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Posts Tagged ‘change’

Yes.  You read that correctly.  Cricket made me cry.

No, not “a” cricket.  Just Cricket.  Not an insect (are they insects?  Hang on a second I need to Google this.  Ah….they are indeed insects.  Closely related to katydids.  Who knew??)  Not the sport.  Just Cricket.

Cricket is a moniker used by someone who posts on an internet bulletin board on which I frequently lurk.  (RMSJr if you’re reading you’ll know the board and moniker I’m talking about.)  Cricket’s not her real name (No!  Really Spudsie??  LOL!) .  Her frequent posts help balance out my infrequent ones.  Over the years I’ve come to really respect what she has to say and look forward to reading her views on political and social topics.  Her views frequently mirror my own (sorry RMSJr….I know that probably pains you….you love me anyway right?  ;-))  and she’s able to articulate things better than I could.

The main thing that has impressed me about Cricket is her willingness to state her point of view and not care what anyone else thinks.  (Or at least that’s how it seems from my perspective.)  She’ll let everyone know where she stands and engage in dialogue regarding just about any topic regardless of the online insults hurled by “anons” or even known posters.  Her beliefs are her beliefs and she’s not afraid to let anyone know.

That’s sooooo far from where I am.  I suspect my beliefs and views are just as strong and deeply held as Cricket’s.  I tend to keep them to myself.  I recently told a friend of mine that I’m a democrat and she was really surprised.  The circles I tend to “run” in are largely republican—make that vocally republican.  And I’ve learned over the years just to keep quiet on most political topics.  It’s a habit I’m slowly trying to un-learn. 

(Yes, I know.  I’m not really “un-learning” a habit.  I’m changing the way I interact with people.  I’m choosing to speak up.  I’m choosing to be authentically “me”—whoever that is.  It’s just easier—and shorter—to write that I’m un-learning.  Grin!)

So I really admire Cricket for being herself and for being willing to freely state what she believes.

There was a thread started recently about Jim Wallis and the subject of social justice.  It hit a nerve with me when someone called Jim Wallis a Socialist.  While I cannot claim to have read everything written by Jim Wallis, I have read a fair bit of it.  And it seems crystal clear to me that he is NOT a Socialist.  Period.  So I jumped into the thread and gave my opinion.  And somehow Cricket and I ended up posting a few things back and forth to each other. 

Now I’ve “known” of Cricket and actively followed her postings for a while.  But given the infrequent nature of my own posts I’m positive she had never noticed me before.  Since we seemed to share similar views on the topic and had similar experiences from other Christians when discussing the topic I made a bold move.  Well…..bold for me anyway.  LOL!  I posted an e-mail address and invited her to drop me a line to continue the conversation off the board if she’d like.  And she did!!  Cool beans!  J

She sent me an e-mail with some more of her thoughts on social justice, a little of her back ground, a little bit about her views on different stuff, and an invitation to share my own thoughts.  So I did.  I replied with an overly long e-mail (some of you who have received similar e-mails from me can commiserate with Cricket….LOL!) about a little bit of my history and my thoughts on social justice.

Describing what “social justice” means to me is challenging.  I feel very inarticulate.  I feel as though I stumble and fumble my way through it.  It’s something I FEEL rather than THINK.  And goodness knows I have problems identifying emotions and feelings, much less using them to explain a bigger concept.  When I hit “send” and watched my e-mail disappear into cyberspace I wondered if my words made any sense.  Was there anything of worth in them?  How many typos did I have?  LOL!

Evidently it made a lot of sense to Cricket.  She replied with an e-mail today that made me cry.

Good tears.

She shared a few stories from her life, some of her early exposure to the concept of social justice—before she knew what it was called or knew that not everyone viewed it the same way.  She shared some of her frustration with “church people” (my words—not hers) and their frequent opposition to social justice. 

It was really cool learning that about her.

That wasn’t what made me cry. 

What made me cry was what she said about me. 

Recently I’ve been praying that God would show me what he wants from me in a very clear way.  In a way that I CANNOT miss or misinterpret.  I’ve been praying that in the context of trying to find a life direction.  (See previous blog entries for more about that.  J)  “Hey God, I’m gonna need some major help.  Could you show me what you want from me, where you want me to go in such an obvious way that I cannot miss it.  In a way that I will feel in my soul that it’s where I can start.  Even if the direction changes along the way, even if you have something different in mind for further down the road, could you simply show me where to start.  Make it resonate in the core of my being.  Make it energize me in a way I’ve forgotten I can be energized.  Please open my eyes, my heart, my mind.”

