I excitedly combed through my hair and put on lipstick. I double (maybe triple) checked the location and tried to temper the nervous feeling in my stomach. I felt like my face was going to be sore the next day from smiling. Sorry to disappoint Mom, but I was not about to leave for a date, I was instead headed to the polls to cast my vote.
I love voting. I appreciate the feeling that my opinion counts. Voting makes me feel hopeful, important, and engaged. I love that our democratic system says to each citizen – your voice matters. Whether my candidate choices win or lose, it does not negate the powerful impact of having felt heard.
One of the most exasperating and frustrating feelings when going through divorce or co-parenting after is when you feel your voice is not heard or that it doesn’t matter. It can happen when your lawyer has to tell you that it is a no-fault state and the horrible way your spouse treated you is irrelevant or when you have a strong opinion about an activity for your child and your former spouse tells you that it is their time and they will make the decision without your input. It leaves you feeling helpless.
When the stakes are high, frustration is compounded when your voice is silenced. This frustration may lead to anger, vengeance, or resignation. It leads you away from your integrity and your authentic self. When we feel this pull, we need support in knowing how and when to use our voice.
Pick and Choose
If you did not have a mama telling your wickedly stubborn self your whole life to “pick and choose your battles,” then let me be the one to pass on this gem of wisdom. Left to my own devices I would insist that my voice be heard on all things – and I mean all. My mom’s mantra to me was “pick and choose.” She encouraged me to prioritize my positions. To give and take – but give more often than take. She reminded me over and over again that I did not need to be right about everything and some battles were just not worth fighting. As I continue to work on being intentional about when my voice needs to be heard, I find a great sense of peace and control when I am actively choosing when it is most important that my voice be heard.
Get it out
How many times have you authored an email that felt delightfully satisfying only to delete it upon completion? Or giggled with a girlfriend or guffawed with a guy pal as you complained about a situation? The act of using your voice in a practice run often makes us feel better. But in this practice, you are using a conversation colander and keeping only the important pieces. It helps us see what we really want to say or not say.
When we are mindful about our messages it magnifies the value of our voice. Our integrity, credibility, and authority are given more weight when we chose those best moments to be vocal and when we are able to prioritize. It will be then that your value is seen when you vote to use your voice.