Archive for the ‘authenticity’ Tag

Contemplations

I wrote this a couple days ago, after a particularly rough bout of ambush emotions. I’ve let it sit and after some sleep and a re-read, I have decided it’s not entirely cringe-worthy and over-emotional, so I’m publishing it. But be warned: it isn’t the most logical or inspired thing I’ve ever posted.

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There are times when I regard my brain as a foreign entity, as if it weren’t really a part of me, as if “me” is separate and distinct from my brain. I guess that’s the essence of the mind/brain debate. Does consciousness exist apart from cognition? Does the biological organ of the brain exist separately from the consciousness? Is consciousness the soul? These are unknowable facts, in my estimation. But what I do know as fact, as lived experience, is that my brain occasionally begins to work in ways that I do not recognize nor understand, leaving me feeling as if it exists separately from who I understand myself to be.

That’s often frustrating and sometimes scary. I cringe putting that admission in writing because I’m conscious of the fact that many will think me crazy, deranged, defective for thinking my brain and my self are severable in any way. But that’s the best way I know how to describe the experience of recognizing a thought pattern playing out in my brain and simultaneously feeling as if I’m separate, observing that pattern progress from outside of it because I feel no connection to that thought’s genesis and feel powerless to terminate it.

Lately, I’ve been actively thinking about a bunch of different concepts that intersect in my life in ways both predictable and surprising. There’s no way for me to encapsulate all of these thoughts in a blog post and no one, even me, would want to slog through it if I could. But a few of the connections and intersecting concepts are intriguing and might benefit from a public airing just to get them out of my head for a minute.

None of this is neat or tidy. None of it is resolved…maybe not even resolvable. It’s all a part of the messy, complicated, sometimes painful process of personal growth. My answers, to the extent any are forthcoming, are likely to be different from your answers on the same concepts and intersections. So, treat this as the thought experiment that it is and try not to get too caught up in problem-solving; rather, enjoy the journey of mere contemplation.

Three of the big concepts that have visited my cranial foreign office recently:

1.Apathy. Specifically, I have wrestled with how damaging apathy or indifference can be to interpersonal relationships, comparing (perhaps unfairly) the type and quality of that damage to that suffered from active abuse or intentional conduct of another ilk. Contrasting these impacts might be reasonable in some circumstances, but not in others. A big hurdle to taming this intellectual puzzle are the complicating factors, such as the nature of the relationship being examined, the relative power among the people in that relationship, any dimensions of privilege and marginalization that the participants occupy, and the personal characteristics of the people relevant to this relationship dynamic. That’s a ton of variables to control for in calculating the outcome of an analysis of the level of impact a participant experiences from the apathy or indifference of the other participants in the relevant relationship.

2.Authenticity. What role does validation of outside observers play in a person’s ability to live authentically in any given identity or presentation? If no one else within my inner circle of relationships (friends, family, colleagues, community) validates the identity or aspect of identity that I embody, am I likely to succeed in living that truth? Is this more complex than mere peer pressure? Is It more layered and nuanced than simply getting a nod or pat on the back as assurance that we’re “doing it right“? Does the community at large within the relevant demographic being evaluated as authentic feel the impact of an individual member’s failure to authentically embody that identity as a result of not being validated in that identity? What about if lack of authenticity is a result of something else?

3.Effort. This one is even more nebulous and hard to describe. My thoughts have been full of questions about effort, trying to quantify “enough” and “too much”, trying to ascribe qualitative value to types of effort, and trying to illuminate the points at which type and quantity and quality collide. This is all in relation to the questions on apathy and authenticity.

The ultimate culmination of all this thinking and puzzling and challenging and ideating isn’t clear. Is my brain trying to work out some therapeutic dosage of effort that promotes healthy authenticity and combats apathy, like some kind of emotional-political wonder drug? Or is this foreign entity trying to define the discrete boundaries of the emotional geographies of each of these concepts, charting the points at which borders combine? Or perhaps this is all just a lot of mental distraction to keep me from moving beyond the constraints and conditioned responses that my upbringing instilled?

I have no certain answers. But one thing that is certain is that my brain is not idle.

