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Posts Tagged ‘Emotions’

(With thanks and apologies to Tina Turner for the title.  J)

The last couple of coaching conversations with Coach Jim have centered around revisiting/revamping/revising/reworking my goals.

When I started a year or so ago I had three goals originally and fairly quickly added a fourth.

The first three were pretty basic—one relates to my health, one relates to being more of an optimist (though I don’t really use the word optimist to describe myself—I told Jim it felt a little like calling myself a Republican—it just felt like something that would never be true!  ;-)), the third one relates to my emotions.

As it had been many moons since I had really looked at my goals they were probably over-due for some revisions.  I’ve made a number of changes in the past year and have progressed to the point where the goals as written weren’t really “big” enough for what I now want to do.

It was nice being able to go in and tweak them as needed!  It helped me see I have indeed made progress.  Who knew??  (Well…..I suppose everyone close to me knew…..I was probably the only one holding onto an old picture of myself.  LOL!)

The fourth goal kinda stumped me.  It originally read:

“I perceive myself as positively as others see me.  I am comfortable with myself and my emotions.  I allow myself to be vulnerable when appropriate and allow others to serve me or take care of me when necessary.”

A year ago it was a huge struggle for me to put even that much into writing.  It felt like a huge leap. 

I see it from a different perspective now.  It seems overly restrictive.  It seems somehow limiting.  It seems….well…it seems small.

While I haven’t achieved (for lack of a better word) this goal—oh heck no, I’m still far from it — I want more.  I’m not satisfied with that as my goal—I want something more all encompassing.

You know how from Einstein forward physicists (or at least some physicists) have been working to develop a unified field theory?  (You don’t?  Well check this out.  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/everything.html)  They are searching for a single theory to tie two incredibly diverse fields/areas/whatevers of physics together.  They are searching for something bigger.  (Which, if you believe string theory may be an answer, ironically turns out to be something super small.  J)

I found myself wanting something similar.  No….not a string!  One unifying goal.  One goal for the big picture.  One goal that the other, more specific, goals fall under.  Something to tie everything together with a nice bright piece of ribbon—or string if you care to stay with the physics analogy.  Grin!

And I couldn’t quite come up with anything.  Actively thinking about it didn’t give me visible progress.  Letting it “stew” in the back of my mind was equally unproductive.  Trying to write about it produced lots of blank space on the page.

Hey!  I know!  I’ll talk with Coach Jim about it!  Cool…….maybe an actual out-loud conversation will help my brain find what I’m looking for. 

So I did.

Almost two weeks later I still don’t have my fourth goal fully developed.  AND I’m perfectly okay with that.  Talking with Jim helped me find the direction I want to go with my “unifying” goal.

As you can probably see from the original fourth goal, I don’t feel like I have an accurate view of myself.  I can tell you 3.2 million things I do wrong, or areas that “need” improvement.  But ask me something I do that I’m proud of?  Something I do well?  Yeah……not much material for those questions.  My vision of myself, my perception, is skewed.  I know that and it doesn’t sit well with me.

So originally I wanted to see myself as I am.  Flaws and all.

And now I realize that isn’t quite enough.  I want more.

I want to be comfortable with who I am.  I want to accept myself.

And that still isn’t quite enough.  I still want more.  The “unifying” goal is bigger than that.

So as I talked with Jim about all of this our conversation kept taking twists and turns…..which is normal and really cool!  It felt like the more I talked the more I realized that what I was saying wasn’t big enough.  It wasn’t hitting home. 

I talked about wanting to be kind to myself.

That wasn’t quite right.  So Jim kept asking, what else?  What other words?  What is bigger?

Hmmmmm….okay….I dunno….gentleness?  I want to be gentle with myself?

While that is true (I typically am harsher on myself than anyone else would ever be….long stories there….I’ll spare you the details.), it still wasn’t resonating with me.  Kind I felt I could claim—I could put that into a goal.  It wasn’t what I was looking for though.  I wanted more.  Gentleness didn’t sit well.  That seemed to feel like I wouldn’t hold myself accountable—that I would let myself “get away” with too much.  That wasn’t working.

Jim kept asking, what else?  What is bigger?

Hmmmmmmmmm……I don’t have a clue Jim!  Okay Spudise….keep going…..keep searching….keep tossing the nets wide and into new waters…..

Think.  Think.  Think. 