I trust God will help me as I continue my search.  There hasn’t been handwriting on the wall (yet!) or anything like that—and there may never be exactly what I am praying for.  And that’s okay because I know he’s got my back!  And when the creator of the universe has your back, it’s probably best to just let him do his thing.  He’ll come up with a way of guiding me that will be more impactful, more effective than anything I could imagine.  (You rock God!!)

I think in my prayers he’s heard something else.  Something I didn’t really articulate.  (He’s really good at reading between the lines.)  He’s heard my desire to try to see myself differently.  He’s heard my frustrations at not understanding why people say the good things about me that they occasionally say.  He’s heard me say, “What do they see that I don’t see?  Why can’t I see that in myself?”  And he’s sending people to me to help me see ME more clearly.

And this is where Cricket’s e-mail made me cry.

She started her reply to me by calling me a beautiful soul.  I kid you not.  It caught me completely off guard.  I wasn’t expecting anything remotely like that!  I mean, really, the only thing she knows about me is what she read in one e-mail (albeit a lengthy one…).  That’s it.  One e-mail in which I felt I didn’t express myself very well.  Wow.

And she didn’t stop there.  She went on for three paragraphs to say the most heart-felt things about me.  In one e-mail she was able to see things that I haven’t been able to see in thirty-cough-some years.  Not only did she see them, she told me about them.  She told me about me.  And since I wasn’t expecting it ALL of my defenses were down.  I felt the full impact of it deeply.  It actually resonated with me.  Wow.

As Yoda would say, “Unexpected this is.”

I love it when God answers a prayer I didn’t even realize I prayed!

So today has been a good day.  Cricket made me cry.

And see myself a little differently.

Thanks God!

Thanks Cricket!

Cricket

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What environment best nurtures potatoes?  Specifically this potato.  What does Spudsie need to grow, develop, stretch and be the best potato she can be?

(There’s probably some deep psychological reason I frequently talk about myself in a potato-sense rather than as {insert my real name here}.  Whatever.  It suits my needs at the moment.  It sets me apart from the vast majority of the blog-o-sphere—seriously, who else refers to themselves as a potato???  And it’s a lot of fun!!  It helps me stay light-hearted.  So I’m sticking with it.  J) 

As I’ve been thinking about a general direction for me life, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time thinking about what I want.

All too often (or is that an over-used, trite phrase according to James Kilpatrick?), I find myself thinking about what I don’t want.  I don’t want conflict.  I don’t want to have to wear a suit.  (Ever seen a potato in a suit??  Yeah…go ahead and try to Google that.  I’ll wait……)  I don’t want to take time away from Mr. Spuds.  Etc.

Whenever I’ve found myself thinking those things I’ve tried to stop and turn them around.  Yeah….enough about what I don’t want.  What is it that I do want?  Rephrase it as a positive thing.  I want a peaceful working environment.  I want a casual dress atmosphere.  I want to be able to leave work at the office. 

I’ve talked/written about this a little before in previous posts.  As I’ve continued to think about it I’ve come up with more.  Here are some random thoughts in no particular order.  Over the past couple of weeks they’ve come into a pretty clear focus.

·         I want to be surrounded with people who value integrity.  Who have integrity as a core value.  People I can trust.

·         I want to work with people who truly value diversity.  Cultural, religious, political, social-economic, gender, race, creed, and all the others I’ve momentarily forgotten.  People who want to hear viewpoints other than their own.  An atmosphere where people learn from each other.  Where you are allowed to hold views different from others.  Where you aren’t berated, ridiculed and mocked for your beliefs…..whoops!  There I go again with the negative.  Ahem.  A place where diversity of all types is valued.

·         I want to be respected for who I am and what I can do.  I want to feel that respect daily.  I want to hear it in the way I’m talked to and with.  I want to sense it in the way I’m talked about to others.  I want to know it because my opinion is sought out on matters I may have knowledge about or that may impact me. 

·         I want to feel my value to a company, to people in more than simply monetary ways.  Don’t get me wrong—money is nice!!  I like money!  J  (As do all of the shoe stores I frequent.  And amazon.com.)  If there’s a discrepancy between my value in the form of a paycheck and my value in the form of feedback, praise, and general interactions with TPTB I want my paycheck to be on the short end.  (Less money, more non-monetary currency.)  I want the Todd Fitz exclamation-point currency.   (Mr. Spuds will understand what that means!)

·         I want to spend my time someplace where I can be myself.  (See diversity above.) 

·         I want to work where my integrity is not questioned.  Where I am trusted.  Where it is assumed my intentions are good and honest.  “Hey Spudsie I noticed you did X.  That seems really out of character for you.  Can you tell me what happened?”

·         I want to work someplace that challenges me.  That keeps me on my toes.  That keeps me learning and wanting to learn more.