Yeah, That

You know that feeling, that really awesome feeling, when someone really gets it, gets you, sees you, faults and all, but still likes you and even wants to spend time with you despite your faults and insecurities?

You know that feeling that makes your shoulders ease and your breath come easier, because the person you’re with understands what you mean even though you didn’t use all the exactly right words?

You know that feeling that gives you a sense of comfort instead of tension, where you feel capable of expressing yourself without a lot of fumbling for words and pausing to think because you know the person listening is truly interested and won’t judge what you say because of content or language choice or grammar, but just wants to know what’s in your mind and on your heart?

You know that feeling that comes from smelling something really nice and that is associated with the best memories of your life, that makes you taste and hear and smell the past and re-live that moment of peace or joy or reverence or euphoria, and that reassures you that things can be good and comfortable and fun without something bad or negative having to follow?

You know that feeling, like the sunshine after a big storm, when the clouds are still dark and threatening, but pierced through with strong beams of warm, yellow light that seems to vibrate with positivity and renewal, making the darkness of the clouds and the fearfulness of the thunder seem distant and silly?

Have you ever had a moment where all those feelings were bound up in the space of a few hours’ conversation with someone you are only just getting to know but whom you instinctively trust and who you want to spend time with, even when you can’t think of another question or story right now but would be happy to just sit with them and be, still and quiet, just being, together?

Do you know that feeling?

Yeah, that.

It’s pretty great.

On the lighter side

I’ve been venting a lot lately. It has been necessary and life-preserving. But I don’t want to always be negative; positivity and self improvement remain my goals.

So, in the spirit of reframing the negative and finding silver linings, here’s a short list of the glimmerings out of the muck from this week.

  1. Starting with the least-shiny of the linings…maybe pewter instead of silver: The workplace politics has found an uneasy level for a while, and I and my team aren’t in the crosshairs for now. Hopefully the worst is over. There will be more upheaval in a couple weeks, but at least it will likely be short-lived and mostly in someone else’s organization. That’s not the brightest or happiest outlook, but it’s not entirely dark and depressing, either. Taking what little good I can from all of the bad.
  2. In that same spirit – of finding something good in the barrel of muck – I was glad to get to contribute to a project today that has the potential to bring about good change. My boss asked me to collaborate with him on a strategy and innovation project. It was one of those think-tank type of logic problems. The board and CEO chose a current-fad business method/pop-sci kind of book and gave the executive leadership the assignment to devise an actionable, yet big-bet/blue-sky idea to spark growth or market transformation. Using the concepts in the book that combine freeing the mind from current paradigm restrictions with the facets of current-form success (i.e. the things we do best today), we were supposed to strategize a way for our established company to provide new solutions to solve customer pain points. Essentially, we needed to suggest ways to reinvent or transform our current strengths to adapt to novel problems or to provide new approaches to existing problems. It was all logic, thinking, head-work with cooperative discussion and brainstorming with my boss. It felt really good to use my brain in a non-emotional, non-political, non-reactionary problem-solving effort. And I came up with some really good observations, insights and ideas. I’m proud of myself and of my work today.
  3. Finally, I is (apparently) International Selfie Day and several of the groups and lists I belong to on Facebook were full of fun, interesting, cute and clever pictures of an amazing variety of queer people celebrating their uniqueness and individual beauty. I was so uplifted to see so many folks overcome their shyness and insecurities to post pictures of themselves in clothing and settings and situations that made them feel good and confident and accepted. Not everyone is a glamorous beauty queen or a handsome star or a gorgeous specimen of humanity. But each picture I saw showed courage and confidence and a love of self that makes me glad to be a part of this community.

Happy Summer Solstice and a good Friday night to all. I hope your weekend is full of sunshine and ease and time enough to enjoy the little things that make life worthwhile.

Naming the Demon

I’m pretty sure I’ve written at least once before about believing that naming the demons, claiming the fear out loud, so to speak, can take away its power and give courage enough to rise above that fear. I do believe that. I try to practice that, especially in my professional life with my team, trying to make a safe space for them to do the same. But when it comes to my personal growth and self discovery and improvement, that naming requires significant vulnerability, particularly when the naming is in print for all and sundry to read…and ridicule.

