Finding Your Voice

So…because I don’t have enough on my plate these days, I decided to take in a neglected puppy. This is officially a foster situation, but with the already abundant (healthy) puppy population waiting to be adopted on this rock, I suspect it’s more permanent than foster. (But shhhhh! Island Boy has not yet come to this realization, so let’s keep this fact from him for awhile longer. He still has dreams of us being a one-dog, already housetrained, not chewing up flip-flops, sort of family. Let him keep living the dream. For a little while.)

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“Hi, I’m Bula!” Her motto? “Keep smiling. Even when life gives you lemons.” We can learn a lot from dogs.

And, despite her obvious physical challenges and difficult start to life, the new pup is sweet. And quiet. She arrived yesterday and didn’t really make a peep, other than some nervous whining. Which is to be expected. I mean, seriously, for a tiny little pup who may be all of four months old, she’s been through a lot. I shudder to think about the things her baby self has experienced living rough on the streets. Or with a previous owner who obviously just didn’t give a shit.šŸ˜”

But this morning, after devouring her breakfast (she eats like a sumo wrestler preparing for a bout in the ring…can you blame her?), she finally let out a single bark. I assume she was encouraged by my yammering dope of a one year old dog. Who barks at everything. Cars driving by. Leaves blowing in the garden. A fly buzzing somewhere on a neighboring island. You get the idea.

So when he took off down the driveway (don’t worry, we have a gate) for his morning salute to the people driving past our house en route to their morning destinations, she popped her head around the corner and let out what can best be described as a cough followed by a tiny, adorable “woof.” I almost cried. Because that singular bark signals to me that she is on the road towards reclaiming the type of life that all puppies should enjoy. You know, a normal one. With food. And love. And toys. And cuddles.

Now of course, she is passed out by my feet in her newly adopted spot on the rug in my office. It’s hard work becoming a healthy puppy.

But it got me thinking about what it takes to find one’s voice in this world. I mean, you have what you think is a voice. It is shaped by what is happening around you, I guess. You exist on a day-to-day basis, you follow a routine, you pay the bills. You have occasional victories. You shrug off failures. And, if you’re anything like me, you don’t spend a whole lot of time wondering if the voice you show the world really reflects your soul and spirit.

But listening to a little puppy experiment with a joyful bark (before the first cup of coffee was even brewed), made me wonder (when I finally sat down to enjoy that first cuppa joe)… Is the voice I’m using really one that represents the authentic me? Or is it merely one that reflects me taking the path of least resistance to existing? Am I choosing to live life by barking out loud (so to speak)? Or quietly whimpering in the corner?

I just returned from an amazing, dare I say life changing, writing retreat. Ten women writers, all of whom live on different rocks, most unknown to each other until the trip, living together and spending 24/7 together in a rented villa in Puerto Rico. What could go wrong, right?

I must admit more than a little trepidation after accepting the invitation to join. I’ve always been a solo kind of person. Introverted. Doing my own thing. I don’t know any other writers. I work alone. Plus, I’m not really a girls’ weekend type of chick. I just have never had the sort of friends who plan that sort of thing. (We should, because it’s hella fun. Why did it take half my life expectancy to figure this out!?) Also, I don’t really do make-up or hair anymore (you can read about that dilemma here). So how would I fit in with pretty, polished and younger (all younger, always younger…*sigh*) women? Plus (yes there’s more angst), I’ve never shared an apartment with anyone other than a boyfriend or spouse. Hell, I never even had a roommate in college. So the idea of sharing a room with a total stranger – even if just for a weekend – was a little intimidating.

So many fears, so little time.Ā As it turns out, all my concerns and phobias were unfounded.

I said yes to the trip. And I’m glad I did. As it turns out, opening yourself up to absorb the energy of other women (especially those who write, professionally or as a creative outlet) is a pretty good way to recharge one’s batteries and refocus one’s own writing direction. In fact, much to my surprise,Ā it is incredibly enriching and inspiring to spend time with other women who do what I do – live on a rock and write. (And I really liked my roommate…she was fun and easy to co-exist with. Not at all a weird experience, like I first feared.)

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Island girls get fancy…and go clubbing…in heels. I’ve never appreciated flip flops so much. In my life.

Yes, of courseĀ there were more shenanigans than writing over the weekend (hello, tequila, my new BFF…plus fire, there was FIRE!!!), but we did get down to business each day. Shared our personal experiences. Asked for help with the thorny issues challenging us. Got to see that writing on a rock (or anywhere, really) might be a solo endeavor, but sharing the challenges and wins with others who understand our pains and joys is an excellent way to grow.

And now I’m back on my own rock with a newfound energy and passion for doing what is important to me – writing. Whether it is for paying clients or my personal edification. And I have this incredible group of women to thank. Women who started out as absolute strangers to me, but became (hopefully) lifelong friends. And if our group WhatsApp chat thread is an indication, I’ll be reconnecting with them in person sooner rather than later. This is a good thing. A. Very. Good. Thing.

And, as these women who entered my life at just the right time (and this little puppy who joined our family fray in the most unexpected way) showed me, it’s never too late to find your voice. You just have to open yourself up to the possibilities. And never be afraid to try something new.

*****

A huge thanks to some of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met (and who know how to do shenanigans like no other group of women. Period.):

Chrissann Nickel (the organizer of this life-changing event); Women Who Live On Rocks
Jennifer Legra, Dominican Republic: Drinking the Whole Bottle
Riselle Celestina, St. Maarten: The Traveling Island Girl
Mariah Moyle, The Bahamas: Out Island Life
Brittany Meyers, Tortola, BVI: Windtraveler
Claudia Hanna, Cyprus: Live Like a Goddess
Lizzy Yana, St. Thomas, VI: Island Lizzy
Jennifer Morrow, Puerto Rico: Jen There Done That
Sherri DeWolf, Key West: Deeply Creative; Island Jane

*****

And if you’d like to read more about our spontaneous creativity & shenanigans in and around the streets of Old San Juan, check out these other summaries of the weekend (so far):

Just Do It: Saying “Yes” and Breaking Out of the Comfort ZoneWindtraveler (Brittany Meyers)

A Peek Into Our 1st Island Writers’ RetreatWomen Who Live On Rocks (Chrissann Nickel)

Finding Your TribeLive Like A Goddess (Claudia Hanna)

How To Really Make Women HappyIsland Lizzy (Lizzy Yana)

The Sisterhood of Island WomenOut Island Life (Mariah Moyle)

Three Ingredients For a Successful Girls’ Getaway in San Juan – The Traveling Island Girl (Riselle Celestina)

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