Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Voice

“All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie…
We must love one another or die.

W. H. Auden (1907-73)

Having established the understanding that my direction had to come from within with my compass settings to be determined by choices to benefit eternal (as opposed to temporal) accounts, I needed to find my voice. You know; the question of “How do I communicate to those around me what I am feeling, what I understand to be true, what I yearn deeply for…without having them look at and listen to me as a complete FREAK.”

So, how does one find his or her “voice”? Where can you go to learn a way to express what you have seldom been able to whisper to yourself in a moment of introspection? I had no one to go to for directions. Even if there had been a mentor figure (and who, pray tell, is so blessed) I am certain that I would have been incapable of framing the question. What does one ask…”Excuse me, but I am in search of a voice, and wonder if you might have a recommendation?” No, the way seemed to be to listen to the voices around me and sift out all of those incongruous to me with an increasingly discriminating mesh to single out that one, or combination, that comfortably sang my spirit’s song.

For my quest, I found two. They sang different parts in life’s chorus, and they produced a harmony in which I, for the first time in my life, felt free in expressing myself.

The first was (and still remains, some twenty-plus years later) a treasure who stopped me cold in my tracks with the simplicity, candor, intimacy, and unadorned caring of her voice. This is a person whose audio-cassette brought me (literally) to my knees in gratitude and admiration. I know that she would, today, be embarrassed with the simplicity and unrefined quality of that early message, but it was the perfect thing for me… right there and right then in my journey. Ann Kiemel’s “Hi, I’m Ann” was, and remains, one of the most momentous discoveries of my life.

From that tape and the book with the same name, I discovered the spirit with which I could speak to my world… every day…in every circumstance… with each individually unique person… and maintain the integrity of my own soul’s purpose… to heal… to encourage… to minister. But Ann, as an attractive young woman, was not a figure who would be perceived in the same social context that I would be. Had I presented myself with the same vocal script that served her so well, I would have produced a completely different (and undoubtedly unacceptable) response.

Then came the discovery of Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D. From Leo, I learned the art of approach… address… and retreat. The language and manner of those elements, in caring and honest combination, allow me, almost daily, and sometimes frequently in a single day, to approach complete strangers with a message of how they have touched me in some specific and enhancing way. Let me give you an example.

It was one of those “The well is dry… I have nothing more to give… please leave me alone, everybody!” days. I intentionally chose a ‘Hamburger Joint’ that did little business, due to its bad location, to minimize the chance that I would have to interact with anyone. Upon entering the place, I was encouraged to find that there was only one customer, other than myself, there. This gentleman was a rather tall, robust, elderly fellow who moved through the traffic-control maze with a slow, stooped gait that reflected the wear of the years. In the quiet of the near-empty establishment, I could not help overhearing the gentleman presenting a well-worn copy of a cartoon to the order taker. This young girl was, quite clearly, not amused (not with the cartoon, being there, doing her job, or, at that moment in time, with life in general.)

The gentleman was simply standing there… waiting…hoping to make some pleasant contact in his seemingly lonely world. What he was being met with was an irritated indifference… and my heart could not stand to witness his disappointment. “
My very Dear Sir,” I addressed the note written on personalized note paper (I had gone out to my car and retrieved the very nice paper to make the impression that the gesture was worthy of care), “Please accept this note of thanks and appreciation for your willingness to reach out in a world that often is not ready to accept reaching out. Your generosity in offering humor touched me and made my world a better place. I feel better because of you and salute you.” Then I signed the note “a fellow pilgrim,” added my name, and when the man went back for his free refill of beverage, placed the note on his tray and left the restaurant.

Upon reaching my vehicle, I looked back and was instantly brought to tears of gratitude by the radiant smile and hearty salute sent to me by the man with a small note of encouragement and appreciation in his hand. We were two comrades joined in the quest to abolish indifference in our shared world. This was the expression of the “voice” given to me by Life. The intimacy learned from Ann Kiemel, expressed with the technique gleaned from Leo Buscaglia combined to give my soul its voice.

(This passage excerpted from a book in progress, John-Michael)

IMAGE courtesy of Ian Britton,


CrazyCath said...

Fascinating insight and thank you for sharing. But it does not change the fact that you are a wise and incredibly perceptive man who is not afraid to share his thoughts and love and also has the gift to do it politely, caringly, with genuine concern. It reaches out. Don't diminish your natural abilities. I am not putting you on a pedestal (people fall off them) and I am not obsessed or crazy (well not always). I just acknowledge a true gift when I see it. My hubby agrees as he sees the benefits. Thanks again.

