Anyone Home?

Hello?

Hi!  How are you?

(Siiigggghhhhh)!  Well let me tell you about what’s going on (going wrong) now.

xxxxxxxxxxxx

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OK, well I’ve got to go.  Talk to you later.

Uhm (click) Ok, bye?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we show up, or don’t show up, for one another.  Specifically about the point of whether we actually listen to one another.

For years I have seen the words, “people don’t listen to hear, they listen to reply”.  Well, that’s probably true.  But I think that there is a lot of conversation time devoted to attention hungry people feeling the need to be heard.  For example, take the conversation above.  The person being called uses the opportunity to share the ups and downs of their day.  Ok, mostly the downs.  Then, before the person who called can really explain the reason for their call or has an opportunity to interact, the call ends.  Finished.  Done with a click.  I have been on that side of the conversation more than a few times.  It is frustrating!  Particularly when I have a point that I want to make.  After awhile, the caller no longer even tries to interject.  Unless they have to.  One sided conversations go nowhere.

So I wondered whether I do the same from the other side.  Have I been the one who doesn’t let the other person get a word in and doesn’t listen?  To be honest, I don’t know.  But I’m sure I have a time or two.

I’m mostly guilty of the conversations that I never allow to get started or where I’m there but not really.  It’s when someone pokes their head into my office when I’m in the middle of a project and when they ask, “Do you have a minute?” I respond, “Well, I’m in the middle of something.”  “OK.  Well, I’ll be quick.” And the more animated they are about what they are telling me, the more my face morphs into a death stare.  What?!  You really pulled me away for this?  And I begin to think about the fact that I’m irritated instead of really listening.  Not very effective on the communication front.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about an experience from high school.  In response to the post, many friends, both high school and since, showed up on facebook to let me know how terrible they thought the event was and how awesome they thought that I was.  Well, maybe not awesome.  But they wanted me to know that I was OK.

While I appreciated all who showed up and spoke up but I wondered if they had read what I wrote.  That yes, I used the event for context but that the moral of my story was that it no longer haunted me and I am OK.  So this made me wonder if we are also so uncomfortable with others’ truth, that we don’t really want to hear them and instead, we just want to make them feel better.  I didn’t really hear you but I know you’re in pain, so let me just see if I can stop that.  That way I won’t have to hear you any more. (again, I did appreciate everyone’s sentiments)

Another way that we don’t listen is in our awkward attempt to build connection.  I think that this is mostly unconscious and actually meant to reach out but….it doesn’t work.  Here’s the pattern.  I had a really bad start to my day.  I was on my way out of my neighborhood and my tire went flat.  I was so frus…… Well, I know just how you feel.  I had that happen to me once.  Let me tell you! xxxxx

I can most certainly tell you that I have been guilty of that type of conversation ender.  In a terrible attempt to show empathy and let the other person know I understood, I failed at listening to how they felt.  Bad communication skills!  I’m working on it.

When someone talks to you, are you home for them?  Are we so busy or annoyed or awkward that we no longer know how to show up for one another?  I think showing up means that we not only talk, but we listen.  And you know that someone is truly part of your tribe when the listening, and the talking, go both ways.

In Jerry Maguire, Dorothy says to Jerry… “You had me at hello!”  Well, I think you really have to do a little more than hello.  You have to say, “Hello.  How are you?” And then actually listen!

….sit down for a cup of coffee and tell me about your day!

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Love yourself – even your messy bits!

So, true picture. This is my closet. Or at least it was a week ago. It looks better now – kind of – a little! Lol!!!

But this isn’t about my closet or getting things in order. I know that I will have many of my space-clearing, organize your life, everything in its place friends wanting to hold an intervention, but sorry guys, I’m not that kind of gal and I own it.

This is about another kind of messy. The kind that creeps in when and where you least expect it. The message that fuses with and spills out of the cracks of your life.

Ok. Let’s take my closet. I said it wasn’t about it but let me use that as an example. My closet sucks! My organization of my closet sucks. It sometimes makes life difficult. But, my strength is that I am extremely flexible. I’m not bothered by lack of structure. I like to engage in a wide variety of projects, and as a teacher, I could pretty well tolerate a chaotic classroom. So I was also able to understand that my students solved problems in different ways and learned as ideas made sense to them.