 

Pooh thinking

 

 

 

 

Okay….what encompasses kindness and aspects of gentleness and still allows me to hold myself accountable for the stuff I need to be accountable.  There’s got to be a word.  There’s got to be a concept.  Keep working your way through this.  Keep going.  What does that unknown concept look like in others?  What allows you to extend grace and at the same time hold other people accountable?

Whomp.  (How’s that for onomatopoeia???  ;-))  Right upside the head.  It hit me.

And it scared the livin daylight out of me!  Seriously.  It scared me.  I knew if I didn’t start talking immediately I’d chicken out.  So I started talking.    

“Blah…blah…blah….blah…I can’t even believe I’m about to say this Jim….it’s love.  Love is bigger than kindness and gentleness.  Love.  That’s what I’m looking for.  I want to be able to say ‘I love me.’ and not burst into tears at the thought.  Blah….blah….blah….”

(The “blah…”part is me stalling by the way.  J)

If this caught Jim a fraction as off-guard as it caught me he probably fell over and hit his head.  Seriously.  Self-love is NOT a topic I have ever wanted to discuss.  The mere mention of it a year ago had me in tears.  Jim asked me at one point if I could say “I love me.” which caused me to promptly burst into tears.

Could I speak the words?  Sure I could.  Speaking the words is easy.  Speaking them and meaning them?  Nope.  Couldn’t do that.  And speaking them without meaning them felt wrong—it felt like cheating—it felt like it was going against everything I had committed to when I decided to work with Jim.  I had committed to being honest.  I had committed to being open and not hiding.  And saying “I love me” when I clearly didn’t “love me” would be lying.  And I wasn’t about to lie.  I could NOT say the words and have any sincerity behind them.  I could not say them and have any truth in the statement.  So I chose not to say them.

The tears didn’t come from a physical inability to speak simple words.  The tears and drama (not that I would EVER admit to being even slightly dramatic ;-)) came from knowing and feeling that I couldn’t honestly say them. 

And here we are…..a scant year later….and I’m the one bringing it back into the conversation.  How bizarre is that?!

“Do you know what you just said Spudsie?”  Jim asked.

“Yeah…..blah…blah…blah…” Desperately trying to avoid talking about it.  Maybe if I just keep talking he’ll let me off the hook. 

Snort!  Fat chance with that Spudsie!  J

Jim kept talking about what a huge change that was from a year ago.  The more he talked the more I wanted to get away from it.  I just wasn’t ready to dive into it.  It’s still a brand new thought.  I didn’t want to think about the implications just yet.  Fortunately Jim’s really, really , REALLY terrific at saying things in a gentle way so that I can hear them for at least a fraction of a second.

Frankly I don’t really remember much of the coaching conversation after that point.  And we ended early because Jim could clearly tell I wasn’t really able to move forward at that point. That I’d hit my “maximum progress” point for the day.

So we talked about books for a few minutes.  And I LOVE talking about books!!  LOL!

Where am I now?  In terms of having a “formal” goal on paper….I’m no further than I was 2 weeks ago.  And that’s okay for now.  I’m still trying to be comfortable with the thought.  (And please, no Yoda quotes about “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  Grin!) 

So my starting point for my “unifying” goal is “I love me.”  I want to give it more definition…I want to give it measurableness (is that even a word??? Spell-check certainly doesn’t think so!)  I want to be able to define a little more what that looks like.  Okay…okay… I want to be able to begin to define what that looks like.  When you have nothing I suppose defining it “a little more” isn’t very precise.  LOL.

Goal number four.  The unifying goal.  I love me.

Can I do it?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  I think so.

And that’s a good place to begin.

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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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Forgiveness

This post will probably end up being part rant, part vent, part self-administered therapy, and part question.  Confusing enough for ya?  LOL!

I had something happen today that is causing me to think about forgiveness.  What it means.  What it looks like in practice.  Is it ever complete?  If you change the way you act towards/think about/or feel about a person have you really forgiven them?

Without getting into too much detail (odd for me, I know!), someone I know broke their commitment to me today.  It’s going to cost me.  Literally.  Cost me $$$$.  $1,000 I wasn’t expecting to spend.  And an ongoing expense I hadn’t anticipated incurring until later.

And I’m angry.  I’m frustrated with and disappointed at the person who chose not to honor their word.

