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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

LIE TO ME (IT'S MY JOB TO FIX YOU)




This series is about the way my mind will twist and fight to maintain ideas in separate spaces so that I don't have to see how they're not true.
Basically, the ways that I lie to myself.
Last week I talked about tattoos and the lie 
that I told myself for so long about my ability to have them.

This week's lie:

 It's my job to fix you.

 

One of the coolest parts about being a parent is watching 
your kids struggle and work as they learn new things.
Those squishy little bald creatures are really freaking hard 
to shepherd through to adulthood-
thank goodness they're quick learners.
The milestones are rapid fire in the early years-
holding bottles, 
first foods, 
walking (then running), 
Words other people can understand 
and then the end of diapers. 
Watching all of that happen is an incredible rush.
As they get older, the milestones get more complicated-
and frankly, more interesting.
Multiplication tables, frenemies, and
little league move quickly through to
college choices, career aspirations, and romantic entanglements.
Adult decisions with adult consequences.
Recent birthday celebrations...parenting means not saving you from heartache (or stomach ache)

This is where it really gets interesting-
and where the first steps of destruction can start if I'm not careful.
Ya'll know I'm a recovering control freak and 
control freaks have a special kind of trap 
when it comes to other people.
Control freaks have a tendency to try and 
take over other people's lives.
We want to make it perfectly perfect.
We want to keep other people from making mistakes 
that we can see clearly.
We utilize control to keep others from getting hurt.

Another way to see this same tendency is:
We want other people to not feel.
We want to keep them from understanding truths 
that are different than our own.
We want to take over people's lives so that we can turn
 them into the version of them-
which is always the version that suits us best.

I live in a bubble of safety.
I'm a middle class white person in a sweet little suburb.
I have an actual white picket fence.
It would be very easy to attempt to take care of my kids
by doing everything for them:
making decisions for them, picking their friends and
 micro-managing every decision from clothes to classes.

Washing dishes...spending time together....growing up.

This is not ok.
This is actually a kind of abuse.
It is not my job to control their lives.
It is my job to teach them how to care for themselves,
how to make decisions effectively,
and that there are consequences for all choices.

I'm highlighting this dynamic because I've actually been
 pretty good at NOT fixing my kids.
I love them so much and feel so secure in that love
 that I've rarely been a helicopter parent-
preferring instead to let them try and skin their knees.
Trusting that they are capable of figuring it out
and having faith that if they need help, it will be obvious.
This is not just my hubris talking...
this is me trying to highlight that I can know how to do something
and not apply it consistently in every relationship.
I can see the truth, and still lie to myself.

Early bird gets the worm....and all the resentment from being early.

For fair and measured consideration, 
let me highlight some places where I have not been as successful.
I've OFTEN tried to 'fix' other adults in my life.
Particularly ones that I wasn't sure valued me.
Here's an example.

Years ago, my company was working closely 
with an industrial psychologist to streamline 
some of our processes and help us navigate to the 
next level of effectiveness.
I was a kind of lynch-pin during that time-
doing a hodgepodge of everything that needed doing
 as people do in small companies.
I am especially talented at doing lots of things at once.
And I can be above average at many things while being excellent at none.
It is a gift and a curse.

This psychologist met with me and asked me to write down
everything that I did on a daily, weekly, and 
monthly basis for the organization.
Then he asked me to split these items into things 
I enjoyed doing, 
things I was good at (but didn't necessarily enjoy), 
and things that I either didn't enjoy or wasn't that good at.
Once this exercise was done, 
he told me to find a way to let go
 of the things in the last category.

I could barely get my brain around it.
I was doing these things because they needed doing!
Who would take care of them if I did not!
My crew clearly needed ME to save them from themselves, 
even if I didn't necessarily like the nature of the saving.
My attempts to 'fix' everything were killing me-
my blood pressure was high, my down-time was non-existent.
I had few hobbies and friends outside of the office.
I was excited by the work I was doing but also...overwhelmed.
And becoming resentful.
Why was I doing so many things?
Why couldn't the people around me take some of them?
Why weren't they as capable as me?
The hero was quickly turning into the martyr.

