What It Means To Show Up

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A friend of mine recently invited me to take part of a group she runs with.  She knows my health has been a big focus for me lately and she very kindly extended the invitation to me.  I joined her last week and we enjoyed our time.  This past weekend, I asked if she was going and it turned out she wouldn’t be able to make it.  The morning of, I hemmed and hawed about going.  I knew she wouldn’t be there (she is the only one I really know in the group), it was going to rain, and I don’t know their protocols on anything.  After a half hour of debate, I decided to go.  I knew I would feel better and I knew at the very least I was helping my body and at the most I could meet some new people…which I am admittedly not adept at.  Cue social awkwardness 😊

I showed up to the park where they start their run as everyone warmed up.  I said hi to the friend of my friend I met last week but she was kind of cold.  Not a problem, I know what it’s like to be shy.  But that in itself was big for me.  I put myself out there in spite of her not being very receptive and I survived.  So I started to run alone.  I said hi to a bunch of people, getting my face out there and laying the foundation.  It’s so hard to insert into a group…especially one that 1. Has been focusing on health and fitness longer than me 2. Has a set purpose and 3. That I literally know no one.  So the fact that I settled on “Hi” to a bunch of people is a win in my book.

About a mile and a half in the rain came and it came hard.  I wasn’t wearing rain gear and I was pretty damp within seconds so that was my end point.  I turned around to start my wet run back and one of the women simply said, “Have a good run back!”.  Her smile and her words touched me.  My effort was messy, uncomfortable, unsure, and now wet but she still looked at me and allowed.  What she said was perfect in that moment.  She made me realize that I could do many hard things at the same time.  I mean, Glennon Doyle talks about doing hard things all the time, so I keep that in the back of my mind, but the real world application of it hit home.

As I approached the bridge about half a mile from my car, the rain let up.  I felt embarrassed that I didn’t continue on with the group because I know I didn’t have much further to go, I let my discomfort win.  But the woman’s words came back to me, “Have a good run back.”  That was the point.  It wasn’t about how far I ran, it was about the quality of the run.  It was about the experience and taking care of my body so I could fill my cup to help others.  That is showing up.  Some days will be better than others.  I didn’t go as far as last week, but I ran longer.  And when I got home, I hopped on the treadmill to finish it out.  No matter how uncomfortable I was, I showed up.  I supported myself enough to go and do what I needed to do.  Show up for yourself first and then you can do the things.  Just show up and you will surprise yourself.

Plans and Time

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“Big things take time,” Tia McCollars.  Such an appropriate continuation on the ending of yesterday’s piece with enjoying the ride.  One of my biggest faults is impatience…with everything.  I am always a thousand steps ahead in some twisted effort to create more time and I rarely stop and take in my surroundings.  Worse, that impatience often extends to other people, even those I love dearly.  I’ve always been one of those people who wants to get the goal and I really struggle to see the purpose in the journey.  Until recently.  I’ve put myself in a self-induced state of chaos because I’m trying to do too many things at once.  I want to do all the things.  I can’t help it.  I’ve never been able to decide “what I want to be” because so many things seem like fun.  I want to do it all.

At first being goal driven WAS fun.  Honestly.  I felt like each start was an adventure and I looked forward to the beginning.  That is probably still my favorite thing.  I love starting.  I inevitable end up getting tired or annoyed part way through and start whining about it until it’s done or I don’t finish.  That’s when it stopped being fun.  I would carry around years of half started projects with me, always intending to finish them but never doing it.  Then I would get distracted by the next enticing adventure and start it all over again.  Again, at first it was fun and I felt fine.  Over time, I have felt the weight of all of those pieces on my shoulders and all it does is slow me down.  There is no finality, no sense of accomplishment, no seeing the finish line for anything. 

So there I was/am (whatever this is) stuck between carrying everything or rushing toward the end so I would actually finish it.  And I felt exhausted.  Projects that should have been relatively simple took me around the world (see yesterday’s piece) while others flew by me without any sense of joy.  The meat of it all is in the joy of what we are doing.  The goal doesn’t need to be how many things we do, rather how we do them.  The destination isn’t always the goal.  There is always a place for the journey.  In fact, as I mentioned before, the journey is often what shapes us.  There are things we see and learn we never would have otherwise.  And that is why patience is key. 