Classic Charm said...

How much more meaningful your life must be to be able to acknowledge these "gestures" or lack thereof in life. I am inspired by you...and can only hope I give myself the time needed to hear my own "inner voice" that I probably tend to surpress or ignore much more than it deserves...

John-Michael said...

Thank you, Cath. (I do like hearing you speak of your "hubby" ... sounds so nice!)

John-Michael said...

Bless you, Rose! To encourage your willingness to "(give myself the time needed to hear my own "inner voice")", is why I wrote that piece.

CrazyCath said...

Hubby I guess is an English? or maybe local shortening of husband. I know you worked that out, but thought for some reason I'd tell you anyway! On a bit of a mad one. Sleep deprivation.....

John-Michael said...

"Hubby" probably strikes a warm note because my Mom (or Mum [should you prefer] {smile}) called Dad that on occasion.

(please forgive a caring nag here ... but PLEASE take care to get better sleep ... SO important)

Vi said...

Oh John, how fantastic you reached out and made that gentleman smile, and feel the world was just that little bit better, as you've done for me today. (Once again, thankyou so much for the e-card, I adored it!)

John-Michael said...

I am pleased that you like the card. As you know, Vi, your happiness and peace have been on my heart.

'Cause I love you!

Amy Y said...

A book in progress? Now that is exciting! I will be proud to be able to say "I knew you when" :)

JeannieTheDreamer said...

Hello John-Michael, just connecting with you! Saw you at 'Days Missed on a Hammock.' I think you're a great guy! Hmmm.... nice to see a father figure in blogland :)


John-Michael said...

It has been "set aside" for a bit. Motivation has gone in other directions. But later ...

John-Michael said...

Jeannie (mystery lady from 'zone 6'), You gave me a smile! And I thank you for that. (I do have the "father" thing down pat ... but the "figure" deal needs some work. [smile])

Cicero Sings said...

I read Ann Kiemel's book, years ago!!

I read a short story a few years ago about "Golden Moments" ... about having an eye to giving others a little blessing. In blessing, you yourself are blessed. You gave that fellow a golden moment!

John-Michael said...

Hi there "kiddo" [smile] ... how I do relish my daily visit to your "Cicero Sings." The sweetness of your spirit is a blessed respite for my soul. AND NOW you tell me that we share Ann Kiemel!! I KNEW that I liked you!

Ann made such a tremendous difference in my life that I followed an obscure reference in one of her books, phoned her sister (I think it was ... this was around 1976+/-), who phoned Ann, who told her that it would be OK to give me her # in Boston. I rang her up to tell her what a tremendous influence she had on me. We exchanged several calls after that and I have adored her since.

I am so thankful for you, Dear Lady, and your gentle and caring spirit. Thank you for being who you have elected to be.

lorenzothellama said...

Have you ever read any Anthony de Mello?
Love Lorenzo.

Melissa said...

Sometimes its hard to find your voice when those around you do evrything they can to keep you from speaking. I guess in the end I have no one to blame but myself.

tati said...

I would offer, even as I search for my own voice, that we do not FIND our voice with which to address and embrace the world, but that we ALLOW it. You ARE your voice, the journey would now consist of following the lit path from you to others, in each moment, as it seems you do.

John-Michael said...

No, Lorenzo, I have not ... but your question stirs interest ...

(and I am appreciative of your willingness to extend "Love" ... this is at my soul's core!)

lorenzothellama said...

Thank you john-michael for your reply and your lovely message on my posting about my father!

I love de Mello. He is an American but was brought up in India. He was a Jesuit and somehow combined his Catholicism with Eastern philosophy. At one time he was excomunicated, but I think before he died at the early age of fifty-something, he was taken back into the church.

His writing his witty and wise. I think his best book is called simply 'awareness'. Perhaps you could get information on Google.

Love Lorenzo.

lorenzothellama said...

Hello again! I've just found this quote from de Mello. It is supposed to be the last words he spoke:

Don't change: Desire to change is the enemy of love.
Don't change yourselves: Love yourselves as you are.
Don't change others: Love all others as they are.
Don't change the world: It is in God's hands and he knows.
And if you do that change will occur
Marvellously in its own way and in its own time
Yield to the current of life unencumbered by baggage.

Suldog said...

