Just quietly doing my job as well as I knew how.
I have done this in relationships, thus sabotaging them because if someone does not truly express all of who they are or feel free to ask for what they really need, that relationship has no chance to really thrive. And we also then act out the parts of us that we think we may have shut down, but that manage to make themselves known anyway, and not always in the healthiest of ways.
And now I am retired.
I have been able to come home to parts of myself that I didn’t have time to attend to. The artist within. The writer within. (Notice that these are also passions that are, at least for me, best done alone and quietly). No surprise there.
However, there is a difference now. I now submit both my paintings and my writing online for others to see, to read. For others to see and hear me. I am daring to call attention to myself.
It is exciting, and also scares the hell out of me. I am leaving my comfort zone, daring to ask to be seen and heard. I am breaking the self imposed rules for staying safe, or as safe as can be, given that life is not really safe.
I am taking the mute button off myself. I am daring to express my voice.
To my delighted surprise, I have had some of my paintings accepted in online exhibits. I have had some of my articles published. I am thrilled.
There is also a part of me that fears that I will be discovered soon (imposter syndrome) and that others will see that they made a mistake. Ah, the internal jury within is a fierce one. The jury that , in its efforts to try and protect me, judges me as not good enough for whatever it is that I might try. I have many discussions with this jury, and let them know the limits and scope of their roles and power. And I add new jurors continually, those with a more balanced and fair view. Those who do not mistake themselves for the judge.
So I continue unmuting myself.
My lovely friend, who supports my painting and writing and growth, and who is a fierce New Yorker who has not hidden in her life, recently recommended me as the feature resident of our very small local neighborhood magazine. My initial reaction was to think and say that I didn’t have anything major to say or to offer to get that kind of recognition.
And I caught myself. I heard what I said to her and myself. And I said “enough”. I think being closer to the reality of mortality does increase one’s courage. What the hell, I tell myself that I am going to die anyway, so what difference does it make? Might as well go for it.
So, I did the zoom interview with the very kind writer for this magazine, who was reassuring and encouraging. And tomorrow, dare I say it, tomorrow is the “photo shoot”. What? Photo shoot? Me? Need I express that the juror whose role seems to be to comment and judge my physical appearance has stood up to take on a major role in this particular endeavor? Indeed, this juror tells me that I should ask the photographer if he has a lens that can take off both pounds and years. I will not ask that question of him, funny as I think that might be to say. I will not make a joke at my own expense. I have had enough of that.
So, I will have my photo shoot. I will hold my breath to see what the magazine looks like when it comes out. I will have a meeting with my jury first, to set some ground rules and limits on their comments and behaviors.
I will choose to be seen, to be heard, to dare to allow myself to be photographed in all of my glorious imperfections, lumps, bumps, lines and wrinkles. I will allow myself to jump into this goal that I have for the rest of my life. The goal of living fully out loud. Unmuted. Visible. Expressing myself with written word and with canvas. Very imperfectly. And that is absolutely ok. It is time right now, right here. It is time.