Big things take time.  We may not see results immediately.  We may not feel like we are getting anything out of it but we have to keep going.  Things may not look how you think they should but that doesn’t mean a thing. Big things take time.  If you can see the end result in your mind, don’t allow anyone to sway you, not even your ADHD thoughts.  That result is the driver for where you will end up whether that destination turns out to be where you thought it was or not. You will most certainly end up where you need to be.  This is where faith is so important.  Steve Harvey talked about people living on “faith street”.  He said that sometimes it takes a while for that package to get there, but it will arrive in due time.  If you move from where you are, it will go back to sender.  So stay the course.  Allow yourself to be shaped by it.  Those big things will get clearer and clearer as you get closer to them.  Trust and be patient.  

Round Trip

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“Don’t take me around the world to get across the street,” a coworker of mine.  I spent a lot of time chewing on this one because it applies in so many areas, personally and professionally, spiritually and relationally, in joy and pain.  On the surface, it’s about directness and it makes sense.  Think about how often you wish someone would just get to the point, or you know they aren’t being fully transparent so you want to cut through the bs.  In this case it’s absolutely like, stop pulling my leg, just tell me what you need.  In a professional sense, I’m experiencing this now.  We are undergoing a ton of changes in my organization and I KNOW they know what they want to do but they are sharing very limited information.  I see the roadblocks they are creating to sharing it and it’s making it impossible to make an informed decision for anyone else, myself included.  Again, it’s like just get to the point and tell me what the deal is.  In the spirit of communication, I LOVE this idea.  Just be straightforward.

I know this is also something I’m guilty of every now and then.  There are times it takes a minute to get to the point for me.  There are times I know I need to just clear up what I’m thinking before I speak rather than constantly let the words (or my thoughts) spin.  I hate being forced into the situation where I have to take the long route when it comes to teaching or explaining a situation.  I also know it’s a tool I use as a crutch when I’m not 100% confident in an answer I have to give.  I will go around and around trying to talk my way into an answer or I want people to think I know what I’m doing so I keep talking.  That doesn’t do anyone a damn bit of good and I often end up confusing everyone, myself included.  It’s an insecurity thing and a need to be perceived as an expert.  I don’t want my position to be undermined (I have many reasons for that) so when I get nervous I keep talking to appear on top of it.  It’s a weak guise and I know people see through it.  I’m working on it 😊.   

There is another aspect to this, also very personal to me.  People with anxiety overexplain for myriad of reasons.  It’s a trauma response to being gaslit and to feeling unheard and a need to be accepted.  We seek approval so we feel like we have to talk our way into everything and convince people we made the right decision.  We just want to be heard and understood and accepted, yet the oversharing leads to more misperception and frustration and misunderstanding.  For the person with anxiety this feels like torture, especially when they take the time to walk through every scenario and we still end up on the wrong side of the street so to speak.  It is really painful to be around people who are intentionally confrontational or who choose to misunderstand.  One thing I HAVE learned is that these are not my people.  The habit is hard to break, but if I find myself needing to defend everything I’m doing, I know it’s time to move on.    

In general, for communication, it’s important to be as concise as possible and as direct as possible.  Being evasive gets you nowhere and all of us empaths have a good idea of when we are being lied to.  We also know when it would be easier to just share the truth and get to the point.  Even if we seem emotionally fragile, the truth is we handle the truth far better than being lied to or “protected”.  There is never any need to hide the truth unless you are getting something from someone that you wouldn’t get otherwise.  That’s manipulation at its finest and it happens all the time and those are not your people.  However, it’s important to remember not all interactions are about that type of energy.  Sometimes it just takes a minute to get to the point Sometimes there are details that are important to understanding the background and we need the full explanation.  At it’s core, sometimes we just need to be heard.  Sometimes we have to learn to be patient to understand the full breadth of the story.  You never know what you will learn or what someone is going through and how you can help them with an ear.    