Leo Buscaglia! Haven't thought of him in quite some time, but I enjoyed him a lot. He was a wonderful gentle presence. My Dad enjoyed him first, and then he turned me on to his writings and TV appearances. Thanks for reminding me of him. I'll have to dig out some of his stuff to re-read.

kate said...

I enjoyed wandering through your blog ... filled with interesting bits that spoke to my soul. You were fortunate to have these well-defined moments of awakening in your life.

John-Michael said...

Dear Melissa ... You just reminded me of something that I helped my son (Matt [has CP]) come to grips with. Because his cerebral palsy makes him vulnerable (mental limitations) others were not responding to his progresses in mental processes. He was becoming more confident in his ability to think ... and others wanted him to ... well (I must say it) stay "retarded", so that they could control him and not have to slow down, and accommodate his laborious pace.

He was VERY frustrated! So, he and I rehearsed until he became comfortable with 2 phrases that you ... Melissa ... just might want to utilize in your world. (1) "Please respect me!" (2) "Please listen to me!"

His use of these 2 phrases INFURIATED the others in his world ... but gave him a sense of self-worth and confidence that served him well.

I hope that there is some useful insight there for you.

(and, Sweetheart, LOSE that nasty "blame" word [please]. it cripples your spirit and NEVER is of any productive use)

John-Michael said...

tati, My Dear One ... 'tis so true that You and you alone are the source of your "voice." But consider every singer who refines their "voice" with lessons in articulation, enunciation, pronunciation, dialect, projection, intonation (and I know that I am missing some elements of the refinement of one's voice.) These artists go through all of that work, years of study, and instruction from others that they might use their own, personal, individual "voice" ... to deliver their message in the very best way, for the greatest effect and most satisfactory result that they can put their uniquely individual voice to.

I never cease gleaning every refinement and improvement that I can discover ... to make more effective and beneficial my use of my voice. This is my responsibility to myself, and to all who I touch in my life-walk.

John-Michael said...

SulDog, My Dear Friend (my heart soars at the sight of your name!)

Yes, indeed! Leo Buscaglia provided some critical insights and lessons that have enabled me to enjoy interactions and exchanges with folks in my world daily.

(His work is still VERY big in Europe)

Sure love you, good Sir!

John-Michael said...

Hi Kate (please forgive my intrusion, but I simply love your hair! That is a lovely cut!)

You are right, I am blessed and grateful for what Life has given me in my intuition and awareness. Life is so ripe with wonders and opportunities that I am frequently thoroughly spent at day's end from my emotions celebrating all that is pulsing around me. It IS all good!

katydidnot said...

a more thoughtful man, i haven't know. that's sounded very yoda-like. very yoda-like it sounded.

you bring some peace.

John-Michael said...

Oh My Goodness... You absolutely Darling Katy you!!! How marvelous a thing to say to me! To "bring some peace" for even an instant, to anyone, anywhere! ... Wow, I do hope 'tis as you said.

Classic Charm said...

Hi John,
Just came back to THANK YOU for your kind words, I am humbled by your comment about my relationship with my boys. I ADORE them, and we have such a tight bond between us. They are an extension of my soul...and I'm glad it shows!

tati said...

I see your point. I guess I'm more in the stage of allowing my voice....

John-Michael said...

I wonder, tati, what influence had you "dis-allowing" your voice 'til now? This would not be a question for others to be a part of ... but something for your own consideration.

I admire your determination to do as the sage of old said and "Know thyself."

Jules~ said...

Bravo! My smile for you just about made me jump out of my sqweaky chair. That was certainly a noble and caring thing you did for that man. Even when you were tired and felt empty, your compassion for another spured you on with renewed strength and heart.
Noticing and aknowleging people right where they are at in their lives is always gratifying...for the giver as well as the receiver.

John-Michael said...

How oft, I had felt the pain of a loneliness and alien existence ... just as I was witness to him enduring? To not reach out to such a familiar unhappiness would have been unthinkable.

I rejoice in your recognition of the situation, Darling Jules. The discomforts and the satisfactions.

I love You.

Rob Hopcott said...

John-Michael, I was visiting a retail pottery and restaurant complex near Dartington in the UK West Country with my wife (who, unlike myself, likes shops of any kind).

There were street performers and a lot of creative works around and a surprisingly pleasant bohemian atmosphere.

As my wife flashed her credit card around, I just wandered and looked.

I came upon a woman who was kneeling down to comfort her two children. The two children were leaning in on her and her arms were around them.

It was a perfect picture of maternal love, incredibly warm and wholesome.

I stopped, looked again and struggled with conflicting emotions.