Casual dress. Work hours.  Commute time.  Power.  Corporate vs. small business.  For profit vs. not-for-profit.  Public vs. private.  None of those things matter nearly as much as the things I just listed.  At the right place, with the right work, in the right atmosphere—the rest of it is negotiable.  Casual dress is cool.  And so are business suits with an awesome pair of pumps!  Work hours?  If I’m totally engrossed in and energized by what I’m doing or who I’m doing it for, I might not even notice the hours.  It’s not the typical “check-list” type items I’m craving.  It’s the more intangible stuff.

They are the things I want.  The things I crave.  The things I deserve.  The things I think will help me grow.

 Growing Potato

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Last week I cried.

That in itself isn’t all that unusual.  But what I did while crying was unusual for me.

Last Monday evening I had a coaching call with Coach Jim.  I’ve written about it once already here.  And in the middle of the “should” conversation I was crying.  Not a delicate, sniffle, sniffle, blink away the tears kind of crying.  Oh no.  It was the “wipe my nose on my sleeve because there isn’t enough time to get to a Kleenex box-and even if there were time I don’t have the energy to spare from my weeping to reach the box” type of crying.  (How’s that for a description of something you’d rather not have a mental image of?!?  ;-))

Crying while on the phone with Jim is nothing new.  He frequently gets me to stretch emotionally pretty far beyond where I’m comfortable—and that’s a great thing!  A great thing that makes me cry typically.  So while crying on the phone with Jim is nothing new, this one has stuck with me.   It was a pretty major fear I was facing that made me cry.

For “brevity’s” sake I’m not going to re-hash the entire conversation.  (Please…hold your applause.  J) Basically Jim was trying to help me see something about myself.  And the words he used screamed in my brain, “This is a bad thing!  This is not how a good potato carries herself.  Acting like this is wrong!”

Now Jim wasn’t saying anything judgmentally, I simply was hearing it judgmentally.  He was asking the question, “How would these conversations go if you didn’t think people should respond in a certain way?”  (Whoops!  There I go again….re-hashing the conversation….)   He wanted me to consider how much more relaxed and at ease I could be in the conversation if I let go of my expectations.

My brain translated his words into, “Think of how much better things could be if you didn’t demand that every single person you came in contact with was required to react in the exact manner you tell them to.  You are clearly trying to control people and situations where you have no control.  You are going into these conversations with the mindset of a self-centered brat.  You are making the conversation all about you.  And isn’t that what you always do?  Don’t you always put yourself in the center?  You never think of anyone other than yourself!”

Again, allow me to repeat myself.  Jim wasn’t saying ANYTHING judgmentally.  And he certainly wasn’t saying anything that I wrote in that last paragraph.  He was simply trying to open my mind to what possibilities might open up if I approached some conversations with a different mindset.  And my brain twisted that into the “….you selfish brat…” words.  Ugh.  No wonder I cried!

Actually, my brain’s translation wasn’t what caused the tears.  It was my reaction to them and how I acted on that reaction.  (Bear with me….I’m not sure this makes sense even to me right now…)

I spent twenty or so years being told by a parent how I wasn’t good enough.  How everything I did, said or thought was a failure.  And how I didn’t ever think of anyone besides myself.   And in those twenty years I learned to file those statements away as truth.  It was just who I was.  It was how I was.  And it was bad.  I was bad.  I didn’t argue—it would have been pointless.  I didn’t yell back.  I didn’t defend myself.  I simply accepted it.

As I’ve grown older I’ve been able to see those statements are not entirely true.  I’ve been able to pull slightly away from them. 

At the same time when a person in any type of authority role in my life (boss, preacher, teacher, etc.) has said anything similar I continued to accept it without argument.  Even if my brain argued, my lips were silent.  It just wasn’t worth arguing about.  It wasn’t worth defending myself.  (Maybe I wasn’t worth defending??)

And two surprising things happened when I “heard” Jim saying those same things.  (Again, keep in mind Jim didn’t actually say them….my brain mis-translated them.)

First of all, my mind blew a whistle, threw down the yellow flag, yelled “foul!”  My mind said….  “Nope.  That’s not true.  I was there for the conversations and I was not demanding that people responded in a certain way.  I had hoped they would, but I wasn’t going in arms-crossed, eyebrow cocked, arrogantly demanding special treatment.  You’re off base Jim.  I’m not the type of person you are saying I am.” 

There are often times Jim will say something about a reaction I have, something I say or something I do that I initially disagree with.  So I’ve learned to bite down my initial reaction of “Buzz!  Wrong answer Jim!” and try to really listen to what he’s saying.  Try to really see what he’s seeing.  After all, I’m working with him because I haven’t had much success fixing things on my own.  Fighting with him really isn’t going to be very helpful in learning to make different choices!