I see all these flexible qualities as a good thing but know that’s it’s also why I can tolerate my closet getting into such a state.

Let me pose another example. I never realized it, but one of my core values is safety. Well, safety or acceptance. I’m working on how the two are distinguishable, even though I accept that maybe they aren’t.

I believe the world is, or should be, a safe place. So as a result, I support others rights to state their opinions and to do their own thing. Last week, I saw a meme about a man who used to wear women’s underwear on Wednesday’s. …. I think I dated that man. Yes, really! And you know what I value? That it was safe for him to let me know that. Like my ability to tolerate chaos, I think that my tolerance provides the room for others a safe space to share. To feel open to be themselves.

So, how does it suck? My belief that the world should be a safe place has also caused me to be very naive and gullible. Someone could spin a tale and if it sounded halfway convincing, I would buy it. Hook, line, and sinker! Yup. I’ve been laughed at more than a few times for that.

Then, when I recognized that people weren’t holding safe space for me the way I did them, well that means I have to create my own. Trust nobody! Oh hell, now that really sucks. Because trusting no one causes inner conflict because it directly opposes my belief in safety.

So what makes me special (in a good way) can also cause me grief. But cutting back on the bad will also decrease the good. When I put up walls for my own safety, I lose the ability to interact with others in a way I value. When I try to become more rigid and keep things in place, it consumes my focus and I lose some of my creative ability. It’s messy.

After all these years I’ve decided that I don’t want to be milk toast. I don’t want to be bland, boring and middle of the road. I have learned to love my messy bits. And love my stories of how they’ve come to be messy. Because they are what make me who I am and it’s what makes me special! Does that make sense?

I’d love to hear about your messy bits! Please let me know if you liked this or found it helpful in any way. I want to create a place to support you and I can’t do it if I don’t know whether this makes sense to anyone but me.

Oh… and Happy Valentine’s Day Loves! 💕

Rewriting past Stories

Cue the sound effects!  

(Neighhhhhhhh) (Pppppppp)

The sound of a horse could be heard across the parking lot, down the hall, or around the corner.  But it wasn’t a horse, but the boys.  They would see me coming and they would neigh, whinny, bray…. And sometimes follow it with “Ohhhhh, Wilbur!”

That’s a very dated reference to the TV Sitcom, Mr. Ed.  Clearly I’m showing my age.  Ed was the talking horse and Wilbur was his owner. (you can Google it)

Sigh….

On Groundhog Day I asked myself, “What have you allowed that you never want to repeat again?”

The answer, I never want to compromise who I am, or my feelings, to be accepted by others.  Whether it was in school, in a job, or in a relationship.  It is too big of a price to pay.

So, the scenario above occurred over two or three years while in high school.  It started with several boys from the swim team and then spread to others.  Which others?  I don’t remember.  But with plans of a high school reunion swirling about, the events came back to me…and hit me hard.

As a teenage girl, wanting desperately to fit in or at the least be accepted, I decided to go along with the boys’ joke.  When the swim team got shirts my Junior year, I had “Wilbur” put on the back of mine.

HA! HA!  If they could laugh at me, then I could laugh at me too.  Maybe then they would see me as OK.

Nope!  It didn’t work.  The Neighing continued.  And the hole in my gut that opened every time I heard it, got bigger.

It wasn’t the first time that I made fun of myself nor was it the last.  As I got older, I found it increasingly easy to surround myself with others who stepped into the role of making me the joke.  It was both familiar and comfortable.

Sadly, I began to justify it.  They weren’t bullying me…I could walk away.  I was clumsy.  I was awkward.  I had a big smile.  I was….. I was my own worst enemy and didn’t know it.

Finding fault in one way led to fault and doubt in others.  I should accept being criticized because “I wasn’t that smart.”  I could understand a colleague speaking bad about me because, “they were entitled to their opinion.”  You get the idea.

But once I began to peel back layers, old events have taken on new meanings.  I no longer have a hole.  And even though it’s taken me awhile, I no longer compromise myself, make fun of myself, or find fault with myself to please.  Not to be accepted by friends. Not in a relationship.  And not in my career.

It’s funny how the process of becoming ourselves works.  I wish I had known all this earlier, but I didn’t.  I wish I could warn my children or those I teach about the risks of compromising themselves, but I can’t.  Not really.  All I can do is tell my stories.  And listen to theirs.  Maybe their layers will open faster than mine.  Maybe I can support them when they do.