He said these magic words to me:  
It is not your job to fix them.
Some of these things won't get done.
Others will be tasks that someone would actually enjoy 
doing-you're robbing them of that opportunity.
And some of it...well, it's time to hire more staff.
I was doing too much and it was holding us back.
I needed to focus on what I was good at and what I enjoyed
 and not try and solve everything for everyone.

Squinting or winking?

Holy cow.
I had really never had this lesson before.
It was actually the first time anyone had told 
me that I had a purpose and a path and it didn't involve backseat
 driving 6 other people's lives.
I have occasionally gotten into this situation at work again
but I've managed to get myself
out of it more quickly by remembering this lesson.
I still have a tendency to take on too much,
take over if someone isn't up to my standards,
or speak out with solutions before others have a chance to frame an opinion.
Awareness of this tendency and active work to manage myself
yield different results.
Everyone (my company, my team and me) is more successful
 when I remember that it's not my job to fix everyone.
Lesson learned right?
Nope.
Life requires work-sometimes the lessons need to be relearned.

When my life fell apart a few years ago,
I got to see this lie was still alive and well in my life.
My marriage was more than struggling...it was basically dead.
In therapy sessions, our therapist would ask my husband
'How did you feel about that?'.
Instead of letting him answer,
 I would pipe in with his feelings right away.
I answered for him.
About his feelings.
I didn't just do this once-I did this often.
It was automatic and persistent.

The arrogance of that behavior shames me today 
but felt exactly right then.
I thought it was my job to fix him
because that is how our relationship began.
Two very young people with similar trauma
met and decided that the best way to move
forward together was to let me drive both our lives.

My 'fixing' and him abdicating responsibility 
was a core habit for so long-it disappeared into the background.
It was the foundation for so much-it became invisible.
After years of me 'fixing' him, I thought he
 was incapable of making his own choices
-at least incapable of making choices that were safe for me.

Our roles were defined and stationary.
I thought he needed me-
but only so that I could keep him straight.
I thought my only value was my ability to fix him, 
keep him on the path of safety and supposed success.
This man needed me...who cared if he wanted me?
And also....who cared if I wanted him?
Those are not questions that needed to be asked as long as 
it was still my job to fix him.
It took a significant earthquake to rattle the cage of our marriage
for me to see that this lie was alive and well in our lives.
It took months of counseling and mental wrestling
for me to stop speaking for him, trying to steer him a certain way,
and just let him figure out who he is, separate from me.
It took permission to fail and equal grace for myself...
He doesn't need me to fix him.
I needed to save myself. 
I needed to be needed...so I wouldn't have to 'fix' myself.


I would like to be able to stop learning this lesson
especially since every time I re-learn it, the lesson is so painful.
However...I think it's helpful to know that this lesson is pervasive
and sneaky-even when you know the lie.
It comes back around.
Let there be light (from the Synagogue in Savannah)

I was trying to be the hero of someone else's life.
I had to give up the glamour that is associated with heroes
and remember that heroes are often villains in disguise.
There's only one person who can be the hero of my life.
It's me.
And the only time I can have the role of hero, is within my own life.
Try and 'fix' someone else and I become a villain.
It's destructive and abusive.
Always.
No exceptions.
No matter how much I want to do it-
or how gifted I believe myself to be,
it will NEVER be my job to fix anyone else.
To say it another way...
it is not my job to save anyone.

It's a lie that you can fix someone else.
It's also a lie that they even need fixing.
Do you have people you're trying to fix?
Your children, your team, your boss, 
your spouse or your best friend?
Can you give up that job?
or begin to see that your efforts are misguided?

Love has wings-let it fly.