So while trying to continue the verbal conversation with Jim I was having a different conversation in my mind.  “Jim’s wrong.”  “Maybe not.  Just listen to him and think about it.”  “Nope.  He’s wrong.”  “Spudsie give it some time.  He’s telling you what he sees.”  “Okay. ……nope.  Still wrong.”  And that was surprising.  That I could say with some conviction (if only in my own mind) “I’m not bad.”

At this point neither the verbal conversation nor the mental conversation was making much progress.  For once the “I don’t agree with what I think Jim’s saying about me or my character” was getting louder instead of settling down.  I tried setting it aside and moving on with the verbal conversation with Jim, but I found I couldn’t. 

And that’s when the more surprising thing happened.  (Please note, there were no tears yet at this point.)  I actually spoke up.  I said, “Jim, I don’t think I agree with that.”

Now I’ve said those words before.  And typically come around to seeing things from Jim’s point of view.  But this was different.  This was scary.

This was a conversation with someone I hold in high regard.  And I thought he had just said to me, “You are totally self-centered and don’t care about anyone else!  You think the world revolves around you and need to just get over yourself!  You are just horrible.” 

And I disagreed with him.

And I spoke up.  I “defended” myself.  If you can call squeaking out between sobs, “I don’t think that’s what I did Jim” defending myself.  LOL! 

I gathered all of the potato courage I’d hidden in my little toes for years (betcha ya didn’t know potatoes had toes!) and said, “No.  That’s not me.  I’m not bad.  Don’t say those things about me.  Please don’t think them because they aren’t true.”   Well….I didn’t use those words….but that’s metaphorically what I was saying.

All sorts of fears had sprung to the surface.  “No.  Please no.  I can’t believe he just said that.  Of all people, not Jim.  Dear God in Heaven please don’t let him think that.  If Jim thinks that about me it must be true.  No.  Please no.  How can Jim possibly think I’m waltzing through life not giving a rat’s behind about anyone other than myself?  If that’s true, that makes every other bad thing ever said to me true.  I’m not worth anything.”

(Yeah……I go from neutral to out-of-control-self-doubt-and-fear in about.00000001 seconds.  Sigh.  It’s one of the things I’m working on.)

And in the middle of this HUGE mass of fear there was a little voice that said, “Hey Spuds.  You know that’s not true.  You know you’re worth something.  This is Jim.  You know Jim.  Jim is Jim—he’s not anyone else.  Jim is safe.  Talk to him.  Say something.  Disagree with him.  It’s okay.  This is a safe place.  Be open.”

And I spoke up.  Through almost blinding tears of fear, I squeaked out a few words.  And then a few more.  And then a few more.  All the while scared (nearly out of my wits) that Jim would say, “Sorry Spudsie.  You’re just not good enough.”  Fighting against the part of my mind that was yelling, “Quit talking!  Just accept he thinks you’re a selfish brat and move on.  Don’t disagree, it will just make things worse!  You’ll just get more heaped on you!  Quit!  QUIT!!!  You’re going to make it worse!”

And, of course, in the end talking did NOT make it worse.  It made it better!  (Who knew?!  LOL! J) 

So kudos to me for speaking (or was that squeaking? LOL) up.  Kudos to Spudsie for fighting through the fear.  That’s yet another step towards authentically being me.  Yay!

Man.  I hope it gets easier to do this in the future.  ‘Cause I barely got through it this time. 

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“Called Out of Darkness”

Yesterday was kinda tough for this potato.  The damage I did to my foot while on vacation took an emotional toll.  While still in Vegas it kept me from doing a bunch of stuff I had wanted to do.  I didn’t let it completely sideline me, but I really did miss out on things I had wanted to do.  And the stuff I did despite the injury was marred somewhat by the limp and excruciating pain.  (Hindsight being 20/20 it would have been much less painful had I thought to have Mr. Spuds find an ace bandage to wrap my foot in and a cane so I could keep weight off of it and still move….but alas….I didn’t think of either of those things until I was back home and doctor told me they would help.  D’oh!) 

Basically Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were still fun vacation days, and at the same time they were so much less than I wanted them to be.

At the airport Mr. Spuds got one of Southwest’s special blue envelopes so I could board the plane before the “normal” passengers.  It sounds a little foolish, but I resented needing this special pass.  I really did need it—I was moving so slowly at that point I would have help up the entire boarding process.  But it was one more reminder (in addition to the brutal pain in my foot, lack of a shoe, and basic feeling of unwellness) that I was damaged goods.  And I really didn’t want another reminder.

