Daring to Share

Dear Reader:  What follows is my most personally revealing blog post yet.  I’m taking a risk, allowing myself to be vulnerable.  I believe we are all beautiful, messy, ‘works in progress’ and our stories are powerful. I find myself driven toward light, love and purpose and I suspect my nature, my sense of self, developed as I encountered wise ones on my path, benefiting from their candor and kindness, teaching and tolerating me…and encouraging me to embrace both the dark and light of life’s journey.  

When a client this week asked me where my “capacity for caring” came from I was caught off guard and responded with a half-hearted, “Oh, you know, we all have it within us” and realized afterward what I’d done.  I dismissed her kindness with a deflection…but her query lingered.  Hoping I am, indeed, a person who shows “capacity for caring”, I wondered…maybe I ought to meditate for a moment or two to consider, more fully, her question.  What follows is the outcome – a bit of my ‘journal to self’ which I’m daringly sharing with you.

Transitions in life can be challenging, whether relationship-related or shifts associated with new routines in work or family roles.  Sudden shifts can leave us feeling like we’ve departed for a trip with no packed bags – no tool kits for the tasks at hand.  Or worse, we might feel we’ve arrived at a new destination with someone else’s baggage…both in the literal, physical sense, or the heaviness of emotional luggage…Samsonite that doesn’t belong to us.

I’ve learned to navigate the curves, the unexpected bumps that newness brings.  Not because I’m blessed with special talents and certainly not because I’m thick-skinned.  Quite the contrary.  Left to my own devices, I’ll react – not just to situational changes but also to any sudden shift in a tone of voice, a subtle adjustment in body language or eye movement.  Maddeningly discernible and detectable…and every now and again, I wish I had an ‘off’ switch.

Long ago, as a survival skill, I learned to read rooms and the people in them, scanning for allies and friendlies.  My motivation? I was driven by a need to sniff spaces for safety; identify anyone who might be a threat by tuning into instincts, followed by an “aggregation” – mounding together every morsel of sensory input I could muster.

I didn’t realize I did this until we’d moved, I don’t know, maybe the sixth time when I was kid.  Nearly every year brought a hefty transition.  New school, new home, new faces, new environment, new climate, new culture, new traditions – all unknown to me. It’s also what children of trauma do: Adjust. Adapt. Morph.  I get that, related to my tumultuous home life, and I know I’m not alone.

I learned to watch interactions between people, the spoken and unspoken.  I’m quite the proficient lip-reader and can feel waves of ill-intent, auras of inauthenticity.  As a result, no one likes to lie to my face. My family has learned…I pick up “things”. 😉

Exhaustion is real. My need for restorative introversion, despite having a helper heart, is largely recharge-related, so I can get back in the game.  I pick up on a lot of errant “stuff” that I don’t want or need when I’m around others and while my quirkiness has proven to be an asset, at times, in my professional roles, it’s also burdensome, especially when I don’t want to share everything I’m thinking and feeling. Endlessly sorting, sifting, censoring, cataloguing for later

It’s taken me years to understand. My head and heart deplete me because of this maddening inner dialogue. I also know this is precisely why meditation matters.  I need the dedicated time to empty out – as much as I can.  Then, when I’m ready, I can choose to address a concern, with intention, without feeling overrun. Comfort from the inside-out.

One of my mentors pronounced my intuitive sense as a therapeutic gift. Ick.  I still hate that. I don’t believe it – it’s just a skill, cultivated as a result of safety-seeking.  That, and the fact that one of my core identities is that of misfit.  Yep.  Outsider, looking in.  I’m not sad about it, it’s just who I am and I see both the light and dark of it all.

When we’re in school, we “meet” a multitude of theorists who can inform and guide our evolution as persons.  I eagerly embraced theories, generally, because each one felt like a potential road map to better understand myself. One standout? Nancy Schlossberg.  She was one of the lesser-known wise ones and her impactful work on transition theories was a thunderbolt for me decades ago…and still, it resonates. 

Schlossberg’s work was revelatory for me as a mixed-up college student.  Her principles of “marginality vs. mattering” continue to ring true, decades later.  The heart of what helped me, then and now was this:

Mattering – state in which a person is important, appreciated, and valued.

Marginality – state in which a person feels ignored, shunned, separated, or on the fringe.

Until I was introduced to Schlossberg’s thoughts about the ebb and flow, the unexpected and routine, I had a perpetual tendency to feel different, odd, judged.  Often, I felt like an outsider – a marginalized misfit. Learning about Schlossberg’s ideas helped me understand the need to care for myself with less input (solicited or otherwise) from others. 

My constant head-space conversations, evaluating myself against standards from others left me more empty, less fulfilled. Clearing the path to see that I mattered because I AM changed everything.  I realized what I often sought in my over-achieving tendencies was recognition, mattering.  External validation. The marginalized me?  I was unsure and afraid…compulsively evaluating every person, every situation. 

Understanding the origins of the behaviors helped me curtail (not eliminate) the endless reconnaissance and I’m grateful.  Still, I can see how the many moves and transitions in my young life carved a space for empathy and intuition. I’m grateful that I’m more inclined, the older I get, to focus my attention on others and less on “Vicki repair” — more on developing and maintaining my capacity for care.

If you’ve gotten this far – cheers to you! Thank you for reading and riding along.  It matters to me…as do you. 

Xo,

Vicki ❤

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Love, Magic, Wonder

Love with heart
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This morning I peeked at pieces I’ve written recently (and some that are still ‘in the pipeline’) and remarked (yes, talking to myself) that three words seem pervasive:  LOVE, MAGIC, WONDER.