While I have come a fair clip from the overly-cautious, fearful and shy person I was in the beginning of this journey, I still keep a good bit to myself and still guard my IRL persona carefully. I have a career and position that demands I bear a great burden of responsibility, so public behavior (including on social media) is something I’m very careful about.

Yet, I don’t want that burden to become a convenient excuse to hide from truth and let fear win.

So I’m going to try to strike a balance with this post, naming fears without context or explanation for the most part, saving some measure of privacy and dignity while putting into the universe my plea for peace. Here are some of the demons plaguing my heart and mind:

  • Isolation
  • Emotional upheaval and anxiety
  • Longing for, and also fearing, change
  • Terror of never being enough
  • Dread of always being judged to be too much
  • Shame at being fearful and insecure
  • Inertia that prevents logical, rational thought and action that might alleviate some of this dread
  • Utter lack of creativity and innovation in devising solutions to these problems
  • Disgust at my ineffectiveness in my own life
  • Self loathing over how pathetic this list is

Ugh. That’s a lot of sludge to expose to the world. And I don’t have any comfortable, warm & fuzzy platitudes to salve the negativity. But I cling to the conviction that as long as I’m working on it, putting genuine effort into trying to overcome and to improve, and by calling out the darkness into the light, there is a chance that it will get better.

I have to believe that. I hope you do, too.

Signs of Maturity, or at Least Personal Growth

I don’t know why I should feel any surprise at all, given the years’ worth of effort to achieve exactly this, but I am pleasantly surprised to recognize new signs of growth and maturity in myself. It’s gratifying to see positive results from concerted effort. Clearly, I’m not perfect and this whole improving myself gig is never ending. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see results and pleased with how far I’ve come.

Here are a few things that, in my mind, mark progress in areas of myself that I’ve been working on:

  1. Confidence and “owning my awesome“, as I’ve previously called it on this blog. This is absolutely NOT arrogance or false courage that is often mistaken for being justifiably confident. What I’m proud of is both recognizing and then acknowledging without demurrer my achievements and their relative significance. For example, just today, we finished a huge, complex, extremely detailed, data-intensive project for one of the litigation matters I’ve been co-managing with my boss. It involved coordinating inputs from half a dozen people, data from dozens of sources over a period spanning nearly two decades, and creating multiple tools and interim iterations just to arrive at a single, comprehensive analysis that will inform – under-pin, even – the entirety of our case and have a direct impact on the ultimate outcome. Whatever that outcome, I found myself saying to my boss today, I’m proud of our collective work and of my own considerable contribution. I think what I’m most proud of is that we have done absolutely everything that could be done to secure our desired outcome; we did nothing half-assed and left no detail unexplored or unresolved. Having the clarity and courage to acknowledge that, both to him and to myself, is just as big of an achievement for me as the work itself.
  2. Honesty and Personal Integrity. All my life I’ve worked hard to maintain a high standard of personal integrity and to always be truthful with myself and others. As is the way of all noble pursuits, this takes continuous effort and it is not until you are confronted with challenge or temptation that you know whether that effort has paid off. During the course of preparing for the trial of that same litigation matter over the last several months, I have been both confronted and tempted, having to account for actions and decisions, as well as resist the opportunity to cut corners, even cheat, in my work. Most challenging have been the times when people have given me the answers they thought I wanted to hear, rather than the actual facts or truth. Recognizing that condition, carefully and tactfully correcting it, and getting the work done accurately and well while maintaining the integrity of the work and of my word, was a true test of the value of my life’s work on these personal values. It came home to me when I found myself counseling a coworker to “give me uncomfortable truths over comfortable untruths any day”. Because the temporary and relatively minor discomfort I experience now while I’m adjusting toward acceptance of that truth is an order of magnitude less painful than the trauma and devastation that I’ll have to overcome when unpicking the comfortable untruths that have become enmeshed in the fabric of my life (or of this case) when the truth inevitably comes to light. Choosing to endure the present pain of the truth over enjoying the temporary and false comfort of a lie is maturity.
  3. Prioritizing Myself. Lastly, I’m proud of successfully prioritizing my own needs without guilt or shame. I told my boss today (I didn’t ask or request, but informed) that when this trial is concluded I’m taking at least a week and am doing something just for myself, and will not even think about my job or permit anyone, including him, to bring my job into my time off for the entire time I’m away. I have endured extraordinary levels of stress over the last year for this company, putting myself last in all things, and it’s taken a huge toll on my body and mind. I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my peace of mind and all of my personal time for a job and a company that takes my sacrifice for granted. It’s a tiny step, declaring my intention and brooking no argument about it from myself or anyone else. But it’s a vital step to fostering my wellbeing and choosing myself. And doing it without a self-imposed guilt trip is a huge accomplishment.