I managed to get in to see the doctor on Saturday morning.  He didn’t think the foot was broken, but told me to stay off of it.  No problem doc!  It hurts too much to do anything!  He said it should start to feel better in 3 to 5 days.  And if it doesn’t, I get to go see a foot doctor. 

So naturally I spent all day yesterday wallowing in pity party.

Okay, that’s too harsh.  I spent all day yesterday trying to avoid wallowing in a pity party.  I was partially successful.  Despite that, it was essentially a wasted day.  I didn’t read anything.  I didn’t really write anything.  I spent the day staring at the TV, desperately wanting to do laundry, clean the bathroom, visit a friend; all of the stuff I had hoped to do when I returned from Vegas.  But I was stuck in my room—not allowed to do any of it.  I was helpless.  And I really, really, REALLY don’t like being helpless.

Today I decided enough was enough.  I have to return to work tomorrow, and I may as well do whatever I can today—without moving.  So I finished reading the book I had started on the plane.  (Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle???  It rocks!  I had a dozen books to choose from….and didn’t have to cart around any extra luggage!)  And when I finished that one I decided to finish “Called Out of Darkness” by Anne Rice.  It’s the story of how she found her way back to God.  I had started it before vacation but hadn’t been able to finish it.

The first hundred or so pages were a little challenging for me.  Some it I could really relate to.  Some of it was foreign to me.  Rice grew up Catholic and she describes in great detail what that was like.  The education.  The saints.  The services.  The community.  The Latin.  All of that is pretty foreign to me.  I have a little knowledge, but I haven’t “lived” it and for some reason I found it difficult to relate to.

That was odd—the book I had just finished reading was about a zoo in Warsaw during WWII.  I’ve never been to Warsaw—much less a zoo there.  I clearly wasn’t around during WWII.   I’ve never helped people escape Nazi terrors.  Yet somehow I was able to relate to that book while Rice’s descriptions of a Catholic upbringing escaped me.

Odd.  I don’t really understand the difference.  But there it is.

There were parts of the first hundred or so pages that were easy to relate to.  They talked of Rice’s faith (while growing up) on a very personal level.  That was really neat to read.  She does an excellent job of describing what I would have called indescribable.   She gives words to feelings and thoughts I could not articulate.  Pretty neat stuff!

The final 100 pages of the book were mind-blowing. 

During the first half of the book I found myself thinking, “Get to the point Anne!  This is supposed to be the story of how you found your way back to God.  Why spend so much time describing your early faith?  Tell me about what your faith is NOW!”

I had to laugh when I found myself hit with those thoughts.  “LOL!  Come on Spudsie, it’s her story and she gets to tell it however she wants to.  That’s her right as the author….and as a person.  Just keep reading.”

I think Rice describes a struggle countless Christians have gone through.  Those of us raised on or with a parent’s faith have to go through a journey to make their faith our own.  Hmmmm…..that’s not quite right.  We have to go through a struggle, a journey to find our own faith.  Some of us abandon the original faith completely.  Some stay with the faith generally and make changes to how they practice.  Some cling to the faith of their parents so tightly they risk losing it altogether. 

For some the journey, the struggle is relatively quick.  For Rice the journey took thirty-some years.  As she looks back on those years she sees how her writing mirrored the struggle though she didn’t realize she was in the middle of it.

She talks about how her return to faith, her return to God was a deliberate choice.  One she made knowing it would require active participation on her end.  She didn’t stumble in to a blind faith.  She chose to return to God knowing full well she would have to wrestle with questions of what total devotion to God means.  Of what trusting God means.  Of releasing her own questions of “How can this be your will” to God, instead of answering them on her own.  She eloquently describes those struggles.  And how she went into them with open eyes.

Rice also talks of her fears of returning to God.  She writes, “I believed in God.  I feared Him.  I feared what He might ask of me.  I saw the shallowness of my commitment.  I saw the incompleteness of my life.  Mine was a negotiated abandonment, and that mean it was not a true abandonment at all.”

“I don’t recall talking to anyone about this.  It was too intensely personal to share with another.  And how pompous and foolish it might have sounded over a café table.  What if God wants something more of me?  I’m afraid.”

She struggled to find a way to make a deeper commitment.  And it hit her—she needed to write only for God.  Only for His purposes.  She needed to release that part of herself to Him.

Wow!  If we could all feel that, if we could all come to that place in our Christian lives, in our total lives, how different could church, could religion be?  Totally surrendered to God.  The thing we want to grasp the most—to release that to Him.  What would church communities look like then?  What would families look like?  What would our world look like?

More to the point, what would my world look like if I decided to make that choice?

I could be totally mistaken (I often am!), but I believe Rice wrote this book to tell her story.  To tell of her journey back to God.  Simply to share it because she had lived it.  (And she’s a writer—so that’s what she does.  J)  Perhaps she hoped it would be encouraging to readers.  Maybe she dared to think it might give inspiration to others struggling to find their way to God.

