Archive for the ‘willing’ Tag

Trapped

Ever have that feeling where someone you care about has given you a gift and is so excited for your reaction, because they *just know* you’ll love it and be so trilled to have it. Only you don’t really like it. You stopped liking that thing years ago and haven’t even spoken about it in so long you don’t remember the last time. And now this person you care for is looking at you with glowing eyes, a huge smile and sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for you to explode with joy and gratitude. Ever have that feeling?

It feels like being trapped.

You don’t want to hurt or disappoint them. After all, they love you and went out of their way for you, perhaps spent money on you, and are excited to make you happy.

Only you aren’t happy with that gift, or thought, or gesture, or whatever it is they’re physically or mentally or emotionally holding out to you so hopefully. It doesn’t fit you, your life, your personality, your identity. It is dissonant, awkward, out if joint. Broken.

If you said any of that to this loving hopeful, it would no doubt hurt them. Maybe even crush them, depending on the subject of the ‘gift’. And because you love them, you avoid doing hurtful, crushing things.

Of course, when its a cow print pin cushion, or a Brittany Spears CD, you can pretty easily smile and say thank you for their thoughtfulness and find a new home for it as quick as you can. With something relatively trivial, you might even risk letting them know, tactfully, that its not to your taste.

But what about when its something more significant? What about when the ‘gift’ of this person is more fundamental, esoteric, yet deeply important? What about when their constant companionship and care becomes a burden, rather than a boon? When that presence, which you’ve relied on as a fortress of belonging, suddenly feels like a prison?

What a miserable choice: (a) continue as is, swallowing your own preferences, wants and needs; (b) live a double life and risk hurting them all the more when it inevitably is discovered; or (c) let them know how you feel and risk destroying the beautiful, loving relationship you still value.

I’ve heard it said, and witnessed myself, that all change is disruptive to one degree or another. That’s its fundamental nature. People learn to adapt to the change or they don’t. I get that. What I’m struggling with is the piercing pain of knowing that the change I intentionally bring about, this disruption that I cause, is the source of intense pain and discomfort to the people I love the most.

Again, if its something that can be compromised, discussed, negotiated, approached logically or formulaically, I can handle it. This restaurant or that one? No problem. Spend thousands of dollars to replace windows in the house, or wait until next year? Easy discussion. Sell the house and move to Bosnia? Sure, lets chat.

All of those things affect not just me, but also those I live with or who are otherwise part of the discussion. When the decision is about balancing risks, weighing the competing interests of multiple players and finding a reasonable compromise is right in my wheel house. I put the ol’ lawyer hat on and go to town sorting the problem.

But when the change is all about me, my feelings, my preferences, my needs, its much harder to deal with. That guilt I’ve written about in prior posts rears its head again. When I begin to think about making changes that are really all about me, the guilt jumps up and does a happy dance in my head. That’s when my inner saboteur starts shouting: “How selfish!” “It’s always all about you, isn’t it?” “What makes you think you deserve that?” “How dare you put yourself, your selfish desires, over everyone else.”

I fight this inner battle between being the selfless, responsible, conscientious person I was raised to be and the selfish, hedonistic, lazy person I was raised to believe myself to be if I walked any path other than the narrow, binary, societally-defined path set before me at an early age.

The weird thing is that I can easily refute the charges of hedonistic and lazy. I have no delusions that my work ethic and sense of solemn responsibility are in tact and functioning well. The saboteur’s tricks in that regard are wasted.

But selfishness, in all it’s myriad forms, is a stab to my heart. I have worked so hard all my life to live up to a standard of excellence defined, in large part, by how well I serve others’ needs. Love measured in service is a core tenet of the faith in which I was raised. And loving, honoring family above all others was at the heart of my parents’ every lesson. So, I have grown to equate selfishness as a sin above nearly all other possible sins.

So, on days when this journey of self discovery and the path out of the closet lead me to the brink of a decision or choice between my personal preferences, wants and needs, and those of my family and close friends, the dissonance spikes and I tend to retreat into my head a bit. I can find every reason under the sun (some reasonable and based in logic and fact, some wildly speculative) for not carrying on with this process, every argument that leads me away from the direction I’ve chosen. But the white noise of fear, uncertainty, doubt and dread in my brain seems to screen out the reasons, the arguments that support my chosen direction.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a nice, neat bow to wrap this post up in, leaving me and all of you with a warm, fuzzy feeling of happy ever after. Instead, I’m left feeling stuck, mired in doubt and hemmed in by the demands and expectations of my family and closest friends.

Trapped.

Sorry, Not Sorry

I’m proud and a little awed to be able to say that there are cool, exciting, fun things going on in my life right now and that, overall, I’m one happy, lucky butch. Not surprising, then, that I’ve been a bit more smiley, a bit more easy-going lately. And people around me notice. It’s all good.

Until someone tries to turn my happy into guilt.

Here’s what happened: I get to the conference room five minutes before a long, tedious meeting so I can get a good seat by the door. I’m sitting hunched over my iPhone grinning like an idiot at some Tweet or comment or other from one of my online pals. The silence is abruptly broken by a loud, irritated “what the hell is there to smile about?” Looking up, I continued to smile and tried to pass it off as a joke with a light-hearted “oh, I’m just feeling good today.” But my accuser (that’s how it felt) scowled and muttered darkly “those of us who pay attention to the world know there’s nothing to feel good about.”

