Wounds in the Process Of Healing

 

brene-brown

“We’ve all fallen. And we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”

My parents like to tease me about a video of me when I three and in my first year of pre-school in Pennsylvania. Throughout the year, our class had someone tape “interviews” with each of us, along with our holiday performances and parties. Then, at the conclusion, each family had a personalized year-book on tape, glimmering with the hopes and dreams and oddities of their own child. In mine, I sang to the camera-man, I often turned the “questioning” back on him and I revealed my talent for knowing the difference between a boy Easter bunny and a girl Easter bunny (one wears blue and one wears pink of course).

Over the years, my mom has told the story of my video proudly to many and I’ve come to realize that she was not as proud of me for my performance skills–although I did belt out a fabulous rendition of “Where is Rainbow Bright,” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” and reaffirmed my dance skills during the solo in our class Christmas performance in which I chose to lift my dress up over my head while swaying to the music–as she was by my unabashed self-promotion and assuredness. I was all-in. I was proud, fearless and full of self-confidence. And I was having a hell of a time.

Not long after that candid, documented time in my life, I began my life-long battle with perfectionism. I began to recognize consequences of failure and learned the easy habit of self-doubt. I’ve spent much of my life fighting between the two very different, very pervasive sides of my personality–the fearless girl who wants nothing more than to have a purpose, rise and shine and show the world what she’s got, and the one who hears the cruel whispers of perfectionism reminding me of the what-ifs: What if I don’t say the right words? What if I mess up? What if I they don’t like it?

I was driving to work one day and on a billboard outside of a church was written “Acknowledge life’s hurt, habits, and hang-ups.” I pulled in to the parking lot and wrote it down, not sure what it meant to me yet, but knowing it was something important. Then came Brene Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. There are so many things I love about this book, but the thing that has stuck with me the most is the thing Brown calls the “messy middle,” which describes the part of our story in which we’ve falling and are trying to figure how to get back up.

Brown writes, “But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”

I’ve decided to start my process over again by sharing the fears (not altogether rational) that have crept up on me in the time of my own messy middle with the hope that the act of writing them down and putting them out there will in itself pay homage to the fact that we are where we are. We all fail. We are all afraid. It’s okay to be low.

The Fear:

The fear that I can’t find my voice. The fear that I’ll never be a good writer. The fear that I might appear too self-confident. The fear that I will appear not self-confident enough. The fear that my words will be taken wrong.  The fear that I will offend somebody. The fear that I am not good enough. The fear that I will make a fool of myself. The fear that I will not be the best I could have been. The fear that I will not succeed. The fear that I will not bounce back. The fear that I have wasted my time. The fear that I gave up too soon. The fear that I didn’t quit soon enough. the fear that I am too hard-headed. The fear that I put up with more than I should. The fear that I am selling myself short. The fear that I won’t tell enough of the truth. The fear that I will say too much.  The fear that I am not a good enough friend. The fear that I have let someone down. The fear that I will let someone down. The fear that someone close to me is hurting, and I am not engaged enough to know. The fear that I made too much out of nothing. The fear that I made not enough out of something very big. The fear that I don’t laugh enough. The few that I might laugh at something that hurts someone else. The fear that I take things too seriously. The fear that others won’t get me.  The fear that it’s written all over my face.

In Response to My Own Fears:

May I learn to trust the process more and worry less about the outcome. May I muster up the courage to sing more, dance more, go all in.

May I worry less about what other people think. May I contribute more to other people’s joy.

May I take more time to enjoy the moment, be present, uninhibited, and happy in the midst of imperfection and fear.

 

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

alicerabbit

The past five months have been some of the strangest in my life. When I stop and reflect on them, I see that I was living in a way that I have always admired in other people without even knowing. Because circumstances were beyond my control and the stress could have easily eaten me alive, I had to make a decision to look forward, live with the risks and just handle whatever was coming at me in the moment. At the time, it just felt like survival.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written and of course, the longer you wait to do something, the easier it is to build that something up in your head, until it seems enormous and out of reach, looming above your head. I tend to look at the things I am not accomplishing more closely than the things that I am experiencing at that very moment. When I look back at my notepad, I realize that I have been writing all along these last two months, just not in my usual format. Here are a few sentiments I wrote down that have stayed with me on the journey.