To me she did far more than that.  She challenged me.  She set the example.  She said, “I’m willing to let go of what made me a popular, successful author.  I’m willing to let go of the old characters.  I’m willing to leave them behind and to now write only for God.  I’m willing to ignore critics, willing to ignore doubters, scoffers, willing to be guided by God and God alone in my writing.  I’m willing to let go of the one thing that I know and go wherever God guides me.  Because I love and trust Him.”

What a remarkable thing to do.  What an example.  What a challenge.

Reading often transports me to unexpected places.  This book has been no exception.  And for a work of non-fiction to transport me to an unexpected spiritual place—that’s quite surprising. 

What is it You want from me God?  What am I trying to cling to?  And how do I let it go?

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Here’s a quick update on yesterday’s post.

I survived the evening. 

😉

Okay…..I did slightly better than just surviving.  (Grin!)  It was good.  I managed to be much more open than I would have been six months ago.  So I’m really happy about that!!  Being open (at least IRL) isn’t easy for me.  It’s truly a deliberate choice I have to make—it doesn’t come naturally.

Going into a group of 9 people I’ve never met before isn’t the problem for me.  I’ve learned how to engage people and get them talking about themselves.  I ask basic questions, listen to the answers, scan my brain for quick follow up questions that relate to their answers, and try to have them talk about themselves as much as possible.  And since most people love to talk about themselves, it’s pretty easy for me to come away without needing to “give away” too much information about me. 

If they say something that triggers a “Hey, I’ve done that/been there/know them too” type of response I’ll toss that out there.  And then follow up with questions about them again.  So I leave little clues about who I am in the conversation.   Knowing full well no one will pick up on them.

Occasionally someone will surprise me and remember something I said and mention it later in a conversation.  And I typically take that as a sign that they really do want to get to know me.  That they aren’t just being polite.  So I open up a little more.  I become a little less guarded.

But most of the time I try to keep people talking about their own life.  While it is a completely defensive way to walk through life, it also provides me with amazing information about people.  So it’s clearly a skill worth hanging onto, worth keeping in my tool belt.  I simply need to add some additional tools into the mix.

And I tried to do that last night.

Scratch that.

That’s what I DID last night.

I was more open, more authentic, more ME last night than I typically am with a brand new group of people.  Yay me!

Was I as open during the entire evening as I wanted to be?  Nope.

And I’m okay with that.  Clearly there is still a bunch of room for growth.  But I’m making progress.  Eye contact much of the time (except when I fell back into avoiding it), feet firmly on the ground (except when I fidgeted), shoulders fairly square (that was probably the biggest physical challenge….I’ll have to work on that more), fairly open body posture (arms not crossed at all—so that’s awesome!).  Lots of little things I managed to do some/much of the evening.

 I was open (for at least part of the evening) with my spirit.  We had a group prayer and I volunteered to pray for a specific area.  So that’s kinda cool—praying is a pretty personal thing for me.  Before communion was served/shared (the reason Mr. Spuds and I went to the group in the first place), we all went to individual spaces and wrote a note to God.  And then came back as a group and read the note out loud.  I wrote a personal note—since I knew I would be reading it in front of everyone I left some things out.  But I left a lot of pretty personal stuff in as well.

Here’s what I said to God.  (I want to record this here so I’ll remember it and be able to look back in 6 months and see exactly where I was.  And by writing it down, I feel like it helps me keep saying it to God.)

God,

You know how hard it is for me to think of you as Father, as Daddy, and feel that part of your love and protection.

I thank you for your never-ending love, patience and gentleness with me as I try to grow more comfortable with that aspect of you.  And as I try to grow into the person you want me to be—and know I am capable of being.

I am overjoyed with the people you have brought into my life in the past year to help me see myself more like you see me—and help me see you more accurately, more wholly, and more holy. 

I love you.  I thank you.  You are amazing in ways I don’t even understand!

(See….even in group settings with strangers I’m still long-winded!  LOL!)

That’s a fairly personal, honest, authentic prayer.  And I cried while reading it.  I cried while listening to the music they played before writing it.  It was a crying centered in calm.  Which is totally new for me!

During the evening I did a fair amount of checking my posture, checking my energy, checking myself overall.  It helped.

At the same time, it was still really, really, REALLY hard.  Really.

Was it worth it?  I think so.  I hope so.  Yeah…..it probably was.  If nothing else it was a great way to practice combining a lot of the things I’ve been working on with Coach Jim.  All of ‘em at the same time takes oodles of energy!  And I know that’s primarily because it’s all still new to me.  If I do it more, it will become easier.  So in the long run it will definitely be worth it! 

