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Finding My Voice

April 3, 2013

Today, I’d like to share a guest post written by Joan, one of the strongest women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I hope you enjoy her post and can identify with what she’s overcome the past few years after she suddenly became single following a more than 40 year marriage.

Quick shameless plug: Do you have a story to tell? Advice to offer? Did you just have literally the worst date of your life and you must write about it? I’d love to have you as the next Simply Solo Spotlight! Find out how you can be the next writer for Simply Solo here!

Simply Solo Spotlight: Finding My Voice

I remember, maybe, vaguely, faintly, having a voice at one time in my life. It may have been when I was born and learned to cry, which is one’s first means of vocal communication. Somewhere along life’s path, I lost my voice. I allowed it to be taken from me and I freely gave it up without realizing or thinking about it. I’m not sure exactly where and when that happened but, if I trace it back, I am sure it was in my early, formative years. Isn’t that the acceptable answer? Blame things on others and early childhood experiences, in other words, our parents, siblings, society, and upbringing.

Joan says her experience has been like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. Photo courtesy of Greg Foster

Joan says her experience has been like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. Photo courtesy of Greg Foster

Well my friends, let me tell you, I found and reclaimed my voice. Yes, after being separated for more than 60 years, I found it and treasure it more because something so precious that was lost for so long is now back with its rightful owner – ME. Trust me when I say if any attempt is ever made to remove or wrestle it from me, there will be so much wrath leveled upon the offender they will never regroup. My promise to myself as my own best friend and to my voice is I will never let life, circumstances, or anyone rob me of my voice again. I now have a voice to say what I want, need, and expect. Additionally, life experiences have given me the abilities to think independently, stand on my own two feet, and clearly articulate my wants, needs, desires, and dreams.

After all is said and done, I am sure the events of the past two and a half years played a major part in finding and reclaiming my voice. Curious minds may want to know what happened during this time. Well, you don’t need to read the Enquirer, as you won’t find it there. Also, you don’t need to listen to gossip, as we all know how gossip chains work. How much credibility do they have? Less than none in my book, which I could put in analytic terms such as R-Value, Confidence Interval, etc., but I won’t bore you with those. Gossip chains thrive on DRAMA, which is always more intriguing than just the plain Jane facts, ma’am.

What are the plain Jane facts, ma’am? Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF as we like to call it) is that after 43.5 years of marriage; 48-49 of relationship; surviving the trials and tribulations of military life in support of (ISO) my soldier husband’s military career; raising a tight-knit, loving family and the two most absolutely marvelous children a mother could ever wish for let alone have; losing our first Grandson under devastating circumstances; arrival of precious Grandchildren; medical issues ranging from the routine and minor to the not so minor such as a mini-stroke suffered by my loving husband; and finally setting a target date to step into retirement, I found myself no longer the cherished and loved wife and person I’d always believed I was. Yes, it rocked my world and a lot of others’ that are near and dear to me.

However, life goes on, we put one foot in front of the other; endure the mourning process for the loss of the old life and everything we built together, the plans, hopes and dreams of retirement, and begin a new chapter in life on a fresh page, creating new memories while cherishing fond memories of days gone by.

I learned a lot through life experiences and the breakup of a long-term relationship with the only man I ever truly loved other than my father. What happened? Who knows (do you see my shoulder shrug and eye roll here?). To begin my journey transitioning from what I thought, for the most part, was a happy marriage, I had to determine what was in my hands and sphere of influence to control. Knowing that I cannot make someone love me, how do I accept the rejection (as I saw it then) and step out on my own?

Please keep in mind my comment on “as I saw it then” because it is not how I see it now, two and a half years later, much wiser and stronger. I was brought up that in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, is how life and marriage is. Divorce was a big red-letter word and instant ostracization (black-balling) from the entire community and world. The big scarlet letter “D” was stamped on a woman’s forehead for the entire world to see.

Luckily for me, that is no longer the case and divorce is more the rule than how I was raised believing that you make the best of everything. In other words, if life isn’t to your liking, well then, live in a self-created dream world. Is that what I did? Again, who knows? I just know that a lifetime of love, happiness, relationships, hopes, and dreams were destroyed and thrown away like trash in a matter of seconds with no recognizable forewarning. Talk about sudden death….WHEW!!.

Well, getting back to the original topic of my voice, again, I am not sure of the exact time or circumstances under which I discovered it missing and reclaimed it, but I know it was somewhere in the last two years. Where was my voice all those years? It must have been hiding somewhere within my mind, body, soul, or maybe someone had it in safe-keeping for me when I eventually realized that I lost it, needed it and now was equipped to use it. Maybe it was my sister, my Mom, my Dad, or some other loved one who departed this life. However it returned, I thank my lucky stars, the planets, constellations, and any other entity(ies) that played a hand in its return. You know, maybe it was Aunt Jo, who I loved dearly and always looked out for me too. As a child, I remember wishing with all my heart that I could go live with her. I rest assured in the belief that we will all be reunited, just as I was with my voice.