Fear can only hurt us if we let it.

Trust yourself.

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to stop participating in it.

Well, why the hell not?

The best people possess a a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable, they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. -Ernest Hemingway

There is no path to happiness; happiness is the path.

Take courage.

Choose to see beauty.

Let go.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. -Thomas Edison

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. -Ernest Hemingway

The bad news is, people are crueller and meaner and more evil than you’ve ever imagined. The good news is people are kinder, gentler and more loving that you’ve ever dreamed.

Always be kinder than you feel.

Be quick and curious and playful and strong.

Don’t stumble over something behind you.

Trust the vibes you get from other people. Energy doesn’t lie.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better. -Maya Angelou

The trouble is, you think you have time. -Buddha

You don’t need a reason to follow your heart.

Don’t settle: don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it. -Chris Brogan

Wake up each day and say ‘Thank you.’

Silence is so accurate. -Mark Rothko

Kindness has a beautiful way of reaching down in to the weary heart and making it shine like the rising sun.

Be happy for no reason.

If running is difficult, run more. This lesson applies to many things.

Fall in love often.

Doubt is your only disability. -Chris Mott

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. -C.S. Lewis

Be filled with wonder. Be touched by peace.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. -Mary Oliver

 

Life’s too Short to Worry. Life’s too Long To Wait.

water

1. Be Authentic. The most powerful asset you have is your individuality–what makes you unique. Don’t put too much equity in other people’s opinions.

2. Trust the process. Expect plot twists.

3. Work hard and you will always benefit from it.

4. Create. Do. Make things. Innovation in thinking is not nearly enough.

5. Travel as much as you can. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to be reminded how much you don’t know.

6. Strive for grace. There’s always room for more grace and there’s always another chance to embody it.

7. “Do Good.” The Golden Rule actually works.

8. Read everything. Read with an open-mind and a child’s fascination.

9. Go out on more limbs.

10. If you want to change, change. You are what you are until you decide you are something else.

11. Connect in real ways. Life is visceral. Get off your devices and connect with real people in real-time in real culture.

12. Instinct and intuition–learn to feel and trust them.

13. Let passion guide you. The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.

14. If you like to eat pretzels in bed, eat pretzels in bed. Occasionally. Don’t abuse your own power.

15. Be a dreamer AND a doer.

Why it’s Important to Sing in the Rain

rain

The Japanese poet, Kenji Miyazawa, wrote, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”

It’s really uncomfortable to sit with pain–to accept it and not fight it. It’s written that “unrelenting disappointment [can] leave you heartsick.” The heart is the core of our being. In it lives joy, charity, faith and wonder. To protect our hearts, we do things to diminish suffering and avert pain.

Because of that instinct, sometimes we ignore painful feelings or deny them all-together. We over medicate, isolate ourselves and engage in behaviors that are out of character. We search for anything we think will help control the pain. The risk we take by avoiding painful emotions is that we’ll grow bitter, angry and anxious.

Bernard Baruch said that “the art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them.” Great truth–really hard to actually do. I’ve been trying to see it lately, as the art of “singing in the rain.”

In the movie, “Singing in the Rain,” Gene Kelly is walking through the streets in the pouring rain with an umbrella in his hand, unopened for most of the time, singing. He’s existing happily at that moment while in the rain, not despite of the rain. I’m not suggesting that pain is easy to deal with by just smiling through it–but it’s a starting place. Happiness is something we choose and every decision we make contributes to what we will allow ourselves to feel. Singing in the rain is an art we can never stop practicing. 

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face
I’ll walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
Just singing in the rain.
Singing in the rain.

Dancing in the rain
I’m happy again
I’m singing and dancing in the rain
I’m dancing and singing in the rain

Take a Moment and Reflect…Every Day Holds A Reason to Rejoice

thanksLove one another. Take care of each other. Tell the truth. Always do your best. Listen to the big people. Listen to the little people. Explore new paths. Have fun. Know that you are loved like crazy. Give thanks for all your blessings. Above all else, love. You will do wonderful things in this world.