I’m not naïve.  I know these are incredibly difficult financial times for everyone.  I really do.  And knowing we are in difficult times I asked this person (let’s call them Q) back in January if we needed to make any changes. 

“Nope,” said Q.  “No changes are needed.  No problems.”

“Cool,” said the Spudster.

Flash forward to today.  “Spuds I need you to pick up that expense beginning back in January,” said the Q.

?!?!?!?!?!?

Since I’m electing to leave most of the detail out on this post I don’t know how much sense this will make.  From my perspective I had asked if we needed to make any changes to the arrangement and they said we didn’t.  It would be one thing to say “Hey, going forward we need to re-work this.”  But to flat out say, “Pay me back for everything back to January 1” when I had already asked about it makes me want to ask them what the hell they are thinking.

Like I said.  I’m angry.  And frustrated.  And disappointed.

And at the same time I’m not altogether surprised.

This person has a history of not keeping their word.  Of lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth—or to say nothing at all.  (You know….the type of person who will, without you even asking, show you their new designer handbag and tell you how they only paid $85.  And then the receipt falls on the floor and you see they actually paid $1,000.  That type of thing) 

They’ve lied to me in the past.  They’ve broken promises.  Broken commitments.  “Forgotten” commitments.  You name it, they’ve done it.  Not all of the time.  Not every time.  Just often enough that it could probably be classified mathematically as a pattern.

So Mr. Spuds and I had actually put money aside for this expense.  Assuming we’d eventually end up forking over the cash, but hoping against hope we wouldn’t have to.

So it’s not the money that has me angry.  That part only annoys me a little.  I find myself pretty happy that we thought far enough ahead to set it aside.  (Sometimes being a capital J pays off—literally!  ;-))

I’m not angry about the money.  I’m angry that once again this person has put their own self interests in front of mine and gone back on their word.  Has broken a commitment.  With no remorse and no regret.  And no visible consequences.

(And before you ask, no—this isn’t a friend.  It isn’t an acquaintance that I can avoid in the future.  It’s someone who, for the moment, cannot be avoided.  Long story.)

Integrity is important to me.  It’s one of my core values.  It’s one of my top core values.  (Hey Jim- is there such a thing as a low-ranking core value???  LOL!)  And I try to surround myself with people of integrity.  Even if you are an obnoxious boorish oaf, if you have integrity I’m a lot more likely to spend time with you than if you are a surface-level gentlemen with no integrity.  (Please note the deliberate use of “surface level” there.  True gentlemen have integrity IMHO.)  Integrity is important to me.  And that’s a big part of the reason I’m angry with Q. 

They broke their commitment to me.  They deliberately chose to do so.  I’m in a position to see other choices they make with their money.  (Again, I don’t want to give details.  And because of that it will be easy for you reading this to say, “Spudsie you can’t possibly know where the money is coming from.”  Please take me at my word on this.  I see very clearly other choices they make with their money.)  It is very easy to see they simply decided they would not keep their word.  And knew I was in no position to “fight” them on it. 

I’d probably be a lot less angry if they said, “Hey Spudsie, I know I said I would do this.  But I can’t.  I need you to pay for it.”  Or even, “Hey Spuds you are in no position to argue.  So I’m sticking you with this expense.”  At least that would be honest!  J

Okay.  Working through the anger.  Feel it.  Let it flow through me.  Out my fingertips.  Moving on.

Frustration and disappointment.  There they are.  Ah yes.  Less intense than the anger.  Still pretty durned negative.  Flowing through.  Out the fingertips.  Wait!  Come back!  I want to hang on to y’all and nurse you some more.  Kidding!!  Just kidding!!  Frustration and disappointment moving along.  Out of my system. 

I feel a calm front moving in.  J 

So what does all of this have to do with forgiveness?  I’m so glad you asked.

Q has done this type of thing to me before.  I’ve lived it a number of times in the past decade or so.  Q says things and I’ve learned that I cannot depend on them to follow through—or even remember they have said them.  (Or if they remember, they don’t act like they remember them.)  They turn things back on me.  I must be remembering wrong.  (HA! Said in my best Chris Matthews voice.  Fat chance of that!  Mr. Spuds says I have the memory of an elephant.  LOL!)  It must be my fault somehow.

And for a while I believed that.  I probably did remember wrong.  I’m sure it was my fault somehow.  Over the years I’ve learned that’s just not true.  Q is lying.  Plain and simple.  Lying.  There’s really no way to sugar coat it or call it something nicer.  (Unless you consider “prevaricating” nicer.  Grin!) 

