Why I Give a Damn | This is How I Found my Voice

| by

There are a million reasons and opportunities to live by default, make no waves, sleep in, take the easy path, do just enough to get by…

In inverse is also true.

The reason that I work hard and make my heart available to others is that I care.  It feels good to live a life surrounded by people who are vibrant, searching, working at bettering themselves, reaching out, striving, people who are working smart every day to be the best they can be.

Linda Coates is my Hero

A down to earth woman, married to her best friend, two beautiful and successful children, a relationship with her higher power that is palatable yet un-offensive.  Linda is a woman to admire for a host of reasons and yet I think the reason she is someone whom I will love for my entire life is that she helped me to find my voice.

I was a small town farm girl with a yearning for more, crushes on boys that were trouble, full of wonder, and inhibited by the judgements of others.  I was all knees and elbows back then not really good at sports but desperate to be part of a team, not really great at school because I was bored and so I tried every club to find my nitch.

I did love to tell stories.

We have this thing in Texas called the University Interscholastic League (UIL).  It is a series of contests each year where students from all over can gather on the district, regional, then state levels to test their chops against students from across the Lone Star State. From Lincoln Douglas Debate, Athletics, to tests in Numbers, Writing, Theatre, and my personal favorite- Prose Interpretation- Pick two selections, practice for months on your delivery, have 6 min to wow the judges with one’s mastery of language, realism of characters, eye contact, and poise.  If I were to tell you that politics are not involved then I’d be lying.

How I Found my Voice

Now mind you I was a loud mouth, I told people what I thought even if it wasn’t appropriate.  In fact many people didn’t like me very much because I could be brash.  Most of my assertiveness was my way to cope with how small the town was (I think I was the only on who had ever lived outside the state) and how suffocating the rumor mill could be.  I was often defensive.  I was annoyed at the petty rivalries (though good for business) and with people who were pissed at others successes.  Actually reminds me of many small towns across America.

As a seventh grader Linda helped me master the words of others long before I really believed I had permission to have my own.  She did all of this on her own time and while recovering from a sickness that would come back to her year after year.  Never complaining at my folly, always encouraging, forever strong and faithful she taught me to take my feelings and use them constructively.  Linda was the woman who gave me the courage to try to inspire others with who I am, with what is in my heart.  In no small part she taught me how to love.

Then My Family Exploded

It was my Senior year and my parents split.  I slept walked through Volleyball, decided against Basketball in favor of the school play (I hid that fact from my dad because I was sure he wouldn’t approve) only to cry and grovel my way back onto the Basketball team (under the promise to run a mile for every practice I had missed).  After all was said and done I had found myself overwhelmed with my schedule and in need of something to ground me.  There was a lull in the athletic season and desperate not to have to spend any more time at my empty house than necessary, I flung myself back at Lindas feet and asked her to coach me once more for UIL.  She said no.

I begged.  Finally she came around.

Still Missing” by Beth Gutcheon.  A simple story of a lost child and a mothers faith that all would be well with the word again. Her struggle and fears of the unknown in the midst of others telling her they would help and that it would all be okay again someday soon.  As my parents were in divorce it was an emotional landscape that resonated with me to the core.  This was the story I took all the way to State.

I was the new kid on the block in Prose and I swept District, placed second at Reginals, and they awarded me fourth at State only later to find out I was due second because of a mix up with score cards (there was a second Shelley in the finals of all things) and it was enough to land a small scholarship to Blinn College in Brenham, Tx.  I was happy.  I had a reason of my very own to be quite happy.

Achievement & Pride

I had learned to funnel my emotions into activity that was worthy.  I was able to focus in spite of the terror of my family and because I took the initiative to surrender myself to a teacher who was caring and full of integrity.  I was able to open to parts of myself once unknown and yet deeply fulfilling and beautiful.  I too was able to step outside myself and inspire others with a simple story of fear, fortitude, faith, and redemption.  It was a microcosm of what I was going through in my life and in an act of bravery I won not only the opportunity to go to school,  I had won my self esteem.

Linda gave me the gift of my self.  She gave a damn about me. That’s why I care about others.  I know how powerful it can be to be heard.  We crave to share what we feel are our darkest parts, our secrets, our struggles.

It is easy to get up at five in the morning and go to my studio and teach a class for others.  It is inspiring to see a room full of yogis moving to music breathing in sync and listening to the still small voice within.  That gentle nudge from our spirt has the opportunity to transform us into something greater than ourselves.

Linda was one of my greatest teachers.  I have had the fortune of a few other inspiring souls and aside from teaching me what it is to be human, they have each taught me that there is something very attractive in caring for others.  We are all fragile and strong.  We are all looking for satisfaction and love.  We are the same you and I.

That is why I give a damn.