There you go. Three good things, positive progress in my journey to being my best self. I hope you all are succeeding with n your own journeys, too.

Finally, a fit

My custom suits came in and I went for the first finish fitting today. I’m so incredibly excited for these! And they fit really well – only a few adjustments required. Who knew my left arm was half an inch shorter than my right? With a dart at center back to make the jackets sit better on my shoulders and taking in the waist and hemming the trousers, they will fit my body exactly right.

But more important is that even in this not-yet-finished state, these suits fit me, my self and identity, even better than they fit my body.

I surprised myself with a spontaneous admission to a friend on another platform to that effect. I said that this is what I have looked like in my most vivid imagination of my truest self since I was 10 years old. That’s precisely true. I’ve envisioned this identity for longer than I’ve had words to describe it and money to manifest it.

This outward presentation of the inner self is more critically important than I ever imagined. It’s silly to feel so emotional about clothes. But, really, it’s more than the clothes. It’s the freedom and agency to display this elemental aspect of myself. It’s the courage to be exactly myself and occupy this space and identity in exactly the way that makes me feel most genuine. It’s the feeling of completion and rightness. It’s the way my head comes up and shoulders square and my eyes meet everyone else’s. It’s the confidence that I’m exactly myself and everyone is seeing me exactly how I want them to see me.

Crazy how a change of clothes can make such a difference.

For those who have been privileged to occupy that authentic feeling in everything they’ve ever put on, this gushing excitement will seem insane. But for my fellow butches, tomboys, enbys, and others who have ever fought for the ability to wear the outward markers of their inner truth, it rings true.

Those fellow gender warriors will understand what I mean when I say that slipping into that suit, feeling it settle well on shoulders and hips, brought an immediate, blissful rest in my deepest self. With that on, I had no more work to do to make myself, the me that has been forever shrouded in the not-quite-right trappings of everyone else’s expectations, apparent to the world at large.

I can hardly wait to get the finished product and wear it out into the world!

Something old and something new

Well, I made it through the gauntlet of the end of quarter/year and the latest court filing deadline. Barely. It was a grueling last few months and a particularly grueling last two weeks. With the lone exception of New Year’s Day, I have worked at least 12 hours a day, every day since Boxing Day. The atmosphere has been saturated with stress and pressure and the pace has been brutal. Between sales people’s unreasonable demands and my boss’ periodic fits and tirades, I was a nervous, anxious mess by the time I collapsed into my bed late Friday night after getting the two briefs filed on time with the court after no less than 12 re-writes over the last week.

But I guess there’s one good thing to come of that horrid mix of anxiety and stress: I finally slept for over 9 hours – the first long sleep I’ve had since at least August. I can’t say it was entirely restful, as it was punctuated with several stress dreams, but at least my body was horizontal and my brain mostly unconscious for that many hours in a row. That’s something.

I followed that with a day spent in my PJs, doing nothing more strenuous than reading ebooks on my Kindle app and watching football playoff games on TV.

But today my body rebelled at being in bed after about 6 hours and my mind was in agreement. So I rose, showered and dressed like a normal person. I count all three feats as accomplishments. I could have forced the issue, argued with both mind and body, and spent another day as a slug in my PJs. Instead, I’m conscious, dressed in can-be-seen-outside-the-house clothes, in public, being productive. That’s a lot for the first free weekend I’ve had in a month!

Speaking of clothes, I made a silly impulse buy on Amazon the other day and it arrived yesterday. I’m wearing it in public today as a silent (though not subtle) statement of my rebellious independence. (Never mind that I’m about to turn 50. I didn’t get a rebellious phase in my youth, so I’m making up for lost time. Sue me.) Here’s a pic of the utterly ridiculous, shiny statement piece:

Rainbow Unicorn is my spirit animal.