No, I didn’t do an official search and count…I’m not going for precision here.  But still, I spent a meditative moment (followed by some necessary self-talk) ruminating about being repetitive and boring. 

Yep – there’s the self-evaluator in me surfacing.  I hollered back, ‘So what? What’s true, is true!’  And then I remembered this from Persian poet Hafiz:

“The words you speak become the house you live in.”

Taking a little liberty and swapping out ‘speak’ for ‘think’ or ‘write’ offers the guidance I needed.  It’s okay.  Go forward, Vicki, and use “love, magic, wonder” endlessly, boldly, authentically. 

And so…I send those three things to you today.  Love, magic and wonder – in abundance!

-Vicki ❤

At the Barbeque

people at a barbeque
Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on Pexels.com

It’s so easy to remember the critics in our lives – the reprimands and challenges and the heaviness that rides along.  One of my least appealing personality characteristics is a tendency toward judgement.  I don’t mean to but if left unattended, I might spend my entire day thinking about feedback I’d love to offer but don’t dare deliver.  There’s nothing worse than unsolicited input.  This I know to be true.

My sometimes judgey-attitude and needless filtering…the quickness to classify and label is a by-product of neanderthal needs for safety.  Adopt the group mindset.  Don’t stand out. Birds of a feather…flocking together…Except all of that group-think nonsense is counterproductive to being our best, unique selves and celebrating individuality.

What nurtures growth and promotes positivity?  An honest, heartfelt compliment which calls out what’s special about each of us.  With all the ‘likes’ and ‘following’ going on in the world, an old-fashioned I see you and you are fabulous…goes a long way toward soothing the bumps and bruises we all collect.  Just by living.

As I mulled this over today, I challenged myself to summon an impactful compliment – offered honestly, authentically, freely and it took me a minute.  Not gonna lie.  When my roundabout memory finally sifted out the clutter, I recalled a colleague who offered praise a few years ago.  As I think about what he shared, I can’t help but smile.   His exuberance – about me – lifted me up – at least three feet from the ground. I floated for a few hours after. 

Let me set the scene.  “Rob” (not his real name) and I volunteered at an employee barbeque.  You know the type; intended to promote team spirit and boost morale with a spread of ribs, chicken and burgers.  (Side note:  This was a terrible job for me.  I ‘over-portioned’ every single plate and was the messiest ‘guest chef’ ever, which created the unintended entertainment portion of the event:  Watching Vicki juggle plates overly laden with grub.) 

Rob was my ‘guest chef’ partner and we met just once or twice before.  He was the newbie and I was the long-tenured veteran…with the aforementioned sloppy serving skills.  After he repositioned my lopsided chef’s toque (fancy name for the big stove-pipe head gear, I learned) the good time vibes were rolling and they didn’t stop.

Why?  Rob could not believe I knew each person in line – by name.  Maybe we served 100 folks, give or take.  I served “the meats” and Rob did the sides and as colleagues moved through the line, I greeted each and introduced Rob (because most had yet to make his acquaintance).   It was easy.  It was fun. 

But part way through, Rob pulled me aside while the actual chefs were restocking the steam table and said, “Who are you?  Never in my life have I seen someone handle introductions the way you do.  You know everyone by name plus tidbits about their families, their jobs, where they work, what they do.  You’re like magic and I want to be you.”

We were pretty sweaty at this point. Did I mention it was an 85-degree day?  The combo of the hot food, the steamy weather?  I was already a wringable, soppy mess and Rob’s sweet and heartfelt comment triggered more moisture – tears.  As they rolled down my cheeks, I imagined (hoped) it looked like more sweat than emotion, but inside, I was flying.  The sincerity of his compliment shook me.  Not because it was necessarily true but because it WAS my intention to acknowledge and connect as many people as possible that day. And he saw me.

Here’s to being the light. Barbeque or wherever. 

Big smiles,

-Vicki 😎

Confident – From the Inside Out

gold star

I suspect we’ve all been there.  Where?  In the self-defeating cycle of insecurity where we become dependent upon acknowledgement from others.  Might be a new-found friend in the blogging world 😊 or a spontaneous interaction with a stranger.  It’s true!  A positive nod or word of encouragement is a gift. 

Revel in it – whether it’s a compliment from someone near and dear or a person you may never see or hear from again – many of us are hungry to be seen, heard, recognized. Especially true for those who identify as achievers. 

But that’s okay, right?  Yes, I think so.  It’s truly what makes the world go ‘round.  People taking care of one another by offering praise and recognition nurtures love – for the greater good.  I’m a fan. 

Except…when you are incapable of acknowledging and celebrating your own successes (small or large) because the only praise that “counts” comes from the outside.  That might be a sign that your need for external validation is dragging you down. 

The fix is straightforward but requires a wee bit of practice.  Being mindful of your unique gifts and talents is a good first step.  Yes – you have them.  Make a list if you need to.

Be ready to celebrate and ‘high five’ yourself at every opportunity.  Be the first…not the last…to offer praise and give yourself the gold star.

Visual imagery can help.  Take a minute or two to connect with your breath.  The simple act of breathing in…and out…while allowing your head and heart to peruse the things that make YOU feel good about you is restorative.

Don’t go spelunking around for heroic acts of bravery here.  For some, getting out of bed is praise-worthy if the day dawns bleak and gray (whether actually, metaphorically or emotionally).  Hurray for YOU!  You’re up! 

If you make it a practice to celebrate the little wins, it will become less and less necessary for you to feel good only if praise comes from someone else. 

My wish for you?  Don’t let ‘external validation’ be your only (or main) source of ego strength.  You are fabulous.  You always were. 

-Vicki ❤