I wanted to reach out to her - even wrap her in my arms - and join in her intimate world.

People all around were just getting on with their shopping quest.

Why should I interfere or intrude.

So much of our societies conditioning said to me to walk on like the rest of the crowds all around.

I stopped about four feet away from her and gave her my most relaxed smile.

"That's a lovely picture," I said, "You've made my day."

She smiled back in absolute understanding that I had shared her magic moment without intruding.

I walked on feeling my day had suddenly become special.

For days afterwards, I wondered about her life and that of her children, hoping they were safe and happy.

John-Michael said...

That you allowed your Spirit to wed itself with hers, even for that fleeting moment, enriched your Being, and hers as well. You permitted Life's gift in your choice.

I am so complimented and pleased that you shared that happening with me, Rob. My sincere "Thanks!" to you.

tati said...

You asked what might have 'dis-allowed' my inner voice for so long. And I respect that you weren't asking, but if I may, I will answer here. I enjoy our conversations.
I don't think anyone else acted as oppressor on me as much as I have made choices to keep my sensitive self quiet, in order to be more 'normal'. as you are witnessing, that is coming to an end.

I love your daughter's entry on Persha- reminded me of my connection with my Dad. He was always my tether to this world, as he understood me like no one else. No one else knew the experience of living so fully in the spiritual world and sometimes only touching down in the physical. Thank you for sharing that. You and she are both blessed, as you know.

John-Michael said...

tati ... I love you! (because my spirit 'rises' in response to your spirit-revealed.) I am truly grateful for your choice to converse with me.

Because I know that she would welcome it, I'll tell you something more about my daughter. On her 40th birthday, this year, I offered her, as my gift, my legally adopting her. For, you see, when she and I met, some years ago, I heard a longing in her.

Her father abandoned her and her mother when she was born. She tried to make a connection, some sort of bond, over the years. But he had a new family in another state and could not bring himself to make whatever choices might have been necessary to accept her reaching out. And I heard this echoing pain in her from the time we met.

So I said "You long for a Dad. I can never be your father ... but I have room in my heart for a daughter who wants a Dad, and that relationship. For, "Dad" is about a living, dynamic, and intimate relationship ... nothing to do with genetics." And she accepted. And I have been her Dad since. And I am crying tears of gratitude as I type these words now. For I do cherish and adore her.

Thank you, dear Tati, for opening this opportunity for me to share this with you.

CrazyCath said...

Well, blogland is bugging me again and refused to post my comment!

Gotta be a reason I guess. Just wanted to thank you for all your responses and let you know that they are all read and digested.

Your daughter is one lucky girl and you can consider yourself to have another "virtual" or surrogate daughter, if I am permitted. Especially since my daddy is still very much around and "there" for me. Ge expresses himself in art. I in words, although not as eloquently as you! I'll practice. Art is art, and I reckon dad gave me my arty slant but I inherited my mum's love of words. I am grateful for you sharing.

stephanie said...

I adore that you took the time to write that gentleman a note, and that it clearly brightened his day. Poor girl; I hope she found a way to lighten up (and I can say this, having worked as a "Kow Girl" for 2 1/2 years...One can have a fast food job and still be pleasant & kind).

Thank you for sharing this! I'm really hoping I can help my students on their journey to finding a voice...

John-Michael said...

I can assure you, Stephanie, that (from what is revealed in your posts) what you are making available to your students is going to become some of the better parts of their emerging Selves. You remind me (A LOT) of Tony Jonaitis, my High School American History teacher. When I remind Tony (how about that ... I am so old now that we are on 1st name basis ... COOL!)(and he and his wife live 5 minutes from me) of some of the things that he said back then (under the guise of "teaching history") he laughs and often says "Yep that sounds like something that I would have tried to get away with saying (for much of it was WAY, WAY outside of the "curriculum outlines".) But what he said shaped me in significant ways.

Most powerful of Tony's statements: "If for the short while that you are on this earth, it is not a better place for your having been here ... you will have wasted your time!" (This was interjected in illustrations of the impacts made by historical figures ... clever, No?) Tony was quite pleased with himself when I reminded his of that one. "I said that? Not bad!" was his grinning reply.

You can, no doubt, see the lingering effects of that charge in what I write and comment on today. (Or so I hope.) Those words of Tony's are deeply etched into the core of who I decided to be. Even at that young age. So, Precious Stephanie ... what you do, and what you offer in yourself, is priceless beyond measure. And you have my respect and admiration.

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