The Wild Inside.

Photo by Brian Thompson

It can be tough to find our own voice and use it. How odd is that? It’s ours, isn’t it? Where did it go? But it’s true. We are born with a voice distinctly ours, signed, sealed, and delivered–and then somehow we lose it somewhere along the way, like a dropped sock or a coat tossed off in a moment of heat and exultation and later found crumpled in a bin of lost and found items, sometimes so tangled among all the other items that it’s difficult to even know which one is ours.

There is an inner creative tension that exists inside all of us. There is also a conditioning process that we adopt at some point, often in childhood, of tamping down the overtly declarative self that offends; of learning to occupy that space of tension between the real self and the socially absorbed self; the voice we quiet until one day it spills forth: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,” (Walt Whitman, 1855).

It is that moment of exposure and release that is quite often the one we are searching for our whole lives. The one where we scream at the top of our lungs and it feels amazing and everyone screams along with us.

And what of silencers? I think about that term in different ways these days–both as the silencer used to silence a gunshot and the people in our lives who (often unconsciously) work to undermine us by sculpting our voices into the ones they would prefer to hear. Or, more insidiously, the silencing that comes from the cultural appropriation of a body of voices–slowly, over time, silenced through disbelief or displeasure or censure.

Retrieving our lost voice is so important that it can quite literally be life-saving to dig in and search for it. Spelunking for our inner voice can be scary, though. Lots of off-kilter moments can happen: Picture wandering into a deep cave and realizing you forgot batteries when your headlamp goes out.

And also I’m not sure if you’ve experienced this either personally or through a friend or acquaintance, but the effort to find and sound one’s own voice can be awkward, sort of like a rooster learning to crow. It can come come out raspy and weird, too loud at first, or bitter, or whispering–the yawp a bit off-kilter or even hurtful to the innocent bystander. Sometimes it feels better to just let it lie dormant and quiet where it is unobtrusive and doesn’t cause a calamity.

I don’t believe that the inner yawp, our true inner voice, is mean or unkind. It isn’t intended to incite pain in another. It isn’t directed at anyone or anything. It’s the thing in us that lives there, all the time, waiting to ignite us, lift us up, elevate us to our most inspired selves. It just needs to get out and live.  It’s the geyser that sprouts forth from the ground, the mountain that forms and sits there without concern for placation, the wild crashing of a wave that must fall on the shore, the wind that stirs and wildly outlasts us all until the storm is done.

And I’m convinced you need a muse. Something or someone that drives you. It’s not just an inner anima, although wouldn’t that be nice if it was? It’s something bigger than that; something divine or magical (ala Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic), or human–a big love, or a big enemy. Something that rouses you.

What is a muse? Is it an articulate leader, teacher, person or song that you play over and over again? A loved one? A child? A pet that races or croons or a tree that blooms in a way that mimics the blooms you are searching for inside? A person who wronged you in some unfathomable way? A person who loved you to the point of obliteration?

Is it something you do or something you aspire to, something outside of you, like running or sailing? Is it the athlete at the top of his or her game?

Have you noticed that your voice is most alive when you are feeling great emotion? Joy, humor, and anger seem often to be interchangeable in their clarity–the surge of happiness or rage is instant and clean and clear. Laughter seems divinely inspired when it bubbles forth without any ability to stop it.

Sadness, fear, anxiety, and empathy can feel more murky, more muddy and incomplete, more difficult to pinpoint; they can feel watery and fluid and stuck below the surface, seeping forth regardless of the retention wall built to keep them in.

Sadness deserves it’s own time. All of us can relate to sitting in a rocking chair with our sadness held inside, going inward and getting lost in there. I have found myself sculpting my sadness like I would a clay ball, shifting it around and isolating it to its most painful reality until it shines.

I have often heard writers and poets and artists say that they feel at their most creatively clear and free when running or exercising–when their body is moving and blood is pumping and their arms and legs are engaging both sides of their brains through the simple act of instructing their limbs to move–first one and then the other. Maybe it’s the feeling of the world blinking by as you run through it–the feeling of time immortal and you, a piece moving through it from one space to another, the feeling of action against inaction.


At a few points in my life a person has entered my world and energized me in ways that I didn’t feel energized before. Have you experienced that? That person–they see you. They make you feel like showing up. I have had teachers who inspired some of my best writing because they were interested in what I had to say. It wasn’t a matter of doing their job, but of finding a quiet place and a cup of tea or coffee or some whiskey to enter into the realm I was trying to create, and then taking the time to see it, really see it, so they could help me create a better form to make it grow.