But I can also look back at that 16 year old and smile.  She was pretty awesome!  And even though she didn’t know it then, I’m glad she does now.  I’m also damn proud of the woman she’s become.

Do we have to identify the finish before we start?

Have you ever had a hard time starting because you didn’t know what the finish looked like?  It feels like our lives are leaning more towards a need to be certain and away from a sense of uncertainty or even exploration.

As an example, l’m going to use the context of driving to a specific destination.

When you start on the trip, I admit that its always important to have, at the very least, some basic information about where it is you are going.  With a destination in mind, you can understand the direction you will take when leaving your current location.

If you are driving, who doesn’t at least use a map?  But more likely, how many people don’t have their phone or some other device navigate for them?  I know that I don’t.  It let’s me know just how to get there.  It tells me how long it will take.  And if something comes up along the way, it reroutes me around potential danger.  I have gained exactness and peace of mind.  But, I’ve lost a bit of flexibility in the process.

Through our use of more and more technology, I believe that we might be losing our ability to take risks and as well as our ability to recover when things don’t go quite right.

So I ask, “Does our desire for precision in one instance impact our ability to be flexible in others?”  For example, I know that I would no longer tolerate driving in a general direction, identifying cross streets, and hoping to reach a destination.  I won’t… and I don’t need to.  So, if I want to figure out how to solve a mathematics equation, am I just as likely to “Google” or ask “Siri” or “Alexa” for the answer or am I willing to plug and chug my way through the problem?

Well……”Hey Siri!  Should I struggle if I don’t have to?”

Siri can’t answer that.  I wonder if Alexa would?

This leads to another question.  How do we develop our ability to solve problems if we don’t have to?  If the answers are always there, what happens when they aren’t?  I’ve seen it time and again in mathematics classrooms… “I don’t know it.”  “I don’t know what to do.”  “I quit.”  And that’s it.  Situation is over and no attempt is made.  This is eventually followed by two additional phrases, either “This is dumb” or “I’m dumb”.  Neither being the case, but the conclusion decided on none the less, in order to put an end to the struggle.

So, what is the value of struggle and learn to value struggle and persistence?  Do we set off on excursions, destination unknown?  Think about your ability to handle uncertainty and ask whether there was a time when you approached it differently.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of risk and the benefit of learning to lean into uncertainty in order to move forward.  Face it…we did not reach the moon being assured we wouldn’t experience some trial and error in the process.

Be magnificent!

Take risks!

until next time…

Truth

I’ve been here before with these confounding thoughts and aching ideas.  The chisel has been doing its work for some time now.

Rounding edges.

Forming lines.

Deeper.

Clearer.

The shape, my shape (this blog) begins to define and then fades.  What is it now?  It could be anything! The work that we can see is  being done on the outside but the real work is what goes on and the changes that occur deep within.

Hi old friends!  It’s been some time, hasn’t it?  This is my first step, in reviving this story, my story, your story. That’s where we will start.  Before the rock or log is struck, and shaped and crafted.  Before the lines become deeper … and clearer.

Where I start, we start… is with listening.  If I want to find my voice, I actually have to deeply and honestly, even vulnerably, listen.  I’ve mentioned before that I was asked to tune in, and my “in” became radio silence.  And then it became a manifesto of rationalization and justification.  The static and the arguments only masked the truth.  I had to make my way through to them.

To dig deeper, I start with listening to myself. I am asking and opening even though the answer may not be what I want to hear.  I start with asking honest questions and pausing, waiting, for the truth in the answers.

Truth.  Real and honest truth.  Which is so very far away from the rationalization and argument I am prone to.  If I want the truth, I have to be able to accept the truth.  (“You can’t handle the truth!” – Well, that used to be true Jack, but now just wait.)

The truth is actually layers and layers deep.  I’m sure yours is too.  So it takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes…OK, let’s get real.  It takes knowing that the other bullshit I was telling myself for years was just a weak smoke screen in a hookah bar.  It might smell nice until it stinks and its only temporarily hiding what’s on the other side.

