Reading the Comments

It's Personal, Life, Obstacles/Challenges, Reflection, Uncategorized, Wins, Writing

I recently wrote a post about rediscovering my desire to serve others.  Much to my surprise, my post garnered a very long, angry comment largely focused on what an arrogant dick I am for openly expressing this desire.  The comment opened with “I don’t even know you” and proceeded to cover a wide swath of territory that included judgments on my character, accusations about my intentions, and speculation that losing my job was caused by my arrogance in thinking I have something of value to offer.

The level of judgment and bitterness was extraordinary.  I hadn’t written anything controversial, it was a personal statement, nothing I’d ever expect anyone to care much about.  I wrote it for myself, to clarify my own thinking and solidify my commitment, and I’d expected it to go entirely unnoticed.  That it engendered such a vitriolic response was a giant surprise.

But what was most surprising was that this stranger had plucked out of my head my very own words, fears and doubts and insecurities, typed them up, and sent them to me.  When I read that so-familiar and hateful rhetoric, felt the judgment and resentment, I was paralyzed.  How did this stranger know to use those words, the exact words that live on a never-ending loop in my head?  How did they know to say the most harmful words, words that would undermine my confidence, and tear down what I’d worked so hard to build – my belief in myself, in my own value and contribution?

How could one person say such cruel things to another person – a complete stranger, someone they know nothing about?  Even worse, what if they were right?

Encouraging words from a friend helped me gain perspective, but this comment, I think, may prove an invaluable tool.  Seeing my own self-doubt and self-judgment so clearly articulated was terrifying.  I would never say those things to someone else, why am I saying them to myself?  Marianne Williamson’s famous writing on our deepest fears includes the following lines:

“It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

My internal monologue and this anonymous comment both demand smallness.  They demand that I not recognize any of my potential, talent, or value.  This message – that we have to play little, hide our light, deny our desire to shine and grow and expand – is the message of fear and denial and rejection.  It is rooted in rejection of our shared beauty and grace, grief at our self-imposed barriers, and a profound fear that we will never measure up.  It is that message that keeps us suspended in a state of perpetual self-hatred and destruction.

It is valuable also because I do need to check in with myself, ask for feedback from friends, and pay close attention to the impact I have on others.  But I get to decide which feedback is helpful, which friends and colleagues to ask, and what advice is helpful.  Because I tend to believe the worst of myself, I have to get objective opinions, and advice from people who care about me and want me to thrive.

Ultimately, that one comment prompted useful thought and reflection, although perhaps not in the way the author intended.  I am proud of my talents and skills, the work I’ve done to develop them, and my commitment to helping others, and it doesn’t matter what other people think about my decision to write those things down, or say them out loud.

88427-Confidence

In a Raggedy Nutshell

Art/Images, Business, Change/Transformation, Leadership, Life, Obstacles/Challenges, Uncategorized

This last venture into unemployment, although not even a week old, has coughed up some significant personal epiphanies.  Because I’m a writer and believe in laying down the roses and the shit, here’s what I’ve learned.

First – I’ve long been clinging to this notion that if I just make the right choices, I’ll somehow have a normal, conventional life.  I’ll write more on that later but the end result is that I’ve never had a normal, conventional life and I likely never will.  I’ve been accidentally unconventional most of my adult life and I wouldn’t change even if I could.

The second epiphany is that I know far less about myself than I thought.  What I’d like to believe about myself and the person I truly am aren’t exactly in alignment.  The best I can say is that I don’t speak or act on my wartier thoughts and urges, which is probably a reasonable success.

Third – I want to own my own business, take charge of my career and financial security, and have what I choose to work on reflect my talents, skills, and interests.  I gave self-employment a try a few years back, but not because I thought it was the right choice.  This time, it’s different, I have a vision for myself, my business, services, projects, and brand.  I’ve resisted even considering this path because it often feels like an incredible cliche, and there are many, many barriers to success.