So I’ve learned my lesson with Q.  I cannot depend on Q to keep their word.  I have to trust that I’ll be able to come up with a good Plan B when they decide to change their mind and blame me for it.  So if it involves money I’ve learned to either not count on it, or to set extra aside. 

I’ve also learned over the years that forgiveness means letting go of what you think someone owes you.  (An oversimplification, but it works for the purpose of this rambling.)  Letting go of your right to seek retribution.  Or vengeance.  Or money.  Or whatever.  Just letting it go.  It doesn’t mean what the other person did was okay, or right, or acceptable.  It simply means you let go of needing to get something from them so you can devote that time, energy and emotion to more positive helpful things.

So I’ve forgiven Q.  Q does not owe me anything.  I’m not seeking anything from Q.

And at the same time I treat them differently.  I act differently around them.  I’m still me.  I just don’t believe them.  I have no confidence in what they tell me.  I file it away as something that might happen, but just as easily might not.  Based on past experiences I’ve learned to question most things they tell me.  I take them all with a grain or eight of salt.

How can I have forgiven them if I feel this way?  Based on past experiences I’d be foolish to blindly trust them.  I feel like it’s not quite “real” forgiveness if I act differently.  If I expect them to lie to me.  If I don’t believe them.  Q doesn’t owe me anything.  I’m not after anything.  I simply don’t trust them.

And part of me feels like that’s a reasonable response.  That I’m protecting myself.  And the other part of me feels selfish and judgmental—and not in a healthy way.  I keep checking my motives in hesitating to believe Q.  Is the problem with me?  Have I not truly forgiven Q?

No answers here.  Just questions. 

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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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I was watching (okay…..technically I was listening) to “Hardball” on MSNBC when I glanced at the TV.  I saw that MSNBC had “broken in” with footage of the launch of the Endeavour shuttle.  Cool!  I muted the volume and watched the launch.  It was great!

Launches of the Space Shuttle mean a little more to me than to most Buckeyes.  (Or at least I assume they do.  I could be wrong!)  I grew up in Central Florida.  My dad worked (and works) at the Kennedy Space Center.  The high school I attended was literally across the river from where the Space Shuttle was launched.

Riding the bus to school we passed businesses that always put signs out encouraging the most current Shuttle launch.  (“Go STS 28 Go!”  “God bless our astronauts!”  That type of thing.) It was pretty neat. 

At least it was neat until late January, 1986.  It seems almost like a stereotype, but it’s true.  By that point the Shuttle launches had become so routine that we didn’t really give too much thought to them. My memories from this day are really strong—as are the memories of so many other people.

That launch of the Shuttle had been delayed more than once.  The weather must have been cold, or otherwise lousy.  (As I read the notes of the time it becomes clear it was cold, but my memories aren’t clear as to why the weather was lousy, just that it was lousy.)  I went about my normal freshman year day in high school.  Fifth period was the lunch period.  Half a class.  A bell rang.  Lunch.  Then back for the rest of the class period.  (Or something like that.)  Back in Mr. Cleavenger’s English class.  We heard the familiar sonic boom that meant the Shuttle had broken through the sound barrier.

I remember Mr. Cleavenger saying something like, “Oh good!  They must have finally managed to launch!.”  And I remember trying to peer out the windows to see if we could see the vapor stream.  The launches were so “routine” at that point that they didn’t let us out of class to watch them.

Even as we were “discretely” trying to peer out the windows and Mr. Cleavenger was trying to teach us, the Principal squawked over the intercom.  My memory here fails me slightly.  I don’t remember exactly what he said.  Whatever it was, it sent us all running (literally) outside.  And we stared at the sky.

This is wrong.  This is so wrong. 

Silence.

This isn’t what the vapor stream is supposed to look like.

Silence.

The vapor stream doesn’t fall back to earth.

Silence.

Dear God in heaven.  What happened?

Bells rang indicating that we all needed to move to our 6th period class.

Mr. Randy Wilber’s World History class. 