Tuesday, April 17, 2018

LIE TO ME (I CAN'T HAVE SOME OF THAT)

Rad artwork from Voodoo Doughnuts in Orlando

I recently read 'Girl, Wash Your Face' by Rachel Hollis.  
(I recommend this book highly BTW).
Each chapter of that book is a lie she told herself.  
Her courage at sharing some of those struggles 
inspired me to consider lies that I've told myself.     
I've told myself some of the same lies that she has...
but I've got a list of others that is as long as my life. 
And those are just the ones that I'm currently staring down
 or have already conquered!
I am positive there are more of these suckers sitting underneath rocks.
Exterminating them is the work of a life time.

So, inspired by Rachel, I've decided that the next series of posts
 will be focused on lies that I've told myself.
Today I'm going to start with a strange one.

Here's the first lie:


I am not allowed to have visible tattoos.


This lie is so ridiculous...mainly because I have already 
had 3 tattoos (1 is a cover-up), 
all of which could be visible at any given time 
depending on what I choose to wear.
What I really mean by this is that I'm not allowed to have tattoos
 on my arms, chest, or lower legs.
Places where my skin is might be on display while 
wearing my usual work attire or attending formal events.
This lie originated somewhere, but it was so long ago that I can't trace it back.

My relationship with tattoos has been a slow evolution and 
is a surprisingly good barometer of my relationship with myself.
Here's a quick-ish timeline.


Tattoo #1

I got my first tattoo as a college sophomore. 
It was a small flower on the top of my right thigh-number 957 off the wall.
My boyfriend paid for it at his favorite tattoo artist.
I chose that placement because I thought 
it would weather the storm path of my already-planned-out life best.
It could be hidden from sun and probably wouldn't stretch too 
badly when I was pregnant.  
Also...I figured that wouldn't hurt as bad as some other areas.  
 I'm sure it hurt but I really don't remember it.  
It was so tiny-about the size of a quarter but I felt like such a rebel.  
I had a tattoo!
I was a badass!
Well, except for the fact that I didn't really like it, 
hadn't paid for it, and 
I wasn't that compatible with the guy who did.
From that experience I learned not to let other people pay for my tattoos
and not to pick a numbered design off the wall on a whim.

Tattoo #2

Blurry representation of the artwork used for my second tattoo

My next tattoo came almost twenty years later.
This time I swung the other way on the control freak spectrum (surprise!). 
This tattoo has meaning and I paid for it myself. 
Two acorns that represent my children-
tiny seeds that have such potential, 
denizens of a place that highly values the acorn (City of the Oaks),
 and a tree that has meant everlasting life for thousands of years.  
I made the design and insisted on the artist transferring it to my ankle.  
I am more satisfied with this tattoo than my first but...
I am still missing some of the self-expression a tattoo can give you.
From this experience I learned that tattoos definitely hurt
but not more than say...childbirth.
And that I really, really like them.


Tattoo #3

Tattoo number 3 combines zinnias and bees and is perfect for me (but private too).

Around the time I got my second tattoo, 
I made a friend with one of the most gorgeous tattoos I'd ever seen.
It is personal and meaningful to her-it tells a story about her life
but the artist had some license with the subject.
I hadn't really seen anyone else use a tattoo in quite that way before.
My friend connected me with her artist (who is now my go-to person).
Christy at Blue Flame Tattoo is the real deal.
She doesn't let you see the work or approve it before she does it.
However...she really captures what you're asking for in her own style.
She's an expert midwife at bringing ideas through to the world of tats.
Tattoo number 3 came into the world in three hours of pain.
It hurt like a bitch but it's still the shortest labor I've ever had.
I love it so much-enough that I remember to wear sunscreen.
Tattoo number 3 covered up tattoo number 1 and 
overwrote that mistake with a more fully complete story.
This is where (I thought) I learned to trust the process.
Listen when the urge calls and then go get an expert that you trust.


Tattoo #4

About a year ago, I started to get the itch again.  
I knew the subject I wanted so I called Christy and scheduled a consult.
She's booked way far out in advance so there is no 
'show up and get a tat' concept with her.  
As I got closer to the consult day...
I started wrestling with the placement.  
I was holding onto this idea that it needed 
to be merged into my upper thigh tattoo-
that I needed to keep it all contained and hidden.
However, the form that it will take doesn't quite work on my 
upper thigh with my other tattoo-there's no obvious way to blend it in.  
Also, the subject is something that I want visible-the meaning is public.