Frankly, I’m terrified.  I’m considering opening a service business in a city that is physically awash with service-focused solopreneurs.  I want to offer professional development, personal growth, and leadership skills in an environment where even the clerk at the 7-11 is offering a web-based course that will help you realize your true potential.  It’s like Hollywood, only “the industry” is personal development and everyone wants a piece of the services action.  We’re so over-preneured that even the yoga instructors and massage therapists are starting to complain, and yet….and yet….

I am an extraordinary coach and educator.   I excel in working with women, building educational communities, increasing circles of influence, and supporting people in their creative endeavors.  I have a clear vision of building a leadership incubator that focuses on developing everyday servant leaders, everyday bodhisattvas.  I see those people, in turn, extending compassionate influence in all areas of their lives.  Our world is sorely lacking in people who are willing to own the influence they have, and use it for the betterment of others.  I believe that needs to change, and that I am a person who can help others make that change.

But I’m still really, really scared.  My safety net doesn’t feel very safe, and all I ever thought I wanted was a secure, comfortable, normal life.  I can’t pinpoint when that path disappeared, but it’s obvious now that it has, and the path in front of me is far from certain.

Mine-Alone

Is it time

Hard Stuff, It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Power/Privilege, Social Justice, Uncategorized

to give up yet?  Why not?  Why shouldn’t I give up in a world so full of hatred and cruelty that three heavily armed men would go to a place where developmentally disabled people go for help and support?   Why didn’t I give up after Sandy Hook?  After the close to 1000 mass shootings since 20 kindergarten children and six adults were murdered?

I don’t know.

Other than committing suicide, I don’t know what giving up would mean.  Should I cash in whatever I have, get a little money and move to some small island that will probably be below sea level in another dozen years?  Move to a small village in northern Canada or Alaska, knowing it’ll warm up in the next dozen years?  Move somewhere in the US that’s off the grid, knowing that there will likely be condos and a Starbucks next door in the next dozen years?

I don’t know what I expected, but I know living in a country where anyone can arm themselves for combat and take off on a killing spree in a social services building wasn’t it.  I hear all the time that people are infinitely complex, that life is hard, and that simply getting up each day is a triumph.  Days like today don’t feel like triumphs.  They feel like massive, horrific failures.

We have failed, as a nation, to provide any sort of reasonable example of what it means to be human.  I realize this is a blanket condemnation but our track record on gun violence and mass shootings, unacknowledged, unaddressed domestic terrorism, and the growing list of other acts of physical aggression and violence leave little doubt.

I don’t know if I have hope for this world, or for humanity as a species.  I’m not sure we deserve the gift of hope.

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Vacation Time

Creative, Laughter, Life, Obstacles/Challenges, Uncategorized, Writing

The last two months have been a combination of incredibly stressful and oddly blissful.  I unexpectedly lost my job, have started to revitalize the toxic wasteland prison life created in my soul, have found space and time for creative endeavors, socializing, and even an occasional date.  Despite all of these unexpected benefits or, perhaps, because of them, I found myself freaking out on more than one occasion.  To clarify – the freakouts happened INSIDE my head, which makes me quite proud.  Because no one wants that level of crazy happening In Real Life – no one.

Last week, the level of Inside Insanity reached a new height and I decided that I Had Had Enough.  The rampaging, never-ending merry-go-round of ruminations, fears, projections, assumptions, worst case scenarios, *every* case scenarios, and constant attempts to foresee every possible circumstance in order to have a defense ready was O.V.E.R.  I was lying (or laying) in bed and could feel my brain juices whirling around and around and around and around, the spin cycle on the washer going fasterfasterfasterfaster until everything disintegrated.

So I decided to send Fear on a vacation.

I very gently told poor, shivering, nearly senseless Fear that she could take some time off, get a tan, drink some margaritas, and enjoy white sand and blue oceans for a while.  “I’ll keep things going while you’re on break” I assured her, stroking her sweaty, crusty hair, “It’ll be okay, we can get along for a bit without you.”  She was reluctant, and it took a few days and several false starts, but she eventually headed out, luggage in tow.  She’s dropped an occasional postcard, but it seems that taking some time for herself was just what we all needed.