My favorite class of my freshman year.  Mr. Wilber was awesome!  (Well……he was a great teacher…and my best friend and I had a HUGE crush on him!)  His class that day was eerily silent.  Christa McAuliffe had won the coveted “teacher in space” spot on that Shuttle launch.  There had been tons of press about it.  And all students in Mr. Wilber’s class were aware of that even more—because Mr. Wilber had also applied for that program.  And had made it through a number of “cuts.”  Ultimately Christa had won the coveted spot, but we all imagined that it could have just as easily been Mr. Wilber in the Shuttle.

He was always a quiet teacher.  But this day he was even quieter.  We didn’t study anything.  Lesson plans meant nothing.  We somehow counted the minutes until the end of the period.  And through the end of the next period.  And then we all went home.

The entire bus drive home we still saw the remnants of the tragedy in the sky.  It was horrible.  At home I did nothing but watch the TV.  And felt completely numb.  It was horrible.

My dad was not the only one who worked at the Space Center.  Most of my friends had family members who worked at the Space Center as well.  Some of them even knew the astronauts personally.   We were all numb.  We all walked around in a daze.  It was surreal.  And horrible.

I don’t really remember the exact passage of days.  Of time.  I know it moved on, but it all blurs together in many ways.

Side note- I’m an odd duck.  I always have been.  In a good way…but I’m odd.  And here’s where my “oddness” shows up in this sequence of events.

I felt bad for Mr. Wilber.  Really bad.  Even as a freshman in high school I could see that he was impacted in a really personal way by this tragedy.  Differently than other adults around me.  And my young heart hurt for him.  I wanted to do something to help.  And I couldn’t really think of anything.  So I ended up leaving a card or note or something like that expressing my sympathy for him.  Telling him….well….I don’t really remember exactly what I said.  Only that I knew he was hurting and that he was in my prayers.  And that while I didn’t understand everything, I knew he felt really connected to the teacher in space program and to Christa. 

And I thought that was the end of it.

But it wasn’t.

Our high school invited a group of students to gather in the school library to watch the national memorial service for the astronauts.  Somehow, and to this day I’m not sure how, some of my friends and I were invited to join this group.  Maybe it was all of Mr. Wilber’s 6th period history class—I’m not really sure.  All I know is that I was in the library with some of my friends and teachers and school administration members watching the memorial service.

Anyone who knows me now (or who knew me then) knows that I keep my feelings inside.  I keep them really, REALLY private.  I don’t show them.  It’s something I’m working on changing now… and it’s a struggle.  As a young teenager in high school, they were almost entirely internalized.  I was a female, “human” version of Mr. Spock.  Or a female Sherlock Holmes.

Near the end of the memorial service something strange happened.  I had what felt like an explosion of odd feelings inside of me.  (Looking back it was clearly grief….but I didn’t really understand that at the moment.)  I felt the tears welling up.  I knew I could control them—could stop them.  But I was wrong.  They fought their way up.

As the televised service ended I found myself in tears.  Not unlike the majority of the others in the library.

Unlike the others, I couldn’t stop them.  I found myself weeping uncontrollably.  I remember my friend Jeannie trying to comfort me.  It didn’t work.  I was too far gone.  I was in the middle of a “grief attack.”  I couldn’t stop crying.  My head buried in my arms folded on top of the table.  Not caring what anyone else saw.  What anyone else thought.  Simply grieving.  Uncontrollably.

The room slowly emptied out.  One by one my friends left.  Even Jeannie.  (Looking back, I’m sure someone encouraged her to move along.  That they would take care of me.  Otherwise she would not have left.) 

The next thing I remember was finally lifting up my head.  And the person who had their arm around me, the person comforting me was Mr. Wilber.  In my grief I didn’t even register any surprise that it was a teacher, and not one of my friends, who was there.  I just continued to cry.

In a clear sign that God truly is ALWAYS in control of everything, it turned out that Mr. Wilber had a free class period.  As I calmed down, he walked me back to his World History classroom. 

A note about the school’s layout.  A walk from the library back to Mr. Wilber’s room was quite a lengthy one.  In fact, it passed by windows for literally half of the school.  As an incredibly private person even as a teenager, it would normally have seemed a fate worse than death (!) to walk along that path visibly crying and upset.  But that day it didn’t phase me at all.

Okay.  It didn’t bother me too much.  I was definitely aware of being visible to half of the school.   

Mr. Wilber walked me back to his classroom.  I don’t remember exactly how we made it back to the classroom.  Did I carry my books or did he?  Did he guide me by the elbow?  Did he have a comforting arm around my shoulder?  Regardless of the physical comfort, he mentally and emotionally comforted me.