So I’m out in public, wearing my essential self emblazoned as a mascot on my chest, writing fiction (not this blog, a story I’m working on)in a coffee shop like a real writer.

I choose to view this as me embracing the old and new, seizing the opportunity of the new year to advance my goals. I’m being creative, both in my expression and in my writing. I’m choosing activity over sluggishness. I’m choosing socializing (albeit lone and passive) to hemitude. And I’m posting about it all. The personal growth goal trifecta.

That’s good enough. I win.

A Case for Vulnerability

If you’ve read much of my substantive posts on this blog you’ll already know that vulnerability – specifically risking personal mental/emotional/social/physical safety for the sake of frank, open, transparent disclosure – is a huge struggle for me. While I always try to be honest and authentic, I don’t always have the courage to be as open and vulnerable in IRL discourse as I have been in some of my posts on this blog. Sometimes that’s intentional self-care, protecting myself from known risk. But often it’s habit, reticence borne of fear and practiced over years; an automatic response instead of a consciously reasoned decision.

Still, that habit was formed with a certain amount of logic, as a response to real-world circumstances and events, not merely the irrational response of the primal mind. I’ve experienced a fair bit of trolling, baiting, gaslighting, and other intentionally humiliating behavior in my life. Fear and a reticence to be exposed to that kind of abuse again is a logical, rational, healthy reaction to being called on to make oneself vulnerable. But that reaction, to be most effective, should be actively managed and consciously controlled so that opportunities for growth aren’t missed due to the automatic dismissal caused by fear.

For me, that’s much easier said than done.

However, being a thinker, I have thought a lot about how to make my experience in various circumstances better, more comfortable, more likely to meet my needs and desires than the current situation in any given scenario. In most cases, changing things for the better means a certain amount of (hopefully) short-term disruption, discomfort, and, yes, vulnerability. I don’t like that that’s the case, but it certainly seems to be the truth for my life.

So, what’s a logical, rational, risk-averse, sensitive thinker to do to reconcile the dissonance? For me, it’s just a matter of resigning myself to the necessary evil of risk in order to benefit from it. “Bite the bullet”, “grin and bear it”, and “just do it” are the hackneyed, yet apropos, expressions that spring to mind.

That’s exactly what I did earlier this week and – spoiler alert – it worked out fairly well. I admit I’m surprised at the outcome, which isn’t a great commentary on the state of my faith in this “just do it” philosophy, or in the generosity and compassion of the people I work with. But I’m counting it a win, anyway.

Here’s what happened:

As I’ve said a lot over the last few months, I’m struggling with stress- and anxiety-induced sleep deprivation. It’s been particularly bad over the last week, impacting my focus and precision at work. Wednesday was an especially rough day, with a ton of project work that required me to be ‘on’ and participate actively in substantive debates on the merits of our case, concentrate for prolonged periods of time and analyze lots of data and synthesize cogent legal arguments from that analysis – all on less than 4 hours sleep.

It was brutal. I yawned my head off, was slow speaking to particularly complex ideas, and generally felt slow-witted and sluggish all morning. By 2:30 in the afternoon I was running on fumes and about as stressed as I’ve been in ages. Making it through the afternoon without collapsing and without committing homicide was all I could hope for.

Then, about 6:30, my boss stopped into my office to chat on his way home for the evening. What I expected to be a momentary check-in, a “good job, have a great evening ” kind of thing, turned into a deeply supportive, substantive conversation in which my boss acknowledged not only that he recognized the burden and stress I’ve been bearing, but also that he’s been contributing to it by his venting to me his frustrations and his sudden changes in direction with the strategy on some of our matters that adds a lot of work for me.

Given his genuine contrition and sincerity, I chose to respond in kind, though it cost me a lot of vulnerability. I confessed to a high level of anxiety and the fear that I would let him and the company down because my ability to cope with the effects of the anxiety and stress is beginning to falter. I also shared with him that I am taking the matter seriously and have sought help to get the anxiety under control so that I can sleep again, including my unsuccessful attempt at counseling and my so-far successful engagement with an anti-anxiety coaching group.