And holy shit is my life better.  Sending that cray cray on vacay was the best decision I’ve made in a LONG time! Not that she isn’t helpful from time to time, and I know she has my survival and protection always on her mind, but DAMN – that girl can freak the fuck out like nobody’s business!

I know she’ll come back eventually, probably when the next new thing comes along, but I believe our time apart is making our relationship more healthy.  I know I feel more capable of setting good boundaries with her, not letting her get so caught up that she’s not giving anyone else a chance to take the wheel.  She means well, but she’s high maintenance and I just don’t have time for that right now.  Here’s to hoping the vacation lasts a long long time.

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Trump, the ultimate male fantasy figure

Blergh, Hard Stuff, Obstacles/Challenges, Power/Privilege, Social Justice, Uncategorized

As many of us have (more than I would have guessed, according to polls) I’ve been thinking about Donald Trump, and this startling wave of publicity he’s riding.  He’s always been one of “those” people – in the news for various things, none of them very positive, most seeming pretty slimy.  His wealth certainly represents one aspect of success, and I’m sure many people see him as a powerful man, but those things don’t explain, for me, why he’s suddenly the front-runner in the GOP’s pack of nominee hopefuls.

So why?  How can a man who is almost a caricature of himself suddenly capture the minds and attention of millions of people?  I think one answer is that he is the ultimate white man’s fantasy persona.  He does and says whatever he wants to – regardless of its impact on other people – and reaps no significant consequences.  He appears to need no significant relationships, have no important emotional attachments that are impacted by his behavior and words, and we know he has all the means he would ever need to support himself.

In short, he’s the ultimate loner and mythic hero figure, at least in the minds of some; a “man’s man” who doesn’t have to be “politically correct” or cater to the needs and whims of all these namby-pamby weepy types who populate the world.  He’s free and able to say exactly what he thinks, do whatever he wants, have whatever women he wants, and buy anything his heart desires.  But where a hero is usually deeply connected to a quest, often a quest to make life better for people who are suffering somehow, Trump only wants to make life (even) better for others like him – über wealthy, privileged, entitled men whose power means they (seem to) answer to no one.

I believe that the men who support him are men who, like him, are terrified of the changes they know are coming.  They see the power structure that has benefited them starting to shift, and they’re having trouble coping (as anyone would). When they hear Trump saying all the vile, hateful, angry things they’re thinking – they’re relieved.  Someone else feels the same way, and someone is actually saying all the things they think but won’t say. I use the word “won’t” deliberately because I think not saying those things is a case of will, not a case of ability.

On some level, I believe many of the men who are so enamored of him right now know that the statements he makes are wrong.  That they are mean, vindictive, hateful, and largely inaccurate.  It’s the difference between being pissed and having a crazed rant inside your head, then getting your shit together and dealing with the problem in a mature fashion, or just standing around calling the other person names, or threatening to punch them in the face.  It’s much easier to just rant and rave and ignore any significant work that needs to be done.

Thinking with nuance, from a variety of perspectives, and acknowledging multiple opinions and needs takes a lot of work and effort.  Screaming angrily about what you don’t understand or care about, the unfairness of it all, and that you don’t want things to change is much, much easier, and Trump is the master of that rhetoric.  He’s the poster boy of the entitled, privileged white male who simply doesn’t acknowledge that all those other water-filled meat sacks are actually human beings.

He seems to just not care.  And that’s why he won’t last.  Because most of those white guys who fantasize about doing what he does know, on some level, that it’s wrong.  Many of them have women they care about, they have friends or colleagues of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations, sexual orientations, and so on.  Most of those men care about hurting someone’s feelings, even if they aren’t aware of that care.  That’s why they don’t actually *say* those things, but live out their fantasy through Trump and men like him.

Even though people are often greedy, petty, and oblivious, I just can’t bring myself to believe that Trump represents anything other than a fleeting moment of vicarious excitement.  I have to believe that the majority of people do care about the feelings of others, even if that care is deeply buried.  I have to believe that mean and spiteful men like Trump don’t truly represent the men (or women) of this country.

GOODFELLAS, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci, 1990

GOODFELLAS, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, Joe Pesci, 1990

No accountability, no consequences.