Speaking my truth feels foreign to me. Through my sessions with Fr. Charlie I've recognized my need to learn how. I'm used to trying to speak my truth and then feeling the need to defend it or tell the other person how skewed their perspective is for not matching my own. Giving voice to the truth within me is something different than that. It's telling my story without needing affirmation from anyone else. It's telling it for my sake alone. There's no emotional punch to it. There's no trying to make a point in order to change someone's mind. It's just saying what is.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? To date I have done it once in my life. Once. And I hang onto that once knowing what it felt like within me. It gives me hope that once will turn to twice and with every time I add to that, I will become a little more comfortable being me.
Today is my oldest brother's birthday. We're not good with birthdays in my family. As a child they were a big deal. The one day of the year I could count on that my mom would not fly into a rage. We got to pick out the colour of the cake and icing and presents were usually something we wanted. After I left home that all changed. I can count on 2 hands the number of cards I've received from my family in the last 25 years.
Quite a few years ago I started making a point of sending my siblings cards on their birthdays. My sisters and I talk during the year but there is no communication with my two brothers. Finding a card to send to a brother who you only speak to on his birthday is a challenge.
The brother whose birthday it is today has a sister-in-law who has the same birthday as me. I was friends with her as a teenager and we were delighted to find out we were born in the same year, same day. I've often puzzled over why my brother would not remember to call me on my birthday. His sister and his wife's sister were both celebrating. Surely he would remember? Nope.
That changed this past year when my brother phoned me on my birthday. I have no idea what prompted that call. I wasn't turning any big number (well a big number to some people but it didn't end in a zero!) I wasn't home when he called so he left a message on voice mail wishing me a happy birthday. Hearing his voice on the phone touched something deep inside me and the tears just spilled over. It had been close to 30 years since he had recognized my special day.
Before I went home for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary last summer, I told Fr. Charlie that I was going to tell my brother just how much that phone call meant to me. How his silence all these years made me think I didn't matter to him and how his phone call gave me hope that maybe I did after all. It was going to be a moment of speaking my truth for no other reason than I needed to speak it. For me.
As I arrived to help get food ready for the anniversary party my brother was the only person in sight. I just about chickend out but I took a deep breath and told him how much his call had meant to me. How it had given me hope that maybe I mattered to him. In my family speaking so plainly about matters of the heart is a rare thing and I think my doing so caught my brother off guard. He simply said, "oh" and then our conversation moved onto other things. I wasn't looking for a response. I just needed to tell him what his call had meant to me. It was speaking my truth without any expectation on my part. I needed to tell him for my sake, not his. There was this deep contentment inside me afterwards for having done so. It is a contentment that I still can touch, one that gives me hope there is more contentment to come.
I don't know what went on in my brother's head as a result of that conversation but he made a point of finding me the evening before we left for home to see what time we would be heading out in the morning. He was staying 5 miles away at our cousin's home but he got up and made sure he was there in time to see us off. As we left my parents' yard I glanced in our rear view mirror to see every member of my family who was still in the neighbourhood, waving goodbye. I have never felt like I mattered so much as I did right then.
So tonight I will phone my brother and wish him a happy birthday. Maybe he will be out celebrating and I will leave a message on his voice mail, letting him know that he matters. I don't know if my call or my card make any difference to him but he is my brother and he does matter. And afterwards I'll be able to change my once into twice. With the grace of God I hope the number eventually gets so high that I lose count one day.