Christy's mat

My heart kept telling me...put it on your arm.
Which led to a violent and immediate NO inside my brain.
The kind of no you get when you ask a parent about something
that seems like nothing....but in my case usually turns into a closet
 full of stuff no one wants to talk about so please shut up and eat your dinner.
That was interesting.....why was the NO so violent?

The lie that I was telling myself was lurking but
the story was so ingrained in my sub-conscious 
that I couldn't even hear it.
And that basic lie meant that I colluded with myself
 to create more lies that support the initial lie.

I would say: 
In my industry, I shouldn't have a visible tattoo....
some clients are very vocal and uncomfortable by them.
When at least 10 of my coworkers have tattoos, 
many of them visible on a daily basis.
We have never lost business because of a tattoo.
I would say:
I'm just not sure about having it visible, what if I don't like it?
When I know that I have an excellent artist 
who's work I love and who listens to her clients.
I am safe with her, so what is the problem?
I would say:
I'll just get tired of it and want it off of my arm.
Then why am I getting a tattoo at all?  
They don't come off easily-
regardless of placement.

These were things I would say to myself but 
the arguments against those lies would not get
factored into the equation.
I wasn't able to see the cognitive dissonance.
Still...something kept nagging at me.


I recently attended a Christian conference that was co-led 
by a woman pastor who's arms are covered in tattoos. 
As she lead us in worship, I never once thought...
oh man, I wish she would cover those up.
I thought they were glorious and brave.
I realized that I've always felt about visible tattoos-
that the person who has them has somehow claimed themselves
and is flaunting it out in the open for all of us to see.
Shamelessly.

It was the last little bit of data that let me see 
how I was lying to myself.

All of these shenanigans and self-deceptions were so 
I wouldn't have to admit the underlying and universal lies 
that keep us all stuck sometimes:
I don't think I deserve to be fully myself.

Here are the ugly truths that go along with that lie:
Some of what I like aesthetically means there are groups
 where I won't belong.
I'm afraid of judgement or rejection so I will avoid 
making a decision or choosing myself.
I value belonging over authenticity.




Isn't this artwork rad?  From voodoo doughnuts in Orlando.


I had the consult yesterday.  
My new tattoo is going on my inner, upper arm in August. 
I gave Christy very little direction. 
Do your thing I said.  
I'm going to love it.  
One more step towards claiming my whole self.
One more piece of the journey.
One less lie I need to keep holding onto so that I won't have to become.
#lietome


Monday, April 09, 2018

MISSING PERSONS (GO FIND THEM)

The weeds in this are hard to spot-it's easy to ignore them.

This is the last in my series called #beherenow.
I've talked about paying attention to people who cross my path
and how I believe that each crossing is important.
That has been my belief for a long time,
but not necessarily my practice.
For many years, and a lot of reasons, 
I metaphorically walled myself off from the world.
I was more of an observer, less of a participant-
content to watch the people in my orbit float by without much interaction.
It seemed safer that way...
human interactions are ripe with risk.
Dangerous, sometimes bloody, and often unpredictable.
Being a bystander also allowed me to 
hold onto the beliefs that perfectionism is useful
and that I can control everything.

To complicate matters,
there were aspects of my life that I wasn't willing
to either change OR accept.
I didn't like the life I had-but I was too comfortable to willingly vacate it.
I remained in the limbo space where I didn't have to see myself 
so I wouldn't be compelled to make choices that committed me to either
life-time subscription or life-time eviction.
I was (intentionally) stuck in the in-between.
Which was desperately tragic in a monotonous way.
How many of us are in a job, a marriage, a religion that just doesn't fit like it used to?
How many of us worry about jumping into the unknown?
How many of us cling to a tribe that only allows our silent participation?
Probably all of us at some point.
It's a terrible place to be-this in-between place.