He asked me about my other experiences with death.  Had I lost anyone else close to me?   Were there recent tragedies in my life?  I shared with him a little about my grandmother’s death the previous summer.  And we talked about that for a little while.  And we talked about coping with loss in general.

Looking back, he was a really, really good precursor to Coach Jim.  Someone to help guide me through really complex emotions.  To be a voice outside of myself bringing some reason and understanding to me.  Thanks God for sending Mr. Wilber to my school and to me!

Mr. Wilber helped calm me and made sure I had a way to get home.  (I’d been crying so long I missed my bus!)  He was truly an angel that day.

And I thought that was the end of it.  I (sadly) managed to put my emotion-free mask back on rather quickly.  I took some kidding from some of my friends—who all knew what a huge crush I had on Mr. Wilber.  But that day wasn’t about a teenage crush.  It was about someone reaching out to me and helping without judging.  That was a new experience for me.  One that gave me hope, even though I didn’t realize it until years later.

But that wasn’t the end of it.  God (using Mr. Wilber) had one more surprise for me.  One more bit of comfort.  One more bit of showing me that I am worth concern.  That I am worth compassion.  That I am worth love.

One day (and I don’t remember how much later this was—it couldn’t have been too long) I noticed something in my stack of books as I left Mr. Wilber’s World History class.  I remember this really well—there had been a test that day.  One I hadn’t felt prepare for.  Mr. Wilber always walked up and down the aisles during tests.  And he was a bit of a “neat freak” and would occasionally stop to straighten things in the aisles.  (Or at least that’s my perception of him.)  So when he stopped near my desk I didn’t think anything of it.  My mask was fully back in place and I was concentrating on the test that I was unprepared for.

When I left the classroom I realized there was something pink sticking out of my stack of books and folders.

“What the heck is this??”

I took a look.  It was a card envelope (presumably with a card inside!) with my name on the front.

?????

As I opened it I started to cry again.  It was a beautiful sympathy card with an amazing, comforting Helen Steiner Rice poem.  And with an equally amazing hand written note from Mr. Wilber.

The personal note is still too personal to share.  Or at least it is to me.  I treasure this memory.  Compassion.  Comfort.  Love.  Unsought.  Unasked for.  Freely given. 

To me!!!  Of all people, to me!

Even as I think about it, as I remember it now, I almost don’t believe it.  I didn’t do anything to earn it.  I didn’t deserve it. 

Yet it was clear I needed it.

And Mr. Randy Wilber allowed God to use him to provide me that compassion.  That comfort.  That love. 

My crush on Mr. Wilber didn’t change.  It didn’t grow stronger, and it didn’t go away.  It remained the teenage crush it was.

But that day I added (without realizing it) a different love and appreciation for Mr. Wilber that will be with me until I die.  He showed me I was worth time, effort, compassion, love.  Did he realize he made a life-long difference in my life?  I doubt it.  Do any of us realize when we make that kind of a difference in a person’s life?  Not very often.  It’s so often the little things, the things we do without thinking twice, that make a huge impression. 

Mr. Wilber, thank you.  For everything.  It meant more than you could ever know.  Thank you.

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Thriving…..

Work’s been a bear lately.  (Groan!  Please Spudsie spare us the bear references in such a lousy bear market!  J)  Seriously, it’s been really tough.  And my attitude has been really lousy.  (See “Workplace woes” if you doubt me.)  This week I felt the lowest work-wise I’ve felt in a really long time. 

And it frustrated me.  (I’m sure there were/are other emotions tied in there….but I still have problems identifying individual emotions/ingredients in my own personal emotional stew.  I’m working on it.)

I felt like the sunflower under my bird feeder.  (Stay with me here….I like analogies and tend to find them everywhere.)  A late season sunflower started growing under my bird feeder several weeks ago.  It gave a wonderful pop of bright yellow color when most other flowers have stopped blooming.  It was really neat to see.  Sunflowers are sturdy looking flowers.  And this one was no exception.  Nice sturdy-looking broad yellow leaves.  Looked like nothing could hurt it.  I figured it would be around for a while.

I was wrong.  Unfortunately we had a light (very light) frost one night.  That was all it took.  One slight frost and the petals wilted.  The beautiful bright yellow turned a dour brown.  Farewell beautiful flower—I’m glad I appreciated your beauty while you were here.

