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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Speaking Up

I've talked about this in entries Got My Voice Back and Voiceless and Grateful. I've had an interesting week with the theme of speaking, speaking up and silence.

There have been a number of things in my work world lately that have upset me both for my own sake and for the sake of my students, but because I often feel powerless, or I have to be respectful to other adults, I have said nothing. I began having violent nightmares in which a regular theme was about being unable to speak.

My feelings about all of this came to a head one day when someone at work did a few things that just really ticked me off and that I took quite personally. I vented to U. that night. I was so tense and angry! I told him that I used to always say what I thought, and that got me into trouble. Now I say nothing and that's not working either. I decided I wanted to start saying something, but the right thing.

Unfortunately, that night I blew it. For a number of reasons, this week has probably been the most stressful since I returned from maternity leave and I couldn't sleep. I laid awake at night, exhausted and still angry, and I wrote what I thought was a well-thought-out and reasonable email to the person who angered me.

I still think everything I said it there was true, but the long and short of it is, the person I wrote to didn't really understand it. She misunderstood several points and I was so anxious about what she thought about me writing to her at 3:45 AM that it really wasn't worth the agony I caused myself. If I was going to speak up, I should have done it in person and I should have stood up first for issues with my students, and later for myself. I should have prioritized to whom I was speaking and figured out how to do it.

So as an interesting afterword, I lost my voice this weekend. I'm not very ill, just a little. Enough to explain why I was so obsessive and anxious and angry that night. Illness and anxiety often go hand-in-hand for me. Either way, my voice is in shambles. A nice reminder to work on this speaking up trait.

(Interestingly too I read Among The Free this Shabbos, the conclusion to a guilty book series pleasure of mine. Guilty because they're not terribly well-written, but riveting nonetheless. Again, all about speaking up for what's right.)

So the conclusion, for now, of this story, came just a few moments ago. ND and I were walking home from the library. There was a car pulled over to the side of the road as a family picked up their teenage kid (I presume). As the car drove off from the curb, a teenager in the backseat stuck his hand out the window and dropped a snack wrapper on the ground.

In the past I would have been nervous to draw attention to myself, and would have felt angry and wounded afterwards about how inconsiderate people can be. But I just stopped, looked at him the way I would one of my students and squawked in my hoarse excuse for a voice, "Hey, that's garbage."

He didn't make fun of me or ignore me. He looked guilty, his parents pulled over again, and he picked it up. I watched as he pulled away and I said, "There's a garbage can right there."

"I'll throw it away later," he called out the window.

And that was it. I don't have feel angry or wounded. And that garbage isn't on the ground. Better yet, I think he's sufficiently embarassed to not do it again any time soon, but not to ruin his life or even his day. That's all I ask.

Now if I can just figure out how to do this for bigger things...

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Anonymous alissa said...

Do you ever watch Rabbi Solomon's videos on Aish? There was one a while back about how someone approached him and told him, in a wonderful way, that he had been mispronouncing the first word of the Sh'ma. R'Solomon was extremely touched and grateful.

He then heard someone else saying V'ahavta incorrectly, and remembering how much he appreciated being told, R'Solomon proceeded to inform this person that he was doing it wrong. This person was offended. R'Solomon concluded it was all in his approach - how he broached the subject with the person, and how he presented the information. The Rabbi who told R'Solomon was gentle, flattering and asked permission to point something out.

R'Solomon admitted he just said, basically, "guess what? You're making the same mistake I made - here's the right way to do it." (I'm obviously paraphrasing).

So the point is, it is crucial to speak up, but we have to do it properly. That can make all the difference between getting our point across, or humiliating someone (as opposed to embarrassing them *just enough* so they never throw garbage out of their car again!).

Hope you're feeling better! That G-d of ours is really sneaky, isn't he? (or she. Whatever.) ;)

4:38 PM


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