Having my voice back allows me to stand on my own two feet and, in my newfound clear voice, state what I:

  • Want: to be treated with respect, honesty, and dignity in all actions and communications; to be loved and respected for who I am, not who someone thinks I “should be.”
  • Expect: to have my voice heard; what I say listened to and respected, even if you disagree; to afford the same courtesy and respect to those whose voice I hear.
  • Need: to ensure my wants and expectations are met; be my own best friend.

I also found my voice can quite clearly articulate that if one cannot interact with me respectfully, honestly, and cherish our friendship; they are not worthy of my friendship or time. I hear my voice as it tells those who don’t treat me kindly, in a loving manner, to MOVE ON OUT of MY life. Yes, because it is—it is MY life!

Is Divorce and the choices people make good or bad? I’ll leave that to the sociologists and behavioral scientists to debate. In the meantime, I can say unequivocally that it was the right path for me as I emerge a new person, free to experience life, make my own choices, take care of myself, and not worry about taking care of, picking up after, cooking for, doing laundry for… anyone but me. Yes, it is a little bit selfish…but is that bad? Ask the professionals that one too…I’m too busy enjoying life and looking forward to my next adventure to worry about it. Some will say that is really being hedonistic…but again, I punt that to the pros and everyone else to worry about. See you all on the happy side….:-)

Oh dear! What? Did I hear someone say something about hogwash and sour grapes? Whoa! Rest assured the “hogs” are either out of my life or well on their way. Don’t waste your time or money, as I don’t need anything to wash them with. As for “Sour Grapes,” heck, I turned them into a mighty fine beverage of choice a long time ago that I now share with special people in my life – those who truly love me, like me for who I am, and respect my voice as well as the person I’ve become. Life is good and getting better for my voice and me, just like the finest wine.

Copyright 2013. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2013 8:41 am

    Wow….feels a little bit like my journey to singledom. Its amazing once you found your voice how easy it becomes to use it. Well written and well done. Onwards and forwards ;-)

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 10:21 pm

      Hi Princess. Thanks for your comments and post. I think too many of us lose ourselves in our relationships and life, taking care of everyone else and trying to please everyone. Then, all of a sudden its “Who am I?” It’s an interesting journey discover this marvelous creature I’ve become and how many people truly love and cherish me and my friendship. joan

  2. Fran permalink
    April 3, 2013 11:05 am

    I loved your article and it was very encouraging to me, since I am trying to find my own voice. Lost my loving husband 5 years ago and have been in a rocky relationship with a man for 3 years, but he is not willing to commit. A lot more to it, but just wanted to say I like the article.

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 10:17 pm

      Thanks for your post and comments Fran. I am so sorry for your loss. My therapist advised me not to enter into another relationship for one year for every five I was in a committed relationship. I’m not sure even that would be enough time. I’ve found I don’t “need” a man in my life to make me feel complete. I actually never “needed” my former spouse but I “wanted” him in my life and loved him dearly. I would rather be wanted and loved instead of just needed to provide for someone, take care of them, and be totally responsible for them. I understand people wanting to be needed, but total dependency doesn’t allow the winds and breezes to circle between and through 2 people in a relationship, embracing their differences with love and respect, and working toward common goals.

      If your new man isn’t ready to commit, maybe it isn’t the next big relationship in your life but a transitional one, especially if it is rocky. Is it who you “want” in your life, who loves and respects you for who you are? I truly hope so but I sense some doubt.

      Take care of yourself and be “your own best friend” so you CAN devote yourself wholly to someone if that is what you choose.
      Joan

  3. April 3, 2013 11:32 am

    Congratulations, Joan! What a terrific and inspiring story. I can relate to your transformation and the effects it has on everyone else in your life. I divorced several years ago and wore the scarlett letter ‘D’ for a while. Once I re-established myself I found I had to divorce my birth family. My father had been silencing me for too long. His disapproval and expectations of me became abusive and as you say, if people can’t accept you with unconditional love then what place do they have in your life? Thanks for sharing your story as it is so unique for women of your generation. You have risen above the difficulties and found your voice. How beautiful!

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 10:05 pm

      Thanks Lisa. Its funny because I divorced my disfunctional birth family when I left home and married at 18. I think they disowned me but who knows….:-) Things got better through the years, my parents passed away too soon, and I think maybe I should have listened when they warned me that he wasn’t the person I thought he was or worthy. But, then, I wouldn’t have what I have in the children and grandchildren I love and cherish so dearly. The path not taken….what would have been? Who knows.

      Anyway, life is good and getting better. I am happy and VERY comfortable in my new life with freedom I never had. One of the darkest days of my life actually was a blessing in disguise.

