Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Honesty: The Best Policy

I believe we all have a story to tell. And we'll keep telling it over and over until we get it out. We tell it with the clothes we wear and the words we speak. We tell it through our actions. We tell it in the people we spend time with and the choices we make. Other people's words and actions and choices sometimes write chapters, but ultimately they're our stories.

I didn't tell a true story for the first half of my life and have spent the second half trying to rectify that. Sometimes my honesty is off-putting. Some people don't like what I have to say, even though it's true. I've learned over the years through painful lessons where and who are safe places to share my story.

Two of my favorite quotes are:

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” --Anne Lamott

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” --Carl Jung

Those have become more than just words I pin on a board or share on social media. They have become my mantras.

But here's a lesson I'm still learning: Sometimes it's hard to tell your story without telling someone else's. That's been especially trying. Although a lot of who I am is through work on myself, some of who I am...well, I became through my reactions to other people's choices. 

Who do you become when someone doesn't love you the way you want them to? 
How will you go on when someone you love dies? 
Who are you when someone abuses you...physically, mentally, emotionally?
How do you react when someone you love makes choices you feel are wrong?
What if those choices kill them?

Ultimately, we are only responsible for ourselves. Our choices. Our reactions. Our stories.

When Chloe went to college, a friend asked me, "How can you stand it? What do you do?" I said, "Pray that I gave her the right tools." 

Isn't that our job as parents? To give our children the right tools to make their own choices and write their own stories--hopefully good ones. It's not our job to shove them into boxes they spend years trying to break out of. It's not our role to tell our children who they should be; it's our role to help them become the best version of who they already are.

Over the past few years, I've spent lots of time trying to shed the lies of who other people told me I was...trying to silence that inner shrew who's always ready with a criticism or insult...trying, as Danielle LaPorte encourages, to remember who I was before the world told me who I should be. 

It's hard. My earliest memories are of not being good enough. 

A few weeks ago I found out some information that knocked me off-kilter. It affected some beliefs I held dear and made me question if I knew anything for sure. 

Here are a few things I know for sure: No matter what choices other people make, I can choose honesty, kindness, compassion, and love. If it's not genuine, I don't want any part of it. When I make a mistake, I can't always change it, but I can always apologize and try to do better. Secrets, lies, and gossip destroy relationships and people. 

I am going to strive to accept others unconditionally despite our differences--even political ones. I'm going to keep consciously trying to live authentically and tell my story honestly and wholeheartedly. I encourage you to do the same. The people who aren't meant to help us up will see their way out. 

Now...Please. Go. Vote.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Please Back Away Slowly

In recent years, consent has been widely discussed. What constitutes consent. What doesn't constitute consent. I've discussed with my son--in eye-gougingly (it's a word now, dammit) uncomfortable conversations--that consent is pretty much a completely sober, "Why yes, thank you, I would very much enjoy engaging in sexual activity with you," which is immediately negated if the person changes his/her mind. It's clearly illustrated in this British video about ... tea.

Thinking about it, reading about it, trying to come up with a way to talk to my teen-aged son about it sent my mind wandering into other areas where you can give and then withdraw consent. For instance, you meet someone and get along very well out of the gate. After a bit, you realize you don't have as much in common as you'd initially thought. In fact, you don't enjoy hanging out with this person much anymore and don't think that this relationship has a future. How do you withdraw consent, tactfully and without hurt feelings, from a friendship?

I imagine those of you who date or have dated are better--or at least more experienced--than I am at this. I have been dating the same guy for 26 years so, I rarely practiced, "It's not you, it's me."  How do you make the "I'm just not that into you" point without completely cold-shouldering someone?

Although I've had only one significant love relationship, I've had lots of friendships. I still have a lot. Some have transformed. Some have fallen to natural growing apart and life circumstances. And others to ... nonsense. While I am no expert, I can see more quickly now whether or not a friendship will work out.

A longtime friend and I joke about how we used to fall madly in love with people and jump into friendships with both feet. We'd throw caution to the wind, blindly surrendering our hearts and our time. Yeah, I don't do that shit anymore. I am far too protective of my time and energy and especially my heart.

While, I aspire to be warm, compassionate, and friendly, I don't cozy up as readily. I love to listen to people's stories, but this makes people feel disproportionately close to me. Since they shared a lot about themselves with me, they think we're good friends. However, I rarely reciprocate, so I seldom feel as close to others. Sometimes I share personal things. And I feel very close to some people. But since I tell all my secrets here, I am not so inclined to unburden myself to actual flesh and blood humans.

Recently Brad overheard me on the phone with a friend he doesn't know and said, "You tell her you love her?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

He kind of shrugged and shook his head in the way he does when I tell him about dreams and spirit animals. The way that says, "I don't always get you, but I love you."

This time, though, his words felt judge-y, and I felt defensive. It's just an eight-count in the ongoing dance of, "I don't work for you, please don't boss me," and, "I'm not your child, please don't parent me," that results from spending many of our days apart playing roles other than loving partners.

I reminded him that while he's working in other states, I sometimes cultivate new friendships. With women. He doesn't really get my need for a tribe, but he doesn't need to. He knows that he wouldn't want to deal with the repercussions of me without my tribe. I wouldn't either. We don't always need to understand each other, but in order to be happy, we must practice radical acceptance.

Now, I've wandered off course, shockingly.

Over the past year, I've started backing away slowly when I realize that a relationship is not for me. My best friend advises, "Just don't engage." She does this masterfully. I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me; as a nurturer, my natural inclination is TO engage. However, when I have stepped back and observed from a safe distance, it's always been for my highest good.

I wonder ... Have you dealt with this? How would you remove yourself from a toxic friendship? What do you do when a friendship isn't going the way you'd thought? Has a friend walked away from you and you don't know why? How many friendships have you lost over the election? Just kidding. Mostly. I mean you can tell me if you want.