If the be-all end-all result of doing this was how I felt at the end of last night, I would have to say it wouldn’t have been worth it.  Because I walked away with a fair amount of frustration.  Frustration that there were periods of time where I wasn’t fully engaged.  When I simply sat and withdrew into myself.  When I wanted someone to reach out to me.

And that’s the down side (if there is one!) to practicing this with a group of strangers.  They have no idea who I am.  They don’t know what I’m struggling with.  They see me a little differently than anyone else because I’m presenting myself differently than I have in the past. 

I don’t think I’m articulating this very well.  Ugh. 

Essentially there are things I feel good about from last night, and thing I feel less-than-good about. 

Overall?  If I had it to do all over again, I’d make the same choice.  The choice to commit to walking in and being as open as I could be.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do everything I wanted to do wouldn’t change that.  It was a great practice—and we all know I need to practice!!

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Just a “quick” note tonight—I could use some good luck, positive vibes, kind thoughts….you get the idea.  J

I’m going into a setting tonight that is causing me a fair amount of anxiety.  Well…perhaps that’s overstating it a little.  Let’s just say I’m a little nervous.

I’m meeting a new study group (from the church Mr. Spuds and I have been visiting) for the first time.  I know only one person there—the minister.  And I don’t really know him all that well.  So this is my one shot at making a good first impression.

Meeting groups of people who I hope to “fit in” with is always cause for a little nervousness in this potato.  In addition to that “normal” set of nerves, I’m trying something new this time.  I’m trying to go in with a more open spirit.  I’ve got all kinds of new tools to help me out—new body postures, new ways of carrying myself, new ways of listening, new ways of speaking.  Lots of new stuff!

I’m not entirely comfortable with all of the new stuff yet.

Coach Jim keeps reminding me that “Fake it till you make it” is an excellent thing to do.  So that’s what I’ll be doing at least part of this evening.  Which seems a little at odds with the appeal of this church—their authenticity. 

I feel like this is my first “large scale” road test of the new Spudsie (so to speak).

I’m kinda nervous about it.  It’s an excited nervous—which is better than an anxious nervous—but it’s nervousness nonetheless.

Will I be able to do it?  Will I fall back into old “habits” 15 seconds before I walk in the door?  Will I come across as really “fake?” 

(Actually I’m not overly concerned about that last one.  I shouldn’t come across as “fake” because I’m being who I am.  I’m just trying to carry myself and present myself in a more positive light.  It’s all still the Spudster!)

So……will it work?  Stay tuned…..only time will tell.

Gulp.

What have I gotten myself into???

Wish me luck!

fingers-crossed

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So I was talking with Coach Jim this morning (more on that later) and he observed, “You haven’t written much on your blog this week.”  Or something like that.

“Yeah Jim, I was sick half of last week and didn’t really have the energy to write much.”

That’s what I said out loud.  What I thought was……well…..let’s just say it was an overreaction.  Totally defensive.

“What?  A potato can’t have an off week?!  Blogging is something I do for me—whenever I feel like it.  Whenever I want to.  It’s not a requirement.  It’s something I enjoy doing when I chose to do it.  Besides, I posted quite the insightful post on Friday night if-I-do-say-so-myself!  And my gratitude journal’s been pretty active.  Whadda ya mean I’ve been quiet?!”

Ummmm…..overreacting much there Spudsie?  LOL!  J

The astute reader will note that Jim simply made an observation.  And internally I reacted as though he’d made an assessment.  (Evidently I was not being an astute listener.)  Clearly someone was making an assessment about my lack of writing.  It wasn’t Jim.  It was ME!

True, I was sick part of last week.  And my brain didn’t work very well those 3 or 4 days.  Beyond that I still hadn’t taken much time to write.  And clearly I’ve been aware of that and feeling a little guilty. 

I’ve had tons of stuff floating through my head.  I’ve started a dozen blog entries in my head.  The words have never made their way to e-paper.  And that’s because I’ve been actively avoiding writing.  I have something new that I keep saying I want to start.  And truth be told, I DO want to start working on it.  And at the same time it frightens me a little bit.  I want to tackle some deeper stuff (that will probably never be posted publically….at least not in an unexpurgated form) that’s packed full of emotional baggage.  And that’s a little frightening to me.  Even though I’m totally in control of the process (which is comforting to the control freak in me!) I’m still not sure how it will play out.  What the end result will be.  Will it help me?  How painful will it be emotionally?

And the more I put it off, the more daunting it becomes.  So as soon as I’m done with this piece, I’m going to start it.  (Any bets on how long I’ll work on this to avoid the new stuff??  LOL!)