His response was overwhelmingly supportive. He praised my efforts with the coaching group, calling it both smart and brave. Then he turned practical, saying that we needed to take action to fix it. He offered some good suggestions for things he and the company can do to relieve some of the stress that’s beyond the ordinary pressure that just comes with my role. We settled on getting me some administrative/process-oriented help – a gatekeeper, he called it – to give me some relief from so many operational and sales personnel having direct access to me and my brain.

And when I expressed what is, perhaps, my greatest fear of asking for help (no longer having value for the company because someone else has to do some of my work), he was quick to reassure that not only would he not feel that way about me, but that he has plenty of substantive, high-value lawyering work for me to do once some of the stressful, lower-value procedural work is handed off to someone else. He then committed to do whatever is necessary to get me that help, including lobbying with the CEO and board for the necessary exception to add headcount and finding the budget to pay for it.

It’s not a silver-bullet solution to my sleep problem and it will take time to implement. But just hearing him admit to, and apologize for, the extraordinary stress and offer to help fix it was a huge relief. It validates what I’ve been experiencing and lets me know that I’m not crazy for feeling as I do.

And all it took was the courage to be vulnerable about an aspect of my professional identity that I’ve always held internally out of fear it would be derided or exploited: fear of being useless. It’s good to know my contribution is seen and my value as an employee is secure. It’s also nice to think that soon I’ll get some relief and have new and different responsibilities with opportunities to add value in new ways. That’s a really great thing.

Happy holidays, friends! I hope you all receive validation, support and opportunities to shine in your every endeavor.

Joyous, Vulnerable, and Deeply Thoughtful

It’s holiday time and almost the end of the year. That often gets me into a contemplative mood, reviewing the year and thinking about people I haven’t seen in a while. So I’ve made arrangements with several of my favorite people to meet before Christmas and share some time and joy together.

Last night I was blessed to have have dinner with one of my all-time favorite colleague-turned-friends. She’s effervescent, positive, kind, whip-smart and funny as heck. Because she’s supportive, welcoming and inclusive, she’s also one of the first people I ever came out to. In short, she’s an awesome friend and I really looked forward to seeing her and spending quality time catching up. I wasn’t disappointed.

We went to a trendy new restaurant with a hip, foodie vibe. Sharing some incredible charcuterie and all kinds of personal news, we laughed and cheered and commiserated. She told me of her triumphant negotiation for a promotion and raise, demonstrating her badass, smarty-pants self confidence. I told boring lawyer war stories. It was an all-around wonderful evening.

At some point over the risotto and salad, conversation somehow turned to my gender identity and presentation. She asked incisive, sensitive and smart questions and was so kind and respectful throughout. In the midst of this discussion she described a theory she has that she hopes one day to form part of her research for her PhD. I have no doubt she’ll complete that research and be a noted voice in her field. I found the premise fascinating and our discussion, far ranging and lively, was full of vulnerability and challenge and intellectual curiosity.

My friend’s “Refrigerator Theory” posits that, like the internal compartments in a refrigerator, the boundaries, labels, categories that humans create and impose on every aspect of human experience have no purpose separate from the primary purpose of the thing on which it is imposed (i.e. cooling of food for the fridge, or defining the self for identity labels). Instead, she theorizes, these compartments or labels or boundaries exist only to soothe the human need for order – we create boundaries to provide context to avoid the disquiet of chaos or disorder, but the boundary isn’t necessary to the essential function of the object it applies to. Her devastatingly pointed example (at least if you’re an appliance manufacturer) is the infamous, useless and dysfunctional crisper drawer. It doesn’t crisp or even cool to a significant degree more or less efficiently than the main compartment, but we like that it’s a special place to put the veggies.

I love the intellectual exercise of challenging a premise, debating points dispassionately and pushing each other to consider new and different points of view. This is especially true when the person I’m talking with is smart and as into the verbal and mental gymnastics as I am. That was definitely the case last night.

I challenged by proposing that the need exists apart from the order, that perhaps the order rises as a consequence of fulfilling the need. My premise was that where more than one option or condition exists simultaneously, there is a natural need for boundaries or compartments or labels, else there is only ever trial and error. My example is a sink with a tap and two handles; without a n ‘H’ or ‘C’ to distinguish hot from cold, you have to try each one, possibly risking the pain of being burned or chilled if you guess wrong. In other words, it’s not a need for context to generate meaning, but an existence of multitudes of meaning and a need for order to allow each meaning to be evident.

