I gave voice recognition technology a shot recently via voicemail-to-text on my phone. In a word, it was comical. Rarely was the voice message transcribed accurately. It was particularly awful with my mother. Hers is a pleasing, mid-toned feminine voice thick with Southern drawl and dialect, such as “y’all” and “fixin’ to”. I don’t know what the problem was, but her messages were mashed into incomprehensible babble. The technology seemed not to know what to do with Mom’s voice, or language even. Sadly, this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened with a woman’s vocal expression.
When I went on emergency sabbatical in February 2010, the official diagnosis of my emotional state was depression, anxiety and burn out. While each is a descriptive term with layers of meaning, none do justice to my experience. My body, mind and soul felt like a pressure cooker on the verge of blowing its top. Sure, there was pain caused by circumstances and relationships at church, but there was more. My hurt was older and deeper. This I knew but couldn’t specifically name.
I could sense somatically the presence of another person. It was quite unlike my typical sense of God. Not only did this person exist, she had existed for a long time. I would later come to know that she had been with me since the beginning of my life, as a matter of fact because she was Me, the True Me whom God created purposefully.
True Me was sad and exhausted. Actually, she was beyond tired — tired of being stuffed, ignored and barred from expressing herself and simply living. She wasn’t angry. That wasn’t the reason for my about-to-explode feeling. Rather, the resolve of the person I’d been living as was breaking down, and the clash of the Titans that was going on within me was what was killing me and manifesting in depression. The Me I’d been living as was wearing down, but she was fighting like a tiger to survive because her way of living was all I’d ever known. True Me that God created wasn’t fighting (that’s not in her nature), but she was peacefully resisting and standing her ground, her rightful territory of my soul.
Truth be told, I wasn’t able to grasp and speak coherently about the psychological process occurring within me, but I’d had an intuition about True Me’s existence for most of my life. I have early memories (like age 5 or 6) of feeling separated from myself and struggling to define and vocalize my emotions. I coined a phrase, that I “wasn’t feeling like myself.” I never knew when this feeling would come over me, and at that time I was unaware that people and circumstances could and did trigger emotional reactions. But I did know what it felt like, and when this feeling arose I would tell those around me. “Hang on,” I’d say, holding up my hand, “I’m not feeling like myself right now.” I would wait for it to pass and then rejoin the conversation and/or activity. Even at that tender age, I could sense my parents’ confusion, tension and disapproval. “Why do you do that?” I recall my father asking one time. His frustration was quite evident.
The thing is, I might have known about the existence of True Me. I may have been able to feel her presence, but I couldn’t hear her. Moreover, if True Me had spoken throughout my life prior to February 2010, I wouldn’t have known. Unconsciously I had silenced her. This was because (somehow) innately, I knew what she would say and I couldn’t stomach it. The guilt and shame were just too much. True Me would say crazy things like I was meant to live a fuller life than the one to which I’d become accustomed (read: allowed myself). She would encourage me to break free, move beyond my fear and live into my destiny. Totally nuts.
Sue Monk Kidd in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter speaks to my sabbatical-entering position pointedly.
Although outwardly appearing stable and satisfied, inwardly [women] may feel silenced, afraid, stuck, self-doubtful, unable to carry through with things, angry but unable to express it directly. We may grow perfectionistic and driven, but strangely at the same time we may feel powerless, without boundaries, overwhelmed with the roles we are expected to carry out. Moreover, we may harbor fears of being left alone, of risking ourselves, of conflict. (22)*
The fact that I was able to acknowledge the presence of True Me was, unbeknownst to me, a breakthrough in emotional health and maturity. Said breakthrough, I now know, occurred through no effort of my own. It was the Lord’s doing. Apparently, my Creator had deemed it high time that I finally meet True Me, ungag her and discharge the Me I’d been living as from service. The Me I’d known’s life skills were sadly remedial and entirely inappropriate for the life that God had planned for True Me to live. True Me’s time had come, whether or not familiar Me was ready.
The first time ever I heard my own voice it felt like homecoming, a very long-overdue welcoming to where I’ve always belonged. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on voice recognition technology, I thought. I, too, am still working out the bugs.
*Kidd, Sue Monk. 1996. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.