In the meantime…..here are some bits and pieces, some odds ‘n ends that are floating around my head, begging to be let out.

Church.  Mr. Spuds and I have been visiting a new church.  I’ve mentioned it a few times lately.  I really enjoy it.  And typically on Sunday afternoons I want to come home and write about the sermon.  I haven’t been doing that as often as I’d like to, so I’m going to try to change that in the future.  The sermons are really, really good!  Tom’s delivery is terrific, open and authentic.  And the material is easily accessible—or at least it is to my brain.  It makes me think.  I love that!

The last few weeks have been about marriage.  How to build a stronger one.  How to improve the one you have.  How to enjoy your marriage.  I’ve been really encouraged by the lessons.  I feel (and I believe Mr. Spuds would agree with me) that my marriage to Mr. Spuds is awesome!  We don’t really fight—sometimes we grumble at each other, and I can be a bear (to put it mildly) to be around when I have a migraine—yet overall we get along remarkably well.  He’s my best friend and I love spending time with him.  I know he loves me—there’s no question in my mind that he will love me always.  (He and I both think of love as a decision as well as an emotion.)  It’s a very safe, secure place to be.  And I treasure it.

Given my nature, I tend to listen to sermons to learn where I need to improve, where I need to change.  Or on really down days, to learn what I’m doing wrong.  This series of sermons has been wonderful because I’ve been able to see this is an area where I’m doing good!  And I walked away each week encouraged.  Yay!

More odds ‘n ends…..

Coach Jim often mentions in his newsletters (may I interrupt myself here for just a moment?  His monthly Happiness newsletters are awesome!  I know once a month, every month, something will appear in my e-mail inbox full of positivity and happiness and concrete, practical ways to make changes to help me choose happiness.  It rocks!!!  If you’re curious here’s a link to the archived newsletters.  Seriously…check it out!  It’s the only newsletter I read without exception every month—several times.)….where was I ?  Oh yeah……

Coach Jim often mentions in his newsletters how helpful it can be to simply change your perspective.  To look at things from a different angle.  Literally.  Travel a different route to work.  Sit in a different spot in the company cafeteria.  Visit a different church. You get the idea.  His suggestion is spot on!  It’s so easy for me to get into a “rut,” into a routine (even a “good” one) that I can lose sight of other possibilities.

Mr. Spuds and I had decided to visit other churches before the last newsletter where Jim mentioned changing perspectives.  That newsletter arrived the week before we actually went to a different church.  At the time I remember thinking, “Too funny!  I’ve already planned to visit another church.  Wonder if anything will jump out at me now that I’m thinking about it with a Happiness mind frame?”

And several things have.  Some of them immediately.  And some of them over time.  I hadn’t even realized what I was missing in the church Mr. Spuds and I had regularly attended for 8 years.  Yet the first week we visited the new church, BAM!, it was obvious what had been eating away at me.  Pretty cool stuff! 

 More perspective odds ‘n ends….

Without even realizing it I’ve settled into a routine of a time and place for conversations with Coach Jim.  We typically talk on a Monday evening around 5pm-ish.  (Go ahead and laugh Jim…..I know you want to.  J There’s nothing “ish” about the time I call. If the clock says 5pm you KNOW your phone will be ringing. LOL!)  And I typically close myself in the room where I’m currently writing.

The space is a fairly emotional space for me.  Recently it’s been all good emotions.  Hmmm…that’s not exactly right.  Some of the stuff I write about is really difficult and emotionally challenging.  But this chair is the one space where I’ve been able to repeatedly work through the painful emotions and move on to calm.  So it’s got good karma right now. 

Of course it’s also the place where I recline and hold my head in my arms and pray to God Almighty that the migraine I’m feeling will pass.  But somehow that energy’s been replaced with a much more upbeat, encouraging energy from writing.  And from talking with Jim.

Am I rambling?  Yeah…probably.  Regardless, the physical space I’m in when typically talking with Jim is emotional.  It’s the place where I’ve practiced (more than any place else) accessing different emotions and exploring them. 

Our schedules didn’t match up to talk today at 5pm-ish.  So instead we talked this morning.  And I decided since I would have the house to myself I would sit at the kitchen table when I talked with him.  An emotionally neutral space.  A different perspective.

It was pretty cool!   Until today I hadn’t realized how much emotional stuff I’ve dealt with in this chair.  I hadn’t realized what a warm, fuzzy cocoon of emotional exploration it had become.  Until I stepped away from it I didn’t see it.

Sometimes I don’t see the most powerful tools in my life because I’ve looked at them the same way for so long.  I don’t realize they have changed, morphed, evolved.  Looking at things from a new perspective is an amazing tool. 

Guess that’s another one I can add to my tool belt!

tool-belt

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