The Broken Voice

Quote from: “The Heart Aroused” by David Whyte

The Story

Words – the right words, the perfect words – don’t come easy to me. After a class I teach, or after a business meeting I facilitate, or even after a conversation with a bunch of friends, I’ll spend a lot of time thinking of all the things I wish I had said instead of what I did or didn’t say. It’s enough to drive me crazy (or, at the very least, to keep me awake at night).

I often feel like a mouse in social situations – quietly smiling, nodding my head, wanting everyone to get along, to feel good, to like me. More often than not, when a conversation veers off into a controversial topic, I’ll say nothing while stronger egos than mine voice their passionate opinions. Or I’ll simply say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” when secretly, I’m thinking, “You are SO wrong, dude!”

A few months ago I surprised myself and spoke up. You, dear reader, have probably done this lots of times; but for me, it took a good dollop of courage. Afterwards, I felt a sense of pride, like my inner child had done something very brave.

There were six women from my neighborhood sitting around a table sharing a potluck dinner. One of the gals, who had a history of bringing up controversial topics with groups of friends, decided to voice her opinion about a very divisive political subject. She had done this before, almost as if to say, “I dare you to contradict me!”

This time was different. Somehow, I found myself turning to her and saying, politely but firmly, “My dear, you know we disagree on that subject, so let’s not go down that road now while we’re enjoying a nice meal with friends.”

There was a moment of startled silence. Then I looked around the table and asked a general question about upcoming holiday plans, and the conversation shifted to more pleasant subjects.

It wasn’t that I was hiding from controversy, exactly. And I know that often, out of initial disagreements, can come some common ground, some deeper understanding among friends.

It was just that it took more courage for me to say something rather than nothing. It took courage to keep someone from ruining a good party. And while it might have been just my opinion that it wasn’t the right time or place to discuss politics, a couple of the gals thanked me afterwards for changing the subject.

The quote above, from David Whyte, author of “The Heart Aroused,” is one of my favorites. That evening at the potluck, I spoke in the voice that was my own.