The truth. We seek it even though we are afraid of what we might find.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this or other topics.  And I’d love for you to subscribe.  (I’m sure you can find it on my page.  I promise not to spam you or sell you or any of the other annoying things that leave you with 1500 unopened emails.  (OOPS….that’s me)

Love you lots!

Be magnificent!

More…next Wednesday!

Barb

 

 

My Smoke Detector Theory

I know this is probably a very strange post to jump back into writing. But, when the smoke detector decides it’s going to announce that its batteries are getting low…at 4 am…well, isn’t writing a post a natural segue?

So, I have a few theories about this necessary but annoying device because right now, it’s not making my list of friends.

  1. It tweets its announcement in the middle of the night…you know the one… bleep……………BLEEP………….BLEEEEEEEP! and then silence. It does this to cause me disruption and get my attention. It doesn’t start this crap in the middle of the day, or even the early evening when I could do something about it. It’s when I’m sound asleep. After staying up late. And taking melatonin to help me with getting to sleep. I guess that was a waste of a tablet!
  2. It is a sneaky son-of-a-bitch designed to piss me off. So of course, I check and have no necessary replacement batteries. (Sigh ?) BUT… it’s stopped so maybe it’s going to be ….BLEEP!…. ugh. No. It’s not going to be ok. It goes off at such random intervals that I’ve been lulled back to believing I can drift back to sleep. Ha! It’s evil. It just won’t let me.
  3. It’s frequency is such that it sends a secret message to animals. Mine have gone from whining to anxious to hiding behind me… you would have thought they were sent a telepathic code that said the aliens were landing soon and coming specifically for them. Three dogs and two cats are all nervously clustered on my bed. Well, they were. Two still are. One can’t hear any more so I think he’s sleep through most and the cats ? well they are too cool to admit the might be bothered. But here they are, none the less.

So try as I might, sleep was no longer an option. What do you think of my theories? I think they are pretty sound! And I can prove it because the second I fall back asleep, it will certainly….BLEEP!!!!!

Even if, not this…

I laughed when the image I chose was the same as my last post, over a month ago. Sorry not to have kept you informed. 

Proabaly what’s worse is that I broke my promise to take you on this journey with me. 

Forgive me?

I stopped writing because I was in a few search positions and got out. I had another pop up and found it intriguing and yet another reappear from a year ago. (These are dean positions at universities). I was afraid to proclaim I didn’t want something and then accept it. I was afraid to be write something and then not get it because of something I wrote…some f*** that moment or comment that was part of me but my perspective employer thought might not reflect them. Pretty twisted logic (though I’m sure some won’t think so)!  

It is in compromising my truth that I have found myself lost. 

It is only through shedding the bullshit that I can lead with honesty and integrity. (Trying out this line here. Let’s see how it flies next week at our state leadership workshop!)

But I’m “coming out” here before I reveal the truth to friends, family, and prospective employer, and those who know the turmoil I’ve been going through….Even if not this….doesn’t mean that.  And if you are wide eyed at my “coming out” statement, settle yourself. It just means that I’m going to get real. 

The reason I didn’t write was over a dean job I wasn’t sure I wanted. Public academia in eastern Tennessee can be pretty intimidating. This was after I’d jumped out of semi-finalist pools in Mississippi and California. Not right…not right. Tennessee seemed to be not the right place, but the right job. So I held my breathe. In the end, I wasn’t right for them. 

So as luck or timing would have it, a job I was a finalist for last year reappeared. They called me up. They brought me for a visit. They made me an offer. An offer that would increase my current salary almost Forty K  ….ipad went crazy… so no numbers. Anyway….I wanted that job last year and it was offered to someone else. I wanted to move to the area …big move…. I wanted to want that job!!!

But I’m here to say, just because I want something exciting and different doesn’t mean I compromise and accept what I don’t want, even if it comes with a big raise. 

Even if I don’t want this, doesn’t mean I want that. 

Throughout my life, I’ve done a lot of accepting this because it’s an offer and it’s not that. I’ve done a lot of saying, I know it’s not right but in a year I’ll change it…and never do. 

So….this is about as real as this girl gets and it’s scary to turn it down. Oh, and by the way, it’s not the move or being away from my family or fear that I can’t do the job or missing the folks I’ve grown fond of here. I’m good with all that. But I can’t take a job, at this point in my life, where it is not a full body, all in, hell yes. Sigh. I just can’t do it. I will not compromise. So even if not this…. 