We didn’t get to any conclusions, of course. But it was an incredibly fun conversation, trying each theory out on various aspects of life – corporate communication, change management, gender identity and expression, to name a few. My friend’s passion for learning and unbridled joy in the process of learning and communicating her knowledge is so fun to witness. I can hardly wait to see the work she produces when she embarks on that research.

My hope for all of you, as the year winds down and you think about that one to come, is that you will find occasion and loved ones with whom to experience the joy and challenge and vulnerability of great conversation.

Anti-Positives (not Negatives) For Those Days When Sunny Positivity Just Can’t Cut It

As you know, I’m on a mission to center positivity, gratitude and kindness in my life. I want to be the best version of me that I can be, every day. But because I am human and imperfect, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes finding the silver lining, the “one good thing” in a day utterly full of crappy, negative experiences and energy is simply too much. Some days I just can’t fake it ‘til I make it.

On those days, honoring the darkness, letting the emotional, political, mental sludge breathe and have its moment in the middle is all I can do. And, if I’m both lucky and careful, that momentary dominance will satisfy the perverseness of the universe and let me pin that day to the past, moving forward into positivity once again. It’s brutal and not at all pretty to live through, but once on the other side, relief at having given the darkness that moment makes the light a little more bright and a little more bearable.

So that’s the silver lining, the good out of the bad.

But what gets you to that place is acknowledging the pain points, the dreck that’s built up and is clamoring to get out. Catharsis, I guess. But not necessarily just a good ol’ fashioned, wracking, sobbing cry. Sometimes it calls for naming the enemies, a litany of the poisons steeping in the blood, to extinguish their power and potency. Only after being called to the fore can some of these venoms be neutralized – the power of light to bleach the stain of the dark.

To that end, I’m braving my fears of vulnerability and derision to call out some of the poisons currently plaguing my peace:

Imposter Syndrome

Being a Pathetic Loser

Loneliness and the Fear it is Forever

Inadequacy in Every Dimension

Fixating on the Unobtainable

Reliving Humiliating Moments of the Past

Beating Myself Up for Giving in to Anger

Fear of Change

Wow. That’s a lot of mental and emotional poison.

I wrote all of that over a month ago, after nearly a month of lost sleep and continual stress. I set it aside to breathe, thinking that it was too raw and left me too exposed to actually publish. I thought I just needed to get it out of my head and it would be enough. But it hasn’t stopped.

So last night, Wednesday October 24th, while I was, again, not sleeping and after my eyes called it quits on reading anymore as an escape from the poisonous thoughts, I lay still and let the poison wash over me. I decided all the fighting I’d been doing to avoid it had been futile, so maybe giving it its freedom would bring some relief. Again, maybe if I honor the darkness it’ll let me go?

So I spent the entire night reliving the most cringeworthy, painful, humiliating moments of my life, watching each scene and acknowledging it’s continued sting. It felt like walking through a thrift store, cruising the aisles full of dusty, dented, useless junk that somehow still holds a degree of fascination, picking up items and replacing them on the shelves. It was a miserable experience, yet I managed to get to the end of the aisle without shedding a tear. Despite feeling the oppressive weight of humiliation and shame that each memory carried, I looked at each one and then set it aside without further judgment or sorrow.

No profound conclusions resulted and no existential clarity emerged. I did notice a pattern in the moments that rose to the surface and it’s still percolating through my brain trying to resolve into a clear shape that I can put a name to. But there’s been no epiphany.

Still, I think it helped, in some perverse way, to let my brain purge the dreck. I’m not certain that I won’t have to confront those moments again another time, but I feel that surviving that ordeal is a triumph. Even though it cost me a day of vacation time (I was in no shape to go to work today) and a day-long headache that’s still pounding, in addition to the night-long anguish, I’m calling it a win. It’s not a bright, shiny, joyous win, but a win nevertheless.

And because any positive out of all this oily, oozing darkness should be celebrated, I’m taking my courage in both hands and am publishing this very personal realness, despite feeling naked in the spotlight by doing so.

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