Listening to the Hippos

Robin Dake - Eastanollee, Georgia
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, November 8, 2013
Robin Dake

After a divorce, Robin Dake began to make new decisions about the people and things she brought into her life. By digging beneath the noise and chaos of everyday life, she relearned how to listen to her inner voice and found her authentic self.

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I had already paid my money, tucked my package under my arm, and was walking out the door when I heard her calling my name. There she was, perched on a small bookcase, among the sofas and lamps and bed frames in the outer room of a local thrift store—a small hippopotamus planter that, I swear, was calling my name.

Molded out of light brown clay, her wide feet were drawn up under her thick body, and her head was tilted coquettishly. She wore an impish grin and looked as if she were about to bat her eyelashes to get her way. The urge to take her home was so irresistible that I turned around and bought her immediately.

This was a time of reinvention in my life. After emerging from the fog of post-divorce pain and grief, I found myself intent on revealing the authentic woman inside and honoring her by making decisions on that authenticity. Those decisions were not only the big ones, like what do I want for my life and who do I want in it, but also the more mundane ones, like how do I decorate my house.

The impulse to clean and purge and redecorate after a divorce is so cliché and normal that there are probably several expensive university studies out there which have proven such a fact. However, when I began to make actual decisions about colors and couches and knick-knacks, I found that in order to remain true to my authentic self, I had to really be quiet and dig down and listen to what was speaking to me.

I believe in being still and listening for our authentic voice.

I believe deep down, way back, behind the noise and chaos of everyday life we do know who we are and what we need to be happy and whole. We know the voice that tells us we no longer want to live in dysfunction. We know the voice telling us we deserve to be genuinely happy, and we know that voice that says, “yes, that hippopotamus would look good on my porch.”

That voice often gets lost in a cacophony of other peoples’ suggestions, and recommendations and ideas and “you shoulds” and “so-and-so woulds.” And then after years of being muted and muffled, that voice within gets quiet and only whispers, and we find ourselves turning away from our most real selves and the values that make us who we are.

It takes practice to let the inner voice shout once more. It takes being willing to feel for that small flame of joy deep in your belly when you recognize your authentic voice and know it’s speaking your truth. It takes courage to stand up to the other voices that want to bend and mold you to their imagined image for you.

It takes being willing to listen for the hippo.

After working on really hearing her internal voice, Robin Dake has discovered some wonderful outcomes from saying yes to her true voice. She believes that voice will help her live authentically in both large ways and small. Ms. Dake is a freelance writer and photographer living in Northeast Georgia. She enjoys running, hiking, and spending time outdoors with her daughters and her dog.