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In Search of Radiance radiance

by Kathleen Ohtola
as published in Writing for Our Lives, 1993

I know it is there inside of me, the radiance.

It is my heart and soul buried beneath years of pleasing others.

Don't laugh too loud, it's not feminine.

Don't be angry, people won't like you.

Don't not be angry at some slight I wanted to forgive,

because people would walk all over me.

Don't move like that, you're too big.

Cover, hide the soft curves.

Don't do anything that will make you less attractive to men.

Don't do anything to give your "friends" a reason to reject you.

Don't do anything different from the rest.

Don't have any secrets.

Don't, don't, don't, a thousand don'ts.

Don't let the radiance out, for you will shine too brightly,

be too serene,

be too silly,

be too childish,

be too selfish,

and no one will appreciate your radiance.

I occasionally catch glimpses of my radiance.

Driving in my car I hear an old song and sing along with such soul

that it amazes even me.

Playing in the ocean waves, for one brief moment I feel the freedom.

I laugh at the comedian's jokes, of course not the ones about fat people,

but I laugh and the sound of my laughter feels good. It was silent for too long.

It's there in the flirting with my colleague.

It's there when I listen to my students and let them know how much I care.

It's there when I listen to the Italian music that stirs some deep pride in the heritage

I know so little about but that is part of me.

It's there when I hold my dog fast asleep in my arms.

It's there when I swim and play in the water with a grace I don't have on land.

I know it is there inside of me, the radiance.

It's burning to get out,

crying to be freed,

longing to be loved.

I am beginning the long hard task of clearing away the walls and the fear.

When I am done, I will shine so brightly that you will see my radiance.

I will shine so brightly that I will see my radiance.

I long for the day when I will see and feel and hear and touch and live my radiance.

But for now, my radiance waits and grows.

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