      Joan

  4. Natasha permalink
    April 4, 2013 3:26 pm

    I love that you have found your voice! :)

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 9:58 pm

      Me too Tasha. Thanks, Joan

  5. Mille permalink
    April 5, 2013 7:46 pm

    From that cold day in October many tears have fallen, many hugs shared.. They have now transformed into tears from joyous laughter. And hugs of lifelong friendship. I am so proud of you and proud to call you friend. Love you …

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 9:57 pm

      Millie, Thanks so much for standing by me, picking me up when I was at one of the worst points in my life, and helping me to see my value as I became whole again. You are a true friend, non-judgmental, and a trusted confidant. I love you…..Joan

  6. April 6, 2013 3:26 pm

    Wow, what a shocker to have a marriage end after so long. But glad to see you are on your 2 feet.

    On reclaiming one’s voice: May your next journey in life be wonderfully fulfilling in new ways with new friends along the way. Did your friendships in change?

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 9, 2013 9:55 pm

      Jean, Yes. Unequivocally. People who I thought were friends showed their “true” colors. Lifetime relationships with people I loved as brother and sister turned their backs on me. I was the “bad” one. Little do they know……My heart was broken in so many ways when I discovered I’d actually lived a lifetime of lies in a fantasy world that never existed. However, I have my children, grandchildren, family, and true friends who stood by me–not judging who was right or wrong as we all know there is no right or wrong, black or white, in relationships.

      Sometimes, what seems to be our darkest hours and days let the true light of love and happiness shine through, nourishing cherished moments in a new life….the butterfly….flying solo….

      Thanks so much for your post.

      Joan

      • April 14, 2013 9:50 am

        Kind of ridiculous when you think about that a friend would define you in terms of your ex-hubby, but not just yourself.

        • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
          April 26, 2013 9:57 pm

          It sure is Jean. Especially family and close friends who no longer speak to me. After 50 years….all I can say is I was a blind fool in so many ways. Older and smarter now, enjoying true freedom for the first time in my life.

  7. April 10, 2013 6:01 pm

    It can take some time to find your voice, and you might wander the wilderness for a while, but when you find it, look out world! I’m going to SING!

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 26, 2013 9:58 pm

      Already there I really suck at Karaoke! :-)

  8. April 11, 2013 12:36 pm

    Joan, you truly are an inspiration and a testament to believing in and loving your own self first and foremost. I’m sorry you had to go through the pain of it all, but so glad you’ve come out the other side to deserving happiness. Thank you for your great story and giving hope to those that surely are going through the disorientation of the end of their own long marriages. Bravo to you!!!!

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 26, 2013 10:04 pm

      Thanks for your words and understanding. Its always reassuring to know I’m not alone and may be able to help someone along the way. My Aunt always told me that we go through things for reasons, which may be to help someone else. I’ve found that to be so true.

  9. drsalmanjaved permalink
    April 22, 2013 7:47 pm

    Words joined together make a sentence…A sentence eventually gives shape to a paragraph…Words in the hand and mind of a writer is a gift,..i truly was mesmerized by your article,Simply outstanding work..Keep it up

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 26, 2013 10:10 pm

      You must be a gifted writer as your words struck me straight through my heart. So incredibly thoughtfully expressed. Thank you so much.

  10. April 22, 2013 7:58 pm

    It was wonderful to read your story Joan. To hear you found your voice gives rise to the passion in us all to speak and be what we were meant to be. Blessings, Maggie

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      April 26, 2013 10:12 pm

      Thanks Maggie. It is taking me a while but I am discovering how wonderful it is to have a voice. I am also enjoying my freedom, which I never had in my life. I cannot believe I gave up something so precious for so long.

      • April 28, 2013 11:59 pm

        I’m with you… the road to freedom is often a long one but WOW when we find it, it is breath taking!. Perhaps we give it up in order to really appreciate and revel in it later on. :)

  11. May 20, 2013 11:09 am

    I loved your article! Sounds like you are in a great place right now, even if it took a while getting there. Personally, I don’t think looking after yourself is at all selfish.

    • joanbeem@yahoo.com permalink
      June 13, 2013 6:02 pm

      Thanks Val. For the life of me, I can’t explain why I every thought was selfish to look out for and take care of myself. I guess I’ll go back to blaming it on my generation’s expectation of a wife and mother……back to basics and childhood so it can be everyone else’s fault and not my choice. I sure have learned a lot and am truly enjoying life, looking forward to retirement.

  12. May 31, 2013 3:01 pm

    A wonderful and inspiring article. Thank you! This was a reminder that painful things can be liberating in the end. Sometimes we just don’t know if something that’s happening is good or bad until much later.

  13. June 13, 2013 9:44 pm

    Just reading this for the first time. It is good to hear the confidence in the “voice” that I always knew was there. You are a strong woman and will always prevail. You are in my thoughts and wish that you were closer. I miss our chats and laughs but know that you will forever be in my heart and that you Joanie Bologna, are loved.

  14. July 27, 2013 7:54 pm

    On one of the darkest times of my life I read your post. It is exactly how I feel like, all of my life I felt I lost something a very long time ago, and when I read your post I realized, finally, what I lost. he freedom to speak up, the expectation to be heard. My voice, my being. And hell, no, I never wanted to part, but it was just to dangerous to use it. Thanks so much, your post helps me a lot in realizing my loss, so I can reclaim it, one step at a time.

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