In 2000 I was making my annual Fall journey to Nepal to do some guiding, and was traveling with my once-ex, then giving-it-another-go boyfriend. There is usually an 18+ hour layover in Bangkok on most Thai Airways flights to KTM, so we headed into town for an all-nighter instead of trying to sleep in the stuffy airport (this was pre-renovation).
For this particular layover, we chose to visit the Red Light district along Khao San Road. We heard the dance clubs there were awesome, and stories of the area always intrigued me.
Filled with curiosity and bit nervous (well, at least I was), we visited a few places with exotic dancers that were initially pretty fun, with people seemingly happy and dancing and EXCELLENT music… but then things rapidly got sad for me. As we went to other clubs in the shadier parts of town, the vacant looks on many of the men and women’s faces depressed me, their oppression weighed heavy on me, and I soon declared I just wanted to spend the rest of the layover eating sticky rice and chicken while people watching at an outdoor cafe.
My boyfriend agreed and we picked our perch sitting on wooden barstools sipping on fruity drinks. It was going to be a LONG night.
Things were already awkward between us. I knew things were not going to last forever, and in true pre-Freedom Junkie fashion, I wanted to beat the relationship to death lest I called it quits prematurely – or mistakenly.
We made small talk and commented on people’s outfits and went over our itineraries for our upcoming expeditions. We fought about him getting me the wrong drink “because he never listens.” Then I threw up because I must have eaten something funky earlier, but then I was fine;)
Right after that, I saw the Hairy Guy hit the Tiny Thai Woman.
He was HUGE. A big, hairy German guy wearing all black leather, with studs around his neck, wrists, waist, along his pant legs…he would have set off an airport metal detector from outside. And there he was, smacking around a little Thai woman.
And she was a bulldog, fighting back, yelling at him, not taking any of his bullshit.
He hit her again.
I was shocked. I looked around. People were just…watching.
I looked at my boyfriend. He was just…watching.
I said to him, “Are you going to do anything?” And he looked back at me saying it was too dangerous.
I was livid.
I stood up, grabbed the barstool I was sitting on, and went running towards the German guy like a Mama Bear.
I read once that if someone tries to assault you, scream all crazy, like a banshee, and it will throw them off because you’re so whacked out.
Apparently this tactic worked.
I ran towards him screaming, pushing the legs of the stool towards his face – but intentionally not hitting him (I think if I had, he may have actually gotten more angry). I stood between him and the woman. I kept pushing the stool towards him asking him to go away, remembering what the circus guys did with the lions.
The woman stood behind me yelling at him fiercely.
He shouted at me, his face all red and sweaty and puffy. I yelled, “Get away from her! Go away! Back off!”. Finally, his friends encouraged him to take a few steps back. He yelled a few more somethings in German towards the woman, and walked off with his posse of other hairy and balding dudes. The woman kept yelling in an ongoing rant, like a puppy still yelping after being stepped on. There was no thank you. No shared gaze of sisterhood. She just walked off, and I went the other way.
I carried the stool back to the cafe, plopped it down, looked at my boyfriend and said, “I want a beer. Buy. Me. A. Beer.”
I am very aware that I got lucky in this scenario. But I suppose everything happens for a reason. For some reason, Hairy Guy thought it was OK to hit a small Thai woman, and he turned away from the screaming banshee of an American.
I totally do NOT want men to get into fights, and in all honesty, if I wasn’t a woman, the Big Guy would have perhaps hit me, which means it would have indeed been dangerous for my boyfriend to have confronted him directly.
My boyfriend just sat there, watching. And it was SO not sexy.
I mean, maybe he could have held my hand in concern, or expressed his horror, or stood up to let the guy know someone was at least watching…or have gone to try and find cops? And even if they wouldn’t do anything, he would have at least had the honor of having tried something.
I don’t know. Maybe it was too dangerous for him and maybe the only thing that could have helped the situation was some whacko American woman running at the Hairy Guy with a stool.
Whatever it was, I did not like the fact that everyone was just watching.
It felt incredibly…disconnected. Like people didn’t realize we were a bunch of human beings witnessing something unacceptable.
Suffice it to say we broke up after that trip. We still climbed together, but then it was done. Not because of this scenario, but because I felt disrespected as a woman in the relationship, under-appreciated, and under-adored. I am a Leo. I crave adoration (pssst…so should you).
That episode kindled in me a burning conviction to spend less time watching and more time doing. It reminded me that activism wasn’t only for those passionate college years.
Taking action is the way our beliefs and values manifest.
Yet how many times do we just sit there, watching?
And why should we even care about this?
We need to care – and we need to act – because it is our actions that develop our self-respect. Our ziji – inner radiant confidence. Our integrity.
We need to care because if you want to be happy – really happy, like having long deep sleeps and gazing up at the stars feeling so damn blessed that you don’t even want to sleep because life is so good – you need to be in alignment.
You absolutely need to live in alignment with you values if you want to be truly content. And while we can fool ourselves that being in alignment means believing nice things and having good values, it is our ACTIONS that really show what we believe in.
We need to live in in alignment and act with integrity because crappy stuff happens in life – things will be hard sometimes and you will not like what is going on.
And in those times, it is your integrity and living in alignment that helps you feel…good about yourself. Even if not necessarily “happy.”
It helps you feel good about yourself and your connection to humanity when you are not necessarily feeling good about life at the time. And in case you’re not up to date on the Positive Psychology literature, the quality of our social connection is the single largest predictor of happiness.
So if you’re feeling in a funk or a little down on yourself, check in with what one small action can you take to bring your life a little more into alignment with you values.
This will not only help you feel less anxious and more content, but you’ll also have more self-respect and confidence. And guess what? That helps you also be more productive and successful and fun to be around. So it’s a win-win when we strive to live authentically and in alignment.
Maybe you ride your bike to work today. Or finally write that blogpost you’ve been putting off – again. Maybe you call up a friend you’ve been meaning to get in touch with. Or stop and chat with a homeless person and give them some nourishing food. Or finally bring that box in the basement filled with clothes you don’t need to the local women’s shelter.
For me, I have long been looking for a purpose to donate a portion of my income to. It was hard to settle on one, as there are so many things I can about. This led to analysis paralysis. I have finally narrowed it down to girls’ education, and will be speaking with people from four different organizations this week to determine which one(s) I’ll select.
I have been wanting to do that a long time. But wanting isn’t enough. Time to take action!
What’s the one action you are going to take to help your life be more in alignment with your values?