Grace Wouldn’t Be Grace If It Came Easily

I’ve had my grace tested on numerous occasions lately. One thing of which I’m certain is that grace wouldn’t be grace if it came easily. Reflection is a good thing but it’s only lucrative if we take what we learned and move forward–working to be better today than we were yesterday. Grace is an art. It’s something that needs to be practiced every day. It’s the realization that life is a gift and the ability to move beyond fear or anger or frustration. Grace is flexibility and courage and gratitude. And the best thing about grace? When you fail at it, there’s always another chance.

I’ll Be On My Way, Just As Soon As I Shave This Yak

yak

There was a guy who wanted to mow his lawn one afternoon but had lent his lawn mower to his neighbor. When he asked his neighbor for the lawn mower, the neighbor refused.

“Not until you give me back the five other things you’ve borrowed from me!” said the neighbor.

The guy went back to his house and gathered up the things he’d borrowed from his neighbor. As he did that, he realized he had a problem–he had lost the sweater his neighbor brought back from Tibet years before.

The sweater was made of Yak’s wool. So in the middle of the night, the guy found himself breaking in to a zoo, sneaking in to the yak pen and shaving a yak to the get the yak hair to weave yak yarn to make a yak-hair sweater so he could give it back to his neighbor, get his lawn mower back and mow his lawn.

What does yak shaving represent? The “fiddly” tasks we let get between us and our goal–the excuses we make or the steps we insist need to be taken in order to launch something perfectly.

The guy should have just bought a sweater, gotten his mower back and mowed his yard.

We spend time yak shaving instead of doing because yak shavings tasks are in our control. We let ourselves believe that in order to accomplish our dreams, everything needs to be perfect. We spend too much time perfecting, or heading to the zoo to shave a yak.

Yak shaving shields us from facing the things we fear. It prevents us from ever really creating, doing, putting our work out there. But we need to start. Do it. Any of it. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a big plunge. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be something. Small bites. Small steps. One imperfect thing at a time.

 

Sensitivity Is Not My Weakness

connections

I can remember a moment on the phone with my mother when I was in college, overwhelmed and crying. Between my sobs, my mother said something that has stuck with me since: “Why are you so sensitive, Erin? You really need to lighten-up.”

My mother wasn’t the first or the last to say this to me. All my life, people have told me that I was “too sensitive,” “very  intense,” “so emotional.” And I listened and told the same things to myself. The world has always affected me deeply. I felt everything and built an analysis of life rather than an experience of it when I was with others. For years, I tried to solve my “intensity” problem by controlling my situations. I was private about many aspects of my life, not wanting to burden others when they had things to deal with of their own and I started hiding bits of me away. I thought of my sensitivities as weaknesses, out of my control, which made me vulnerable and exposed.

Eventually, things fell apart. I was married, had a respectable job and a life that didn’t fit me at all. It was a life that I had constructed based on my analysis of what it should be instead of where my experiences led me. I left it all behind and I learned to embrace the sensitivities and emotions I have always run from. I learned that we are all participants in life, not just observers. I learned to trust myself.

Intensity still runs wild in me–that will undoubtedly ever change. On a trip to D.C. last month, Matt lost me in conversation when I couldn’t stop looking out the restaurant window at a young guy, wrapped in a tarp, clearly on drugs and standing in the snow and wind.  I have sleepless nights when I can’t solve problems that cause others discomfort. I cry when I read sad stories or stories that remind me of the power we all have to affect one another’s lives. But now, for all of these things, I am grateful. There was some merit in part of what my mom said to me that day. I do need to lighten-up; not everything is as serious as I take it. I learned that life is easier than I think it is (and thinking about life is hard). It just is. It’s life. And we are all doing it.

In in my future quests to “lighten-up” a little more, I know that, at the core, I will still be emotional and intense. Instead of trying to change that, I’m challenging myself to embrace the times when I feel vulnerable and exposed–in hopes that it will inspire others to do the same.