I doubt that I would have ever left it though.
I was comfortable and excellent at avoiding the truth.
I wasn't brave or decisive.
Other people in my orbit,
the people who were rotating around my life,
forced my hand.
I had to look in a mirror, face myself, and decide.
Stay safe and hide out?
Be free and risk finding my edges.
There was no more staying in the in-between.
Time to choose.

I was not the wild one.  Or the brave one.  I was the comfy one.

So.
I chose.
I chose to be free and most days I remember it was best of the two options.
I am in the slow process of forgiving myself-
for staying in the in-between for so long-
dying to my old life and waking up into a new one.

Part of dying to my old life is
realizing that I had very few actual friends in my daily life.
Not friends from college or high school that I see once a year...
or family members who are far flung and hold an idea of who I am
based on social media or performance metrics.
Friends who actually walk through life with me.
Friends who I would allow to see into my everyday...
not just within one facet of my life.
Friends who I could share my struggle without worrying 
that I would be ousted from the tribe.
There were some significant gaps in my orbit.
I had to go and find them.


Can you spot the missing piece?



My first forays into this area allowed me to
convert some of my work friends into real FRIENDS-
 and I am beyond grateful daily for those gifts.
But as I examined my life holistically, I realized that the initial gap
 assessment showed a broad deficit.
I'm a surprisingly multi-faceted person-
I need lots of multi-faceted folks in my life.
Who is also having personal wrestling matches with God?
Who can I show my terrible parenting moments to?
Who can I admit I'm being petty and snarky to-without being petty and snarky?
Who can I talk to about the latest news report that leaves me trembling with rage?
Who can I share my heartache over injustice?
Who will clue me in on music or podcasts or books that have potential to move them?
Who will cackle with irreverence one minute and then school me on a new topic?
I need these friends.
Like I need air and water.
But...I had no idea where to find them exactly.

Turns out that some of these folks were spinning in my orbit.
Others though...well, I had to go on some expeditions to find them.
I went to conferences.
I took classes.
I went to church.
I changed churches.
I joined small groups.
I paid attention to those in my orbit.
Some of these endeavors yielded zero new friends-
like the time I attended a professional conference where 
the speaker appeared to assume all Christians shared his belief 
that gay marriage is inherently sinful.
Zero new friends from that one.
(Although I did cement some of my existing ones at that event).

Some of those excursions were solid gold in the friend department.
Over the past 3 years, I've moved into some new orbits.
It takes a while to figure out friendships-
most don't gel overnight-
particularly if you're a person who has been on the sidelines for a long while.

Patience and persistence has paid off for me though.
I've got an expanded sense of community that I didn't have before.
When I unexpectedly need a friend to pick up my kiddo-
I have a cell phone filled with trusted warriors who will help.
When my dad was facing a devastating illness,
there was a community praying for him.
And for me.
And bringing me dinner, reminding me that I am special, 
hugging me and checking in.
When my teenager crosses into a new stage, 
I've got friends who I can reach out to and get insight
because they just turned that page.
When I'm concerned about my career,
I've got mentors who have been there to lean on for advice.
I do not have to go it alone anymore.
These folks like me-just as I am.
Cracks and all.
Eclectic friends are delightful.  Make more-there's always room.

There's something very interesting about the search for missing pieces in your orbit...
you don't ever have to be done with it.
Turns out, love is not a pie.
There's always enough to go around and you can have unlimited connections.
I've noticed lately that I'm missing a few more friends.
I'm going looking for them and I can't wait to see what I can learn from them.
Who is missing from your orbit?
Can you allow yourself to go looking for them?
#beherenow





V

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

MOTHS TO A FLAME (LET SOME PEOPLE GO)



I've been talking about how the people in front of me
are the people I'm supposed to pay attention to.
My belief that everyone in my orbit has a purpose...they are traveling this life
with me and when I pay attention, I can occasionally discern 
at least one of the reasons they're in my orbit.

To date, I've focused on the sunny side of this belief I hold.
I've talked about the finding friends


There's a darker reason people might be in my orbit-
proof that I need to pay attention to the path I'm steering
or someone else