Finding your Voice

It’s 3am on December 10 and I just boarded a plane home from India, ready for a long travel day. Ready to sleep. No one is seated next to me in the middle (score!) and the plane is about to take off. I notice a tall Indian guy walking down the aisle and he stops at my row. His is the middle seat. Shucks. There goes my (already claimed) space.

I tell him I like his watch. Seriously. I had no ulterior motive. I was finishing up a 90-day dating fast so my mind was focused elsewhere. He tells me it was gifted to him. Great accent. I was intrigued. He, too. Did I mention tall, dark, AND handsome? We never stopped talking for the rest of the 9 hour flight. We had a connection I hadn’t felt in a long time. We shared breakfasts. He invited me to New Jersey. I invited him to my company holiday party.

He said he’d call. He did. He flew to San Francisco for the party and spent 12 days of Christmas with me. It was utter bliss. Window shopping at Union Square; listening to carolers at the Westin St. Francis; hiking at Land’s End.

We had regular calls, texts, and a couple of visits to Chicago and New Jersey. He showered me with compliments. I started thinking about the future. Could I move to India? Would I? How serious could this become? Then, one day, it all came crashing down. When a house is built on sand, the smallest storm will blow it away. I lost my voice.

I had flown to New Jersey to spend the weekend with him. He didn’t plan anything even though I had asked. He became wrapped up in himself and we ended up doing his errands on Saturday. It didn't start that way, as were we planning to see a movie, but as each store was visited, I felt increasingly ignored, frustrated, and eventually abandoned. I was just a tag along. He wanted to research iPads and other tablets, and I was left alone. I mentioned that, but he didn’t want to “argue”. I felt like a little girl who wouldn’t be heard.

I couldn’t get clear in my mind what I wanted to say and therefore, I couldn’t articulate that to him, either. It was only until he chose to cut our trip short because his family “needed” him that I had my wits about me. I was exasperated, furious, sad, but crystal clear: “Take me to the train station so I can go to NY and stay with a friend who cares about me.”

That was the last time I saw him. February of 2011. I have no idea what became of him. No closure. No nothing. Just a disappearing act.

That’s my story. But what can we take away from this? First of all, you are more than a tag along. You have a right to state what you want. You HAVE a VOICE. Find it. This experience is what caused me to step up and do something to help others like me. In looking back, who was I kidding? Sreedhar was moving back to India. He had a toddler there. He told me from Day 1 that he was moving and didn’t want to hurt me; he enjoyed our time together and wanted to keep seeing me if I was okay with it. He wasn’t vested in me. He had a whole other life. I just didn’t want to face it.

Why do we give ourselves away so quickly? Our hearts are precious; not to be shared recklessly. We are worthy of love that is deep and meaningful. We must entrust our heart to those who will take proper care of it.

I know why I did it: I was hooked on the experience. The attention he gave (when I did get it) was really, really good. He was an adult – he had a job; a good one! He could afford nice places, and he paid – all the time. I was having fun! He traveled as much as me. We had things in common I hadn’t experienced with others. But, I was caught up in fantasy. I refused to see the big picture. I didn’t want to face that this wasn’t anything more than a momentary thing. I neglected my needs. I even ignored my faith. The thing most important to me. I was toast.

What about you? How have you given yourself away inappropriately or prematurely? What can you do to step up for yourself?

Please do it now before you are in too deep. It’s never too late, but it gets harder and harder. Habits get established and then we start justifying that it’s okay (that you’re treated badly or maybe it’s just the wrong fit and you stay because it seems easier) Suddenly we wake up one day and wonder: “What happened to me?! I’ve disappeared. In my man, my job, my family. Where did I go?”

My mom and dad were married for 60 years. She lived for him and us kids. She was devoted. But where did her needs come in? After my Dad died, I remember saying, “Mom, you can live out your own dreams now.” Now that she is on her own, she is. Living out her dreams. She’s traveled to Europe, Israel, and various U.S. destinations. She is thriving. Did I mention she is 85?!

I remember when I was a young girl my brother called from New York to ask what I thought Mom would like for Christmas. I said, “She said she needed a strainer.” Bruce said, “What about something just for her? Like a scarf?” This made an impact on me. It never occurred to me that Mom would like something just for her. Wow! What a concept.

I want girls and women everywhere to feel special. Worthy. Valued. Important. As Ailbileen said it best in the Help, “You is kind, you is smart; you is important.”

Honor yourself, honor others, respect the process. It HAS to start with you. If you don’t (honor yourself, or consider yourself worthy/valued/important/special), why would anyone else? It takes time, but you can do it!

You have a place at the table. As you and only you.


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