Impasse

It’s a roadblock. 

It’s in the way, between where I am and where I want to go. It is huge and yet unknown. Unseen. Unrecognizable. 

It’s the time I now might reach for a drink. Or a game on my iPad. Or social media. Anyone comment on my posts in the last…30 seconds? 

It’s chocolate or a pastry that’s been left on the credenza by the coffee. The one I walk past at least eight times each day. I swear they were left there to tempt me. 

It’s hunger and yet it’s not. It’s a distraction. Plain, simple, only a distraction. And yet, it brings me to my knees. At an impasse. At odds with …. myself. 

It’s where I can do just enough…to get by….but no more. 

It’s where my thoughts feel like swirling gas, smoldering beneath the surface and yet, that’s where they stay. They rarely combust anymore. I’ve become too skilled and now contain the elements to the point that I barely notice. But when I tune in, I know they are there. 

And just maybe, I think, there must be a way to set the dynamite. Maybe not so extreme. But maybe a way to break in and break through and expand the opening to get to that point where I can once again connect with my good ideas. Connect and act. Or a bad idea. Right now a bad one might work. A point where I don’t have to feel that I know they are there yet I can’t get to them. 

Maybe is just a temporary barrier and breaking through begins with each and every small action. No knight or road crew is going to move what stands in my way. I can’t wait for AAA to magically make this disappear. 

I must take action. And maybe a detour. Because is there every really an impasse that’s impossible to pass?

Enough

I think I am going to remove “Enough” from my vocabulary. 

Last Tuesday, I walked home from work. I had turned in a rental earlier that day and my initial plan was to ask a colleague for a ride or take Uber, but after looking up the exact distance (about 6.2 miles) I decided it was doable. 

During the walk, I wondered if I was punishing myself. Was I paying a price because I was short on both money and pride once again? I decided not. My conclusion was that I wanted to get uncomfortable enough to be able to think. (And there it is again)

Good enough – Bad enough – Pretty enough – Poor enough – Rich enough – Skinny enough – Sexy enough – Tall enough – Smart enough – Popular enough – Nice enough – ENOUGH ENOUGH!!!

If I use enough as my barometer, I will always have never enough, more than enough, just enough, or I will have enough. But what the hell does that even mean?  What is the measure of enough?  Seems to be a sliding scale. Kind of personal. Not really quantifiable. Why did the word ever get invented in the first place?  May be it was in an attempt to marginalize. 

What if I didn’t have enough? Well I guess that would mean I have what I need. 

What if I’m not good enough, but just good. 

Or pretty enough. Oh, I’m just pretty?

Somewhere, in the shadow creep of maturing, I learned to marginalize the best and worst of everything. And by using enough, it’s just another way to argue how I measure or don’t measure up…just enough. 

So enough of enough!!!

So much yes…

These are the days that confuse me. Or maybe it isn’t a day, but a type of day, or a thing. 

I left my home a week ago. Last Sunday I was at an art festival with family and that was a big yes!  A big, I love this!  But then the time at the festival was done and I moved on. 

Today was the first time since that day that I felt Yes!…and felt the power of yes!!! And unfortunately it shortly preceded the big NO that screamed I needed to retreat and withdraw. 

I was around some educators this morning and the energy was thick. In many ways, it drew me in. I felt, yes-I miss this. I felt, yes-I’d like to work more with this, I felt, yes-this is where my energy lies. ….that only lasted about 5 hours and then my body screamed NO!

The NO led me to separate. The NO led me to find quiet and space. The NO drained and exhausted me. The NO has left me wondering what the yes was all about. 

There was a time that I would have ignored my no. I would have sucked it up and stuck it out. As time passes, I tolerate doing that less. As much as I am able to, I listen. But I am left confused because I feel like I need a translator. I’m hearing the directive, body-felt no, but it leaves me longing for the more clear, energizing yes. The one I am pulled by. The one I yearn for. The yes that is bigger and bolder and screams……and maybe that’s where my confusion has been. Maybe my yes is that deep, soul stirring whisper, the one I’ve always felt. The one that feels like home. The one that’s always inside….the one I just needed to translate what it was saying.  

Maybe the big yes and bigger no have me finding that yes after all!?!

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