It surprised me how little it took to “kill” the flower.  The Knock-out roses look far more delicate and they are still blooming despite the frost.  How did such a sturdy looking flower fall prey to the slightest stress?  I suppose it’s simply the nature of the plant.

This week I thought I was a lot like that sunflower.

I feel like I’m making progress with my coaching stuff.  I feel like I’m making lasting changes (small though they may be.)  I feel like I’m growing. 

And this week the little workplace stuff had finally grown to the point where it took only a few small problems to send me over the edge.  To make me want to flee.  To make me feel I’d made no progress at all. 

I felt I was a human version of the dying sunflower in my yard.

Now that I’ve let some time and space come between me and the events at work I think that’s not an accurate analogy.  I think it’s wrong.

On Tuesday I felt lousy.  At the bottom.  In a dark place.  Not a good space for Spudsie to live. 

On Wednesday there was a big lunch meeting scheduled with the owners of the company and an outside meeting facilitator.  (We’ll call the outside facilitator Jean Claude.  What?  He has to have some type of name.  😉)  Jean Claude (quit laughing) has worked with our company for years.  We have him out two or three times a year.  He helps the owners have productive meetings and helps guide their conversations.  Occasionally other employees are invited to lunch meetings with the owners and Jean Claude.

On Wednesday a large group of us were invited to have lunch and meet with Jean Claude and the owners.  The topic of conversation was “what impact does the market downturn have on our company.”  Jean Claude asked us to send in our questions ahead of time so he could create an agenda.

(This will come as no surprise to Coach Jim.)  I sent in my list of 15 questions.  (On second thought perhaps Jim would be surprised I didn’t send more questions! LOL!) 

I’ve met with and worked with Jean Claude a number of times over the past 8 years.  He’s really good at what he does.  I admire the way he seemingly effortlessly guides and directs group conversations.  I always learn something from watching him.  And he does an excellent job of creating a safe environment to have conversations with the owners.  No small feat!

The timing couldn’t have been worse.  I had been really looking forward to this lunch meeting despite the difficult and stressful topic.  I was looking forward to being able to practicing some of the new postures, new ways of carrying myself that I’ve been working on with Coach Jim.  I was really excited to see if it really made a difference—if I could really pull it off!  And then Tuesday…..I basically fell apart.  My attitude couldn’t have been much worse. 

And I was ticked that it was going to “ruin” how I wanted to show up on Wednesday.

I woke up Wednesday morning at 3 and couldn’t fall back asleep.  So that was working against me as well.  And I had a stress headache.  And I couldn’t manage to find calm.  Ugh.

I was not a happy potato.

I went into work on Wednesday morning.  There was a staff meeting.  It ran long.  That didn’t help my mood any and I was NOT a good facilitator at the staff meeting.  I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it.  So that was discouraging to me.

I had about an hour between the staff meeting and leaving for the lunch meeting.  And somewhere in that hour I made a decision. 

I decided to set aside my lousy attitude.  I decided to set aside my frustrations.  I decided to set aside my strong desire to flee.  “Hey….everything crappy in my head right now…. listen up.  I see ya.  And I’m leaving you here while I go to a lunch meeting.  If you’re still here when I get back we’ll go from there.  But you can’t come with me.”

I didn’t “feel” strong going into the lunch meeting.  And yet I decided to walk in confidently.  I had already made wardrobe and make-up choices earlier that morning that would support any confidence I could muster.  (I’m sure that confuses the heck out of you men…..women probably understand.  Some clothes really help you carry yourself more confidently.)  I decided to pay close attention to my body posture.  To keep my feet grounded.  To keep my shoulders square, not slumping and yet not tense.  I decided to make eye contact when I spoke.  I decided to breathe deeply rather than shallowly.  I decided to keep my voice lower and calm.  I decided to keep an open body posture.  I decided to set fear aside and ask the questions I wanted answered.

And the amazing thing?  I was able to do all of it.

!!!!!!

Wow!

The meeting went far too quickly.  I still had my tension headache.  And the negative feelings were knocking at the door of my mind.  I had managed to stay engaged in the conversation.  I asked my questions.  I pressed for answers when they were avoided.  I actively listened.  I carried myself well.  And still felt the darkness looming.