The implication was clear: my happy was inappropriate and offensive. I was immediately sorry for my flip comment and felt a stab of guilt for being happy in the face of his gloom.

Guilt is my go-to, conditioned response to anything that feels wrong in my little world. My non-clinical opinion is that a lifetime of “raisin’ ‘n learnin'” from a bevy of fierce Southern women (Steele Magnolias ain’t got nothing on my mamma, granny and aunts) has instilled in me a fundamental conviction that if its wrong and in my general vicinity, it is (a) my fault, and (2) my job to fix it.

However messed up that is, it’s my reality and I’ve learned to deal with it. So, after the obligatory, knee-jerk guilt, my reasoning brain turned back on and I began to think.

As I sat through that boring meeting that had almost nothing to do with me or my department, the reasoning part of my brain picked at that encounter, cataloging each element. When the meeting was finally over and I could consciously pay attention to it again, my guilt was replaced by irritation and resolve.

I was irritated at the guy who’d tackled me, yes. Because, seriously, how rude! But I was also irritated at the underlying principle: if anyone is unhappy, you must be, too.

How idiotic! While I believe myself to be a compassionate, empathetic person, I learned in the hard way in law school family law clinic practice that absorbing the sadness of others is the worst way to relate to someone. Making their pain yours paralyzes you both and you, as the advocate, become worse than useless. You become complicit in that person’s pain going unresolved. The trick is finding a way to convey sympathy and understanding without internalizing their horror. In an attorney-client relationship, I’ve honed that skill. But it’s still easier said than done in my personal life.

Yes, over the last week or so the world has witnessed a lot of terror, loss, violence. I do not trivialize any of it, nor do I judge any individual’s reaction to it as too acute or unwarranted. Every person deals with grief in her own way.

Still, I was blessed to be spared any deeply personal impact of these events by not losing any loved ones or being the target of any these acts of terror. If nothing else, that fact alone is worthy of praise and a smile. And feeling blessed in this way does not in any way negate any other person’s experience or feelings.

Thus, I rose from that conference table resolved to continue feeling good about all the good things in my life and the world in general. I will not allow anyone else to dictate my feelings or do my thinking for me. And I will not feel guilty for being happy when I have reason to be, regardless of sorrows that exist in the world at large.

So, Angry Coworker, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. That’s as close to a guilt trip as I’m willing to bear for my non-crime of happiness.

And…I’m still grinning like an idiot every chance I get. 😉

Urgent vs. Important

I kicked butt today at work, in part, due to this concept. So, I thought I’d share.

Last week I spent three days in management skills training. My company actually values its employees and does a great job of providing development opportunities. Last week’s sessions were the middle three of a 9-class set designed to develop leaders out of managers. Great concept and, overall, great experience. (Practicing intentional positivity, I’m skipping over the antics of the insufferable loudmouth in my class.)

One of the key takeaways from last week was the concept of urgent vs. important. The theory goes that highly effective leaders only spend energy on those issues that are both urgent & important and know how to appropriately identify those issues and assign them to the right personnel to resolve.

A tool we used in class was a 2 x 2 matrix, with urgent/not urgent as column heads and important/not important as row heads. The tool urged immediate action for items that are both urgent and important, and to punt and run from the items that are both non-urgent and non-important. (For non-urgent/important, schedule the item to be dealt with later. For urgent/non-important, delegate to the person for whom it is both urgent and important.)

This quadrant graph was a good at-a-glance key to help prioritize tasks for a busy corporate leader.

I think it also lends itself to application in personal life issues.

How often have you found yourself in the middle of something and wondered, “Why am I doing this, again? Oh, yeah, because _____ asked me to.” Or found yourself spending time with someone you don’t really like or can’t relate to, just because?

Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m not advocating a clinical analysis of every person, relationship, activity and responsibility in your life. But, for me, time is a precious and rare commodity. Maximizing the hours I have for personal enjoyment is a must for me (both urgent and important).

I’ve wasted years of my youth and adulthood not understanding my own fundamental nature and not following my heart and soul to happiness. I can’t afford to waste any more of my days to apathy, fear, guilt, boredom, or unearned/unwanted obligation.

One way to sift the chaff, excise the unnecessary, is to define what “urgent” and “important” mean for my life and then spend the rest of my time focused on those people, things, emotions and events that fit both definitions simultaneously. Everything else is noise.

I will…

[Author’s note: Writing is my way of processing. Sometimes, like now, it’s raw, unpolished, unedited. I need to get this out of me, so I can start living it. This is good, positive growth.]

I can do this. I will be brave. I will not cry. I will not fail. I can do this.

I will not betray your gift of beauty by covering it with guilt. I will not regret any moment.

I will not be sad. How can I be sorry for myself, knowing what I do now? Trusted with your secrets, I will hold them safe and cherish the gift.

I will smile through the fear, uncertainty, doubt. I will hold tight the beauty we shared and live in the lightness.

I will fake it ’til I make it. I will be brave so you will not regret. I will be well, so you can be, too.

I will hear the beauty you spoke to me–hear and believe. I will own it, so you will know you did not waste your breath. I will become the fruit of your labor.

I will soldier on. I will not falter. I will prove myself equal to this task.

I will open my heart to beauty. I will not scar.

I am strong enough. I am brave.

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