Speaking Clearly

I launched Play Like a Girl on August 15 at Open Book in Minneapolis. People I love and strangers, former and current students, Kenyan Americans and even a few Kenyans filled the room. Asha, Teka and I talked about KGSA and the process of bringing Play Like a Girl into the world. We answered questions about the art of telling, listening to, and translating stories in a way that maintained their sacredness. We urged folks to stay committed to empowering women and educating girls globally and locally. It was a mountaintop moment for me as a writer.

The weeks following brought a slew of speaking engagements and bookselling events. In mid-September, Asha and Teka, eager to see their family and friends again, returned to Kenya. I took a deep breath, and was overwhelmed with fatigue. My throat was the origin. My voice was tired. I couldn’t drink enough water. Even sitting on the floor playing with my little boys, I had the overwhelming urge to be quiet. The heaviness in my throat took residence. I waited.

At the beginning of a rolfing session, Tina asked me to tilt my head to the ceiling.

“Do you feel tightness?”



I pointed to the place in the middle of my neck and said, “Here.”

Mid-way through the session, when Tina was massaging my jaw and neck, she asked me to do some visualization. “Bring your awareness to the place behind your throat. Do you see a mass there? It might be gray or black?”

I did. I could see the heaviness in my throat. She helped me visualize sending the gunk away and replacing it with the opposite of that energy. This was something altogether different than a tired voice. When she invited me to look at it instead of ignoring it, I saw it as the self-doubt that had accompanied me at every turn of the Play Like a Girl process. I’ve second-guess my role, my skill, and my worthiness in writing the story. I questioned my voice. I’ve let guilt around my privilege give me pause. Tina found that fear hiding and invited me to send it on its way.

I walked out of the appointment feeling lighter, more free, and better aligned. On the drive home, Andrew Solomon was telling a story on The Moth about a time when he lost his voice. His mother died, and his grief drown out his voice. He went to see his friends protesting in the Soviet Union, and they helped him get his voice back, to find his courage, to get back to work that mattered. “If you speak clearly enough about important things you can change the world,” he reminded me. “Revolution occurs by tiny acts of many people.”

After sitting quietly at a desk writing, the launch of Play Like a Girl has required me to do a lot of talking about things that deeply matter to me—education, women’s empowerment, sports and poverty. My voice got tired, and there was room for rest. There is no room, however, for self-doubt. There is no time for the looming gray matter that tells me to calm down, live small and be quiet. There are important things that need to be said.

Elisabeth T. Vasko, in Beyond Apathy, reminds us that “guilt is a narcissistic emotion.” The fear of saying the wrong thing holds us back from working toward the structural change our society needs. We must resist the urge to hide in our privilege because the revolution needs us all. So after a little rest, and a renewed commitment to first listen with my ears, eyes and heart, I am finding my voice again to speak about the things that matter.