I’ve also had friends that shined a light on me and made me suddenly feel like the star of my own show. People who unabashedly loved me.

That love is transformative, people.

You, my friend, are enough. You are. And sometimes it just really helps to have someone come along and say, Shine brighter; I want to see you.

I think we often look to our leaders to speak the words our inner voices are longing to speak. We, through our tamping and our busyness and our daily lives, need those voices to rise up and take the helm, to stand up and belt out their barbaric yawps to remind us–and even give us permission–to belt out ours.

Sometimes those voices come, not from our elected leaders, but from one small individual who drops her pebble in and makes her impact known. Sometimes a voice becomes a circling storm, starting small and building into a typhoon, whipping through the darkness and clearing the shadows that have been resting there, voices that merge and tell us to add ours to the mix–that there is permission there to yell or whisper and the impact will be worthwhile because we’re all in it together.

Photo by Brian Thompson

No matter the source, there is an animation of self that must come out during our lifetime; otherwise we live a life feeling damp and forgotten and we don’t even know why.

It’s why we feel whole when we close the shades, turn the music up loud, and dance because nobody’s watching.

Is there a person who ignites you? A song that you must turn up? A line from a poem that makes your heart sing or your blood boil? A situation that fills you with deep and abiding rage? A hobby that aligns all your selves when you do it–mend the pillowcases, plant the garden, scrub the dirt from a forgotten relic?

What do you do with the wild inside?

I think the secret is that if we all lived our lives aligned with that clear channel of truth then we would be less likely to bump around in discomfort when we tried to speak up.

Our kids’ elementary school has a music program focused mainly on singing. Developmentally, there is a lot of benefit to children from flexing chest muscles and opening lungs and singing. It gives them a stronger channel for their voices to rise up and out.

Learning to speak up in class and add one’s own awkward contribution is equally important. Voices become stronger the more they are used.

And the quiet ones, the silent observers, they are often the ones too busy following the non-sequitur that travels from idea to result on the fast-track. These are the dreamers and the inventors who need time to speak when it’s all gotten sorted out in there.

I am not advocating that voices must be loud. Or that voices must be spoken. Or that voices must be spoken in front of another in order to have impact.

Quiet is powerful too. As long as the quietness isn’t a result of a blustery external world that makes it impossible to speak up, or a voice that doesn’t speak because of an environment of abuse of power or control.

But I am arguing that we must find the space to use our voice in the fashion it was intended when we were born. We must surround ourselves with people who build us up and love us.

And we must notice whether the atmosphere we are in supports and sustains us or removes our inner voice in some way that, over time, undermines our very being. This can be in the form of a negative friend, or a mismatched relationship, or a teacher that doesn’t see us and therefore doesn’t help us grow. It can be a toxic boss or the noise of a city, or the overly quiet atmosphere of a country setting when you really want to be out dancing in the nightlights. It can be in the form of a leader who isn’t capable of leading and makes us feel adrift at sea.

And if that happens then we need to rise to the challenge and shift things until we fit.

One antidote to this lost self is not to head out searching for it. Instead, make a home for it. Carve out a place for it to arrive. Write it all down or draw or paint or play it out, in a raw or ragged art form of some kind, letting yourself spill out as you are, without apology.

(Although, by all means, if you can hop on a plane right now and get some distance from you, here, and you, there, please do it–there’s nothing like travel for finding bits of you.)

And keep showing up.

You’ll know you’ve found it when there’s an inner clicking, that moment when something shifts into place and you feel a release of tension. It’s when you get up in the morning, make the bed, and head into the day knowing that you have carved out your space and arrived. I think we need to struggle through until we find that place, because there is a place for all of us.

Photo by Barbara Thompson

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Lorie north says:

    I’m interested in the potato beds and barrels
    My husband and I grew over one hundred and fifty potato plants last year but I had alot of potato bugs. I want to grow them again this year but with less space and less bugs

    1. Melinda says:

      Hi Lorie, that’s great that you were able to grow that many potatoes. This will be my first attempt at growing them this year, other than sweet potatoes (which grew great in our hugelkultur beds last year). I’ve poked around just a bit and found a few models that I like, but we would build them ourselves. I would personally not use the plastic barrel, though: Have you tried any of these methods for dealing with the bugs?

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