Saturday, July 20, 2013

Speaking Because I Can

Cassidy (right) and her friend, Kaytie, who wrote and directed the musical

"I speak because I can...."
"It's hard to accept yourself as someone you don't want to be...."
"Let it be known I was who I am...."                               
These are lyrics from songs composed by young British folk singer, Laura Marling, that struck a chord (pardon the pun) with me.  Her music was recently featured in a musical written and directed  by a close friend of my granddaughter, Cassidy, who had a part in the play. While I was blown away as usual by Cassidy's performance--she has a way of lighting up a stage--I was also unexpectedly moved by this unique production, entitled "I Speak Because I Can," highlighting the difficult life lessons precipitated by the societal, racial and gender discrimination that was so prevalent in the 50's.

While the younger people in the audience were being exposed to the realities of that era through a theater venue, my reaction was more pronounced and emotional because I had actually lived some of those realities as a teenager in the 50's.

"I speak because I can...."  The play touched on the unrest that simmered in the 50's in the U.S. and ultimately erupted into a struggle for social and cultural equality for women.  "The Women's Movement" grew out of that conflict.  There had already been a first wave of protest beginning in the early 1900's.  Eventually 12  governmental resolutions were set forth calling for equal treatment of men and women, including voting rights for women. The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote.  Doesn't seem like that long ago, does it? Women were finally finding their voices and speaking out because they could. I feel I should mention it is not my purpose here to pass judgment pro or con on the Women's Movement. I mention it only as a backdrop on my own life experience.

"It's hard to accept yourself as someone you don't want to be...."  Most women in the 50's and 60's (myself included) had their life roles narrowly defined for them: i.e. find a husband and be a "housewife" and mother. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room.  Socially acceptable jobs outside the home existed but were few, filled mainly by single women and weren't a "good fit" for many. Without much of a say in the situation and lack of options to pursue one's dreams, a woman could easily become someone she didn't want to be. And, in the end, not really know who she was meant to be.

As a consequence, my expectations for myself in my earlier years were rather low. But in 2013 it is vastly different as opportunities to spread one's wings abound.  As doors opened for me later in life and I began to discover other things I love to do, I found writing truly satisfying.  I love words.  I love crystallizing my thoughts. I love editing. At first I wondered who would want to read what I wrote?  And later on I began to wonder why no one wants to read what I write.... And when it dawned on me I wasn't famous, and got over it, I concluded having a big readership may be nice but it's not the point.  I embraced my yearning of expression through writing and began to self-publish on a couple of blogs.  Today, I write to my heart's content.  I found my "voice" and now "I speak because I can."

Speaking "because I can" implies it is now permissible to do so and therefore a privilege. Finding one's "voice" requires some personal responsibility. Everyone knows ill-spoken or ill-written words can do much harm. Obviously, it's better used to benefit yourself and edify others and the world around us. And, in spite of all my efforts otherwise, I quickly learned not everyone will like what I write but that's not the point either.

I feel safe using my voice because the incentive to do so came from the enlightening and encouraging gospel examples of Jesus' one-on-one interaction with people affected by discrimination and inequality. He lifted up widows, beggars, sinners, outcasts, foreigners, children, the handicapped, the mentally ill.  He gave them validation and a "voice," a more positive identity, so they could move forward in their lives

Catching up on missed opportunities in my "third act of life" helps me define more clearly who I am meant to be, in addition to wife, mother and (my favorite!) grandmother.  So some day, when it's all said and done, "Let it be known I was who I am...."


  1. impressive and poignantly moving
    - thank you for your insightful prose

    Over these many years, I have also cherished watching our kids grow up together in the theater as they discover life, develop as young adults, absorb history, and tell their stories.

    Take care,

    Tony Nielsen
    (Kaytie's Dad)

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. Kaytie is truly a brilliant playwright. To create such a meaningful and important story incorporating those lyrics and songs is amazing to say the least. Her talents have already touched the lives of so many. A pleasure to hear from you, Tony.