“Our obligation is to give meaning to life, and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” Ellie Wiesel

PS. The Ad Council released this video, “Diversity & Inclusion–Love Has No Labels.” It touched me deeply and yes, I cried a little. We are all just looking for connections in life.

 

 

 

I Will Face It When It All Blows Up

standing on the edge

There’s a big difference between strategic planning and strategic planning that stands in the way of doing something even greater because we refuse to deviate. I’ve learned this the hard way, yet still need the daily reminder. Consistently, I walk the line between control-freak and someone who embraces change.

I outline plans to stay focused and on-track and in reality, those plans rarely work out that way. People change their minds, get distracted, surprise me; things happens late, quit working, don’t function as intended; deadlines don’t get met, done deals don’t happen, circumstances change.

What I know for sure is that starting with a plan gets you one step closer to the goal but also having a plan for when those plans don’t work is just as important.

A mentor once told me, “shit happens.” Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the phrase or not, you might remind yourself of this when you’re stuck and can’t seem to move forward. When people tell you there are no other options, when you are faced with the way it’s always been done, and especially when everything blows up in your face, there is change in the air and there are new opportunities standing right in your way. Plan on seeing them.

There’s No Easy Way To Put This–This Isn’t Even A Good Headline

I have a very bad habit of being late. I don’t want to be late and I usually believe I’m trying really hard to not be. Other people’s time is just as if not more important than mine and I’m aware of how rude it is to take precious moments from someone else’s day because they are waiting on me. My tardiness isn’t routed in a lack of awareness for time and the lives of others, it’s a habit I lean on because it fulfills what I refer to as my never-ending need to do one more thing.

The alarm rang at 4:45 this morning and instantly I was on. I’m on from the time I open my eyes until the moment I go to sleep at night. My brain is usually in over-drive, cataloguing things I feel need done to keep order in my life, to accomplish what I want to accomplish, to stay ahead. I just feel better when I leave for work and the plants, workout done, laundry folded, house picked up, that picture frame that broke a few months back glued back together, a hole from a nail in the wall patched and painted, and the bags ready to go to Goodwill loaded in to my trunk, which I will drop off on the way to the office.

Most of my life, I have believed that by living like this, I was being efficient. I was allowing myself the organization and determination to accomplish more, be more. Last week, though, when I walked out of work an hour and twenty-five minutes later than I had planned on leaving in order to meet Matt and friends for dinner, instead of feeling satisfied that I had gotten everything done, I felt guilty and worn-down. And believe me, this was not a new feeling. It’s becoming increasingly hard to shake the feelings of disappointment and remorse as I show up late again, because I was finishing up something else.

Because I’m a half-glass-full, if it’s broke, I can fix it, and if it’s not broke, it probably still needs fixed kind of woman, that feeling that despite everything I am able to get done in a day, I’m still losing has become undeniable. So, here I am, amidst a pile of to-do-lists and best intentions, an anxious, often-late, albeit, fairly polished mess. What now?

I used to contemplate ways to become more efficient in order to get more done and legitimately, there still are plenty of things I can do to become more efficient and manage my time better. But what I realize now is there’s really no sense in honing those efficiency skills if I’m just going to fill the space I create with more things to do–making myself, as usual, just a little late for the next thing.

In no way am I advocating leaving the things that need done completely undone. I’m reflecting–or better yet, trying to remind myself–that perfection is a silent killer of many things, timeliness being one of them. My obsessive need to find the perfect picture for a blog-post before I allow myself to post, to not walk out of the bathroom without wrapping up the curling iron, even though I’m already in a rush, to fret about the page on the station’s website that needs updating, even though no one has noticed and it’s been months–these are all things I obsess over because if they are on my list, and I’m working towards them, then I can control them. I create an illusion of control for myself by creating more lists and doing one more thing with each spare moment that I have, and coming full-circle, making myself late for nearly everything, which leaves me spinning.

Here goes–one foot in front of the other. Today, I’ll allow myself to do what I can, to do things in spite of them not being perfect or maybe even complete, to give up control and keep moving forward. Today, I’ll be a little more on-time.

 
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