The World Needs to Hear Your Voice

A week ago I attended the opening of a friend’s one-woman performance. Binah was fulfilling a "bucket list item," a 65th birthday present to herself to get up on stage, tell her life story and sing some ballads and show tunes (some original, some not) with a three piece band. She called it “My Personal Musical” and from the stage of the cozy American Legion Post 313 hall in Larkspur, California, she sang and spoke about her childhood, her parents, her marriages, her search for spiritual connection. Her story, really, was about being true to herself.

It was an inspiring performance on several levels. Binah is greatly talented. She’s got a gorgeous voice, a charming smile, and an engaging stage presence.

And her story is compelling.  

She started the evening dedicating the show to her mother. And actually, it was a loving and aching tribute. The mother’s story interwoven into the story of the daughter and back again. The beginning of her own story actually beginning with her mother’s own childhood. Isn’t that the case for all of us? Whether your mother stayed home with you or worked full time, gave you up for adoption or adopted you, hovered over your every move or was emotionally and psychologically unavailable…even if your mother passed away when you were young…our personal life stories often seem to emanate from the stories of our mothers.

Binah’s mother was hugely talented, but unable to fulfill that in her own life. In turn she shunned Binah’s desire to act and sing. Shunned Binah, actually. She turned away and was closed to her, literally hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on her bedroom door for hours every day.  A lifetime of searching for a way to sing out loud and clear, to express her deepest passions and to find self-acceptance was Binah’s story.

Is your story enough to be a musical? Isn’t it?

To be a person is to have a story to tell.
— Isak Dinesen

I’m a podcast junkie. I love listening to the personal narratives in Strangers, the Moth, and Snap Judgment. I crave the real, gritty, soul-baring stories of a good memoir. And I also love to tell my own story (as evidenced by the archives). I want to know what real people go through, how they handle what life hands them, what similar threads are woven through our lives and thus, how we are connected. That’s what’s important to me.

Glynn Washington of Snap Judgment usually starts his show off with a little story from his own life. He’s had some crazy experiences! And he either took good notes (unlikely), makes it up (also unlikely) or just has a good memory for details (possible). The truth is that once you get into the mode of recalling stories from your past, doors will open and new/old stories will float to the surface, stories you thought were lost for good.

Glynn Washington could definitely write his own personal musical. Binah did. Could I? Could you? Don’t you owe it to yourself to tell your story?

In the lobby, I overheard Binah ask if any of it came off as corny. I jumped in and told her that it was anything but. I told her it was courageous. And by that I don’t mean the courage it took to step up on the stage in a glittery outfit and sing by herself into the mic, though that was part of it.

What I mean is, it’s courageous to own your own story

and believe that it’s worth telling…


…that in the telling is something meaningful, not only for you, but for anyone lucky enough to be listening.

We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel—“Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.” You’re not as alone as you thought.
— John Steinbeck

Binah’s choice to get up and spin her own tale, to sing about her divorces, about being a housewife, about her mother’s depression, was courageous. She wasn’t just being brave and confident. Quite the opposite. She was showing us her vulnerable, tender heart.  And as Brenè Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” And as far as I can tell, it looks like courage, too. We should all be so courageous.

Binah’s performance was inspiring because she was owning her voice. She has a big, beautiful, luscious one. She’s authentic and sincere. And funny and a great actress, to boot.

I told her that what moved me most about her story was that it was about her search to own her own voice. To be as big as she was, to not apologize for who she was and what she wanted to do in her life. I told her that my theme for this year was “Own your bones!” and I told her how proud I was of her for doing just that.

I hope that Binah has the chance to bring her performance beyond Larkspur’s VFW 13 hall. I hope you have a chance to catch it. But even if you don’t, maybe it’s time for you to go out and write Your Own Personal Musical.

The world needs to hear your voice.