There are plenty of reasons why we may not stand up for ourselves, even when every instinct tells us we deserve to be heard. In my recently published memoir, Reimagined, I recount several instances in my life when circumstances warranted that I deserved to be the center of attention, yet I remained mute.
One of these circumstances occurred while I was facing the biggest challenge of my life – major surgery, in 2017, for a seriously rare form of cancer. This excerpt from Reimagined recounts an incident that took place on the day of my surgery, when two researchers approached me in the hospital waiting room just a few minutes before I was to begin the prep for my surgery. Their purpose was to convince me to donate my cancerous tumor to a local research facility.
My fury emanated from my disbelief at their incredible insensitivity. They had cornered me. How could they have such chutzpah, the Yiddush word for shameless audacity, to disturb me and my family at such a critically difficult time? The multi-specialty care team had known about this surgery for weeks. Why didn’t they have these people contact me before today?
This interchange opened a deep wound. It brought to my consciousness the rage I associated with countless other frightening times I had endured in the past, with people who were thoughtlessly ignoring my fears and pain. I wanted to shout at them to stop. But my “good” self wouldn’t dare do that. How could I create a scene at a time when everyone else in the waiting room was facing their own potential trauma? I felt like an outside observer, passively watching my own victimization at the hands of two people who appeared totally oblivious to my vulnerability.
Other situations like this, even when I did intercede on my behalf, have taught me that traumatic circumstances can paralyze even the strongest and most courageous among us. Other people may establish conditions which can make difficult or maybe even impossible for me to take action. But that doesn’t mean they can take away my power. Whether or not I do speak up to assert what I need does not change the fact that I always deserve to be heard. The same goes for you.