But the key that I think is most important is this: sometimes that journey takes you around the world because of the things you are meant to see.  Think about it.  If you simply walked across the street, you wouldn’t have seen anything else.  You wouldn’t have learned anything else.  You wouldn’t have experienced what you needed to.  Sometimes it isn’t so much about needing to be direct, it’s about all of the things that come with it.  The universe isn’t intentionally evasive, no.  It’s putting us in circumstances that evolve us and teach us what we need to know.  It’s showing us what we need to grasp in order to fulfill our part.  So sometimes it’s ok to take the long road.  That’s the beauty of this life: the journey is yours.  You get to decide which way to take.  Allow it to take you where you need to be.  We are constantly shaped by our interactions and there are days the journey is short and days the journey is long.  We need to appreciate them both because you never know how many days you get.  Just learn to enjoy the ride.

Unfiltered

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“Do not filter yourself, do not make yourself a version of you think is more palatable, digestible, loveable.  Do not filter the humanity out of yourself.  Make content that makes you happy, that fills a creative void in your life…just do things because you love them and watch your life change.  You are suddenly doing things because they make you happy and that is a really powerful thing,” Elyse Myers.  This speaks to the very soul of what we need to remember in this world.  We are all trained to be and do the same thing by the time we enter school.  I even did it to my child (listen to your teachers! Behave!) when he went into pre-school.  We are born innately feeling a drive or a pull toward who we are.  We instinctively KNOW what we want and who we are but we are taught to not believe that knowing.  We are taught we have to be a certain way.  No crying, be tough, be productive, be able to do it all, don’t say no, make people like you.

When we remove the noise of what we are told to do and who to be, things get quieter.  You can hear your own thoughts a bit more.  Remove the doubt and that voice becomes more clear.  Start honoring and doing the things you are drawn to do, you start developing your own identity.  When you find the things you love, you find happiness.  When you find happiness, you radiate that light into the world.  I think the whole world would function a bit differently if we stopped pretending we are happy.  The world would function differently if we stopped pretending this is working.  The world would FEEL different if we understood the shifts that are taking place in us.  On some level we all know that this isn’t working anymore and we are unhappy because we are still trying to make things work in the old way.

There comes a time we need to make decisions about how we proceed in life.  This is one of those moments.  You can choose to do what you’ve always done and believe that the same path is going to work for you.  Or you can trust that you are being shown another way and answer the inner knowing.  You can trust who you are.  As Elyse said, the world already has the version of you that is palatable and digestible and performative.  Every time we step out the door we try to make people see us a certain way.  The ironic thing is that we are all seeing the same thing from everyone.  We are all wearing the same thing, putting on the same smile, laughing at the expected jokes, making the same small talk.  The version that we feel comfortable seeing/expressing is all the same.  The truth is I am no longer comfortable making anyone else comfortable. 

Every one of us has the need to be truly seen (when I say seen I mean understood and heard for who we really are, I’m not talking the attention/performative sense).  That’s why we end up with groups of people who have similar interests.  We spend so much of our day either being told what to do and who to be or putting on an act just to make it through with a modicum of acceptance that we need to seek out those who are like the real us.  Why do we spend the majority of our productive waking hours doing and being things we are not?  Because we are told we have to dedicate our time to a machine in order to survive.  This world is changing and we are seeing people creating their own definition of life and thriving everywhere.  We are waking up to the change we know we need because we see possibility outside of the grind we are told is the only way.  We can create the way.

Be Ok

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Change is never easy.  It’s never a fun thing to venture into the unknown, especially when we’ve been conditioned or trained to feel/react/behave a certain way.  It’s never easy to break any kind of comfort zone.  Comfort has been equated to safety.  We all love the illusion of control.  We plan and plan and do all the things, the running, the swearing, the circles, the crying/begging/arguing, the winning and losing.  And then we do it again in some other arena because…I have no idea why.  The thing with change is it comes in many forms.  Sometimes it’s direct and we shift from one way to another.  Sometimes it’s sneaky and we don’t realize that suddenly we have a new habit or a new belief or that we can suddenly do without what we desperately needed.  Sometimes it’s forced and unanticipated.  No matter the form, it will come. 

