Finding a Voice in the Dark

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author/source: Deb Maher

I decided this year to keep a list of inspiring stories and fascinating people I discover. I promised myself to log them into my diary for future reference. I often lie in the dark sunk into the depths of my lovely bed trying to remember what inspired me the day before and ask myself, “who was that”, what was that story”? Drives me insane that I can’t recall information so easily anymore. Then I think, well, perhaps that was just for the moment and I enjoyed it, now let it go.

Deb-Maher-Voices-In-The-DarkI get inspired daily. I developed a comfort habit from my Aunt many years ago that I still love and enjoy to this day. I have a little AM/FM transistor radio that I tuck under my pillow whenever sleep evades me. I am an avid fan of BBC radio. They broadcast great life stories with various hosts on all sorts of subjects. I learn so much about the big world under my down filled pillow on a nightly basis.

I admit as much as I enjoy these stories, I often drift back into sleep from the soft lilt of my radio friends teasing me out of insomnia to slumber. A recent story was no exception. Poet, Lemn Sissay was being interviewed. I was not familiar with Lemn or his poetry, but his life story reached into the depths of my own broken childhood heart.

His voice, his story had me leaning into my pillow and weeping uncontrollably. Some of his life resembled my troubled beginnings as well. Lemn was fostered when he was an infant. Although his mother intended to take him back when she could care for him, her pleas were ignored, and a social worker changed his name and permanently placed him into fostered care. When he was 12 years old and on the cusp of adolescent mischievousness, his adopted family sent him back to the children’s home. Everything he had known in terms of a family structure was taken from him. Discarded and forced into brutal imprisonment, he was bullied and physically abused by staff until he was released at 18 years of age.  

Lemn’s story is not mine to tell but his story reminds me of my own growing up. I was not in foster care but suffered physical and verbal abuse for many years in my own broken home. I was determined to never repeat what happened to me. Resolve and hard work have given me a joyful, loving and compassionate life. I wondered if Lemn had experienced a different childhood would his beautiful words fall so eloquently from heart to pen with such emotion. I also wondered the same for myself. That inexplicable place of brokenness can also be the source of your greatest gifts. Who would have thought, a poet and my little radio would remind me of that significance?

A favorite quote by Lemn – “I think I will paint roads on my front room walls to convince myself I am going places”