As we were leaving the lunch site I took 30 seconds to thank Jean Claude.  (Whoops!  I almost forgot the pen name I had given him!)  Firm handshake.  Direct eye contact.  Strong body posture.  “Thanks Jean Claude.  The conversation was great!  It’s always good to see you.”  Blah…blah…blah….

You know what he said to me?  “Thanks Spudsie.  It’s good seeing you again too.  You look like you are really thriving.”

Thriving??  Who the heck says thriving?  LOL! 

So even though I thought I looked like a dying sunflower, someone else saw me as a thriving Knock-out rose.  How cool is that?!  Maybe I need to start looking at myself as that rose.

Hmmmm…..I’ll have to work on that.

 

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Workplace woes

I’m doing something different today.  I’m writing and posting this while I’m in the middle of some really strong, negative emotions.  To date I’ve tried really hard to avoid doing that–so that I don’t write and post something I’ll regret later.

And right now I don’t even care about that.  I just need to get some of this out of my system.

I hate my job.

Yes.  I know.  “Hate” is a really strong and powerful word.  And typically I can quickly talk myself down from saying “I hate my job” to “My job frustrates me” or “There’s a lot of my job I don’t enjoy”  or “I really didn’t have a good day at work today” or even the inarticulate “Arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!”

I’m having problems talking myself down today.  I simply hate my job.

It drains me.  There isn’t a day I wake up and look forward to going in to work.  While there are some days when I walk away feeling satisfied with the work I’ve done, that’s as good as it gets.  It takes energy away.  It doesn’t give me more.

And today was a really bad day.  I had one employee who came up with 18 “creative” reasons (including medical ones) why he needed to continue a behavior that is disruptive to the office.  I had a manager who has not addressed performance issues with an employee (we’ll call that employee Steve) tell me they wanted to give Steve a “must improve NOW!” performance review, a formal-final performance improvement plan, and a “we are changing your job description and now you have to interview for your job in order to keep it” conversation all in one sitting.  (Mind you, Steve has no idea he’s doing anything wrong.)  And the manager was angry when I recommended combining their concerns into one performance improvement plan.  “But Steve HAS to know he’s doing stuff wrong!  Even though I haven’t told him before, he just HAS to know!.”

And that was just from 10AM until 11AM.  The rest of the day brought gifts of frustration and complaints.  And I left feeling as though I was escaping rather than simply leaving. 

If something catastrophic happened and I was unable to return to my job ever again the only thing I’d miss is the income.  And quite frankly I wouldn’t even miss the money that much.

My boss raved in my last review about what a great a job I’m doing.  That’s nice.  But I’m not getting anything out of it.  In fact I have to come home and re-charge every night just to keep going.

This isn’t living.  It’s existing.  And it’s wearing me out. 

When I got home today my mom had left a message.  After a brief conversation it turns out there was good news and bad news.

The good news?  My dad’s blood work came back MUCH better!!!  Yay!  So it looks like it’s official–his kidneys are not in immediate danger at the moment.  Phew!  Thanks God!

The bad news?  My mom had fallen and hit her head last night.  She spent time in the ER and has a huge gash in the back of her head.  She says she’s okay….just a huge headache.

And I’m so twisted in knots from work that I had a really hard time getting out of “work mode” when I talked with her. 

I’m so worn out from simply existing and getting through each day.  I can’t seem to figure out how to limit the energy that work drains from me.  And I can’t seem to figure out an alternate source of energy that’s strong enough to compensate for what work takes away. 

So yeah, I’m probably giving away waaaaaaaay to much power when I say/write this–but it’s where I am right now.  I hate my job. 

And even worse than that I’m having problems getting back to calm and staying there. 

And now I’m crying tears of frustration.  Lovely.  (Yes….that’s sarcasm….another unattractive trait I fall back on.) 

I want to get up every morning looking forward to something!  I know that my attitude is horrible.  I know that.  I’ve been trying to look for things at work that actually energize me, that build me up.  And I can’t see any yet.

They have to be there don’t they?  Why can’t I see them? 

I know I am the only one who can change my attitude.  I know I need to be able to choose to look forward to getting up every morning and going to work.  I know there’s no “magic” to make this better. 

Yet right now I’m simply stuck in “I hate my job” mode. 

I know I’ll work through this.  I know (probably by tomorrow!) I’ll be out of the “hate” mode and back to trying to find the good. 

But right now, at this very moment, I just want out.

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