I was holding my son the other day and I really started thinking about where we are in life.  Thinking about all of the goals I have and how far I feel from so many of them.  Thinking how lofty they seem and that I really am not the person who will achieve those goals.  As I held my boy and looked at him, the thought hit me: I am a mother.  Yes, in the biological sense I have been very well aware of this, don’t misunderstand.  But in the emotional sense I’ve grappled over the years with what identity this puts on me.  Not just in the typical mother or career type argument, but in the identification of who I am.  I’ve always wanted to be a million things and I thought I had to do them all at once or I would never get to experience them.  Motherhood has been a beautiful choice for me, but I’ve always treated it like another hat to wear.  I never allowed it to shape me, I never allowed myself to enjoy it.  I put way too much pressure on it.

So as I held my boy, the thought came to me that sometimes letting go of who we think we are shows us who we really are. I was reminded of when he was still a baby and how I would kiss his head as I fed him to get him back to sleep and I became acutely aware of how much time has passed since then.  I’ve been fighting this circular fight, trying to wear all the hats and be all the things at the same time and it has been a lifetime of never reaching the goal.  It doesn’t work because there is no clarity.  In those early hours of the day watching my boy sleep, I realized I can let go of my plan, of who I think I am and honor that it is safe to go with what is planned for me.  I can wear that new plan like a cloak.  Allow it to surround me and guide me.  I can allow myself to take some direction. 

I fear not achieving my goals but the push is too much.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of being tired.  It’s time to try something different.  I’m scared of ending up where I don’t want to be because I’m already so far on this path, I feel like I’m giving up.  At the same time, I feel this sense of peace that I don’t always have to know the way.  I just have to follow the path.  Let go of the how and focus on the why, right?  I can give over the idea of what I had to do to get where I wanted to be and just do what is being asked of me.  There is healing there.  There is healing in surrender and allowing yourself to be shaped into who you are meant to be.  I can trust that there is time and many ways for all of this to come together. 

Change is death.  We’ve talked about that before.  Whether gradual or all at once, change is the release of what you knew.  It’s giving up the pretense that any of us are in control and acknowledging that some things don’t stay the same—and that we don’t always know why.  If we really think about it, so much of what we do in our days is rote and it’s that way because we are protecting ourselves.  We create these lives to avoid pain when all we have to do find who we are.  The best way to avoid pain is to steer toward who we are rather than who we think we need to be.  Everything else is madness.  Accept the identity we are given and accept all that comes with that identity regardless of how you feel about it.  Just embrace it.  Embrace all you are and go the path that may not always feel comfortable.  Relinquish what you thought you were and allow the new life to be reborn. 

Celebrate Not Commiserate

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Finding the path through celebrating what is and what you’ve done rather than what you’ve lost and what you are not.  This is something I’ve known forever on an intellectual level.  I’ve always known that in order to be successful or to move forward, you need to make peace with where you are, figure out where you’re going and then figure out a way to close the gap.  But I never took stock of my present location as something worthy of celebrating.  It was still too easy to look at how far still remained to go.  And if I’m totally honest, a lot of the teaching from my childhood about celebrating achievement still rang in my head: it’s arrogant to celebrate an achievement. 

I never realized the disservice and the detriment I caused myself by NOT appreciating what I had done.  I chalked everything up to luck or coincidence or good timing and never took stock of what I was actually able to achieve.  I never appreciated the effort I put in.  I never appreciated my role in it or my ability to discern the gift I had been given and what it took to execute and achieve.  I looked at all the losses and ignored the gain.  That was a bit of my undoing because I lost touch with those abilities for a while and I took for granted that I would always be able to do it. 

Celebrating accomplishments isn’t about ego—it’s about connection.  It’s about honoring who we are and our connection to our purpose and the universe.  It’s about recognizing the divine in us because it removes the element of chance and puts faith and belief at the center.  Even if they are our accomplishments, they are only so through that connection we have with the universe and source.  So the truth is, celebration isn’t about us at all.  It’s about respecting that relationship we have with something so much greater than us.  There is no ego, only appreciation and presence.  If we get stuck on an accomplishment, that is ego.  If we define who we are by that accomplishment, that is ego.  If we demand any accolades, that is ego.  But enjoying the reward of the effort with an understanding that it was our place, that is divine.

So I’m learning to take time each day not only to feel gratitude, but to reconnect with that source.  To remember what I did.  To look at what I passed through in order to get where I am.  I’m looking at what I did do rather than what I didn’t.  The change in perspective is drastic.  Suddenly there is life where I felt a barrenness.  There is hope to achieve something else where there was obligation and overwhelm before.  There is pride and appreciation for the experiences instead of petulance over what didn’t happen.  There is an appreciation for my humanity rather than berating my imperfection.  This is life-changing.  Celebrate the connection and the faith rather than mourn it.  Enjoy the opportunities and accept them with gratitude.  Fulfill the purpose and keep moving.  Celebrate each step you can because joy is the creator of more opportunity.

Sunday Gratitude

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Today I am grateful for cleaning and organizing.  Maybe we are a bit late, but the cleaning bug has hit our household.  We moved here just about a year ago and we are finally organizing the rest of our space.  It felt amazing to get things going and start really setting up things how we want them.  I had a lot of guilt for it taking this long but, honestly, the more I talk to other people, the more normal I see this is.  I’m glad we took our time because we were really able to plan out what we wanted and now we are making it happen.  Sometimes we have to allow ourselves the time to settle in order to find what is really ours and decide on what we want to do.

Today I am grateful for finally making something my own.  We’ve been in this in-between with what we want to do with our lives, dealing with new middle-age, aging parents, a growing child, job dissatisfaction, where the future will take us—you know, life.  There are so many factors outside of our control, especially today, that we have to find those moments when we get them.  As we cleaned today, we started eliminating the actual clutter.  We put things where we decided they were—and that deciding felt good.  Last year when I started this type of cleaning, it was overwhelming and emotional.  This time it was cathartic and empowering.  All that had to be done was to make a decision and do it.  And we honestly both feel better for it.  It’s nice to put our mark on what is ours.  When we bought this house we thought this was going to be our forever home, but we haven’t made it that yet.  Now we are working on it. 

Today I am grateful for my life.  Simply and completely, I am grateful.  I had a talk with my boss this week and she reminded me again that I’m not celebrating the steps enough.  I have to let go of the thought that if I’m not where I want to be, I haven’t accomplished anything.  It simply isn’t true and it’s against what I’m promoting here.  This is a space to celebrate what we’ve done, a place to remind each other of our worth.  It isn’t a place to commiserate on how far we have to go.  I am grateful for all I’ve done, all I’ve been granted the ability to do, and for all that will come. 

Today I am grateful for fun.  We needed time together as a family.  I always found it interesting how we all need time apart but then we always need to come back together.  It’s nice to spend that time together, just having fun.  In the midst of our cleaning, we found our old Wii and showed it to our son and we ended up playing for about an hour.  Our kid had a blast—he loved playing together and I loved that we moved together.  I loved working together.  That is life. 

Today I am grateful for my body.  Normally I express gratitude for my health, but today I want to get specific.  I’ve been focusing really hard on taking care of my physical body.  Like so many, I’ve spent years condemning and criticizing my body, never accepting it and always wishing it were another way.  I hated it for the longest time to the point of self-harm.  But as I work on appreciating this physical form and helping it toward health, I appreciate it so much more.  This body has done amazing things.  It has been a vessel of so many things in this world and the fact that it is still going, the fact it has survived all it has and can still move and still work toward improvement is astounding.  I appreciate everything it has done and can do and I appreciate knowing that I can do more.

Today I am grateful for the pause. I think it’s timely to bring this up again.  There is constant chaos in the world and I remark on it a lot.  It weighs on me a lot because I look at the cause and want to fix it.  It isn’t about looking for power or even about being right, it’s about addressing the root of our need for power and the need to be right.  Not enough of us are taught to root in authenticity and we end up lashing out somehow.  But taking a pause and remembering who we are, learning to HEAL is key.  As a doer, I’m always 10 steps ahead on multiple tracks and that doesn’t leave room for healing.  In fact, it keeps me pretty far behind.  So stopping and considering what actually needs to be done is huge.  Gaining perception is necessary and I am grateful to take stock.    

Wishing everyone a wonderful week ahead.

Indecision

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“More is lost by indecision than wrong decision,” Marcus Tullius Cicero.  I can vouch that more time is lost waiting for something to happen and trying to find the way running on the same path than taking a wrong turn and heading toward something.  A few days ago we talked about a look don’t touch approach to life.  That is the perfect storm for someone to develop indecision.  When you don’t trust your instincts you lose sight of how to create, pivot, and adapt.  You expect things to go a certain way, you think that certain actions will yield specific results and when that doesn’t happen, you lose your way.  I’ve spent many a night crying over my frustration with doing the right thing and nothing happening. 

Most of my indecision has come from exactly that.  I thought I was doing the right thing—I spent my life doing exactly as I was told—and I still wouldn’t get what I was “promised.”   That made me question everything.  I started asking myself why anything mattered if people could literally do what they want with no consequences but I felt like stepping a toe out of line would rain down punishment for me.  Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but the feeling is true.  It’s easy to lose sight of your own intuition and instinct when what you think will happen, doesn’t.

What I learned, however, is that we waste more time thinking things should be a certain way when we could simply accept them as they are.  I’ve mentioned it before that we waste more time wishing and thinking things should be a certain way than if we were to simply accept what is around us.  And the truth is, no matter what, the universe will operate on its own timeline with its own plan whether we like it or not.  It’s pretty futile to fight something that just IS.  That isn’t to say we don’t have influence or power, it’s just that our power is bound within the scope of what we are meant to do and what we are capable of doing.    

The other thing I learned is that there really is no wrong decision.  I lived linearly where x leads to y because that is the natural course of things.  And then I saw it wasn’t.  Things would happen exactly as they SHOULDN’T regardless of my input.  A very small example was a password to my bank account.  I knew what it was, I typed it correctly and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get into my account on the computer.  The app was one thing, but the computer wouldn’t cooperate.  I called support and they confirmed I did nothing wrong—I still had to create a new password.  Sometimes life just does what it needs to and it doesn’t make sense.  No matter what we do, we will be guided exactly where we are meant to be.  Who knows, maybe someone figured out my password and the universe was protecting me.  The same for all of our decisions: even if we make a wrong turn, we will find where we need to go eventually.

So don’t paralyze yourself with overthinking or believing it has to be a certain way.  Simply accept and make a choice with the information you have.  All is well and it will always turn out exactly as it is meant to be.  Don’t waste the time you have with doing nothing.  Spend your time enjoying life and living and learning and loving.  That is never a wrong decision.  In those experiences, you will see the bigger picture, the lesson you are meant to learn.  You will even find your purpose.  So live.  Make the choices, take another road, stop what isn’t working.  Start over as often as you need to, but keep trying.  Keep moving and keep deciding.  No one makes it out alive anyway, so spend the time you have doing what you love.  Go toward love, always.  You will find the way. 

Toxic is Toxic

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I read a parable today about a woman who constantly killed her plants.  No matter what she did, they would die.  She decided to try a final time and she took extra care and diligence with watering and making sure the plants received proper light.  The plants still began to yellow and wither.  In a seemingly unrelated event, a water line broke near where she kept the plants.  While that was being fixed, the plumber saw that somehow the line had been attached directly to a water softener; she had been watering the plants with straight salt water.  The point is this: you can do everything right, but if the environment or the nutrients are toxic, nothing will survive. 

I’ve found myself playing this game of trying on different faces nearly every day, specifically at work.  I felt so angry and helpless at the way I was being treated that I felt like I had to adopt a different persona to be accepted.  No matter how much work I did, it was never enough or it was treated as superfluous, completely unnecessary.  Nothing I did was “right” by anyone’s definition and there was no clarification on what direction to take but it was still my fault for not knowing.  And it hit me after reading the parable: this is how it is and this is how it will be.  I can’t change how they behave toward me.  I can’t make them see what I do.  This environment will always be sick and I will never get what I need out of it. 

When we see and accept that there are some things that have nothing to do with us, it is easier to see the course of action.  It’s easier to feel what we have to do.  It’s easier to understand that how people perceive us is a mark of their experience and not of who we are.  We can’t allow their definition of us to define who we actually are.  we are interpreting their interpretation of us and making it into something that doesn’t exist.  When we feel like no matter what we do things are just failing, when we feel like everything around us is eating away at who we are, it is time to evaluate what is actually going on.

Chances are, it’s time to move environments.  It’s time to check the connections to make sure we are getting all that we need and that we are connected to the right source.   That action alone will clarify what works for us and what doesn’t.  That makes the goal clearer.  The goal is to thrive and to get to the place, both physically and mentally that allows for that thriving.  We are meant to grow and develop in order to thrive and carry our messages forward.  Find the place that allows for you to be you and allows you to serve as you are meant to, with the innate talents and gifts you have. Thrive, don’t just survive.

Look, Don’t Touch

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Even though it was never explicitly said, I was made to stay within the confines of what people expected of me and made to do the right thing in their eyes.  I was trained to be afraid of what other people think and to tailor my behavior to the audience, there was no sense of identity.  Anything that was unique to myself was demanded to be hidden or treated as too much.  I remember my grandmother telling me that her generation was always meant to be seen and not heard.  I remember telling my grandmother things aren’t the same but I also remember that disheartening feeling in my stomach. That immediate sense of unworthiness and disdain and questioning why my laugh was considered too much or why my voice didn’t deserve to be heard. 

When we are taught that our words and our actions are never meant to see the light of day, that we have nothing of value to contribute, we lose the confidence and the ability to be who we are.  We learn to hide and retreat and to keep silent even if we know we have something of value to contribute.  The other problem with this is we lose the confidence to explore.  We question our ability to learn or do things so we treat life as look don’t touch.  We think that our actions alone will destroy the world if we step a toe out of line.  With all of the healing I’ve been working on (especially generational) I’ve come to realize that my mother was raised like this as well.  Even though she never said it outright, she passed on some of that as well.

Even as a child I’ve always been sensitive to what other people thought and felt.  I could pick up on their frustration and anger or even their sadness and depression very easily.  My mother was tired all the time.  She was never happy with her life because her mother believed that certain things were mistakes and that you needed to pay for them forever.  As my grandmother professed forgiveness to others as a good Catholic, she scorned her own child for being human.  My mother never carried that level of contempt for her children but she did carry the weight of making everything look good.  She was raised believing she was an inconvenience and a disappointment and she thought her job as a parent was to keep her kids in line so they wouldn’t do the same.

Honestly, this never bothered me before until I saw myself doing the same thing with my child.  Everything he did out of curiosity or simply exploring or even letting off steam felt like such an expenditure of energy that I couldn’t keep up.  I saw myself putting more energy toward work and trying to make the house look a certain way and feeling like I had to keep him in line that I missed the point: he was experiencing joy.  Joy leads us infinitely further than guilt or being coerced into a certain belief ever will.  I don’t ever want to put that guilt on my child.  He is wild and free and, as long as he is safe, that is exactly what he is meant to be.  He isn’t meant to fulfill anyone’s expectation of what he should be.  He is his own person learning about life.  And so am I. 

Learning how to reparent myself and how to accept the things I’ve always been has been tricky.  You get very used to behaving a certain way because you were trained to believe that so stepping out of that mold feels unnatural.  With time and experience, I’ve learned, however, that stepping out and exploring and being honest about who we are is THE most natural thing in the world.  Just because people have a hard time accepting it doesn’t make it wrong.  I have to remind myself daily that it is ok to be who I am.  I have to remind myself that my gifts are needed and I have things to bring to the table.  We all do!  As we accept ourselves, we can accept others.  As we learn new ways to include and shed the old, the more we inspire others to do the same.  Life isn’t look don’t touch—it’s meant to be messy and fun and loud and we are meant to learn from it and experiment and create.  Creation is messy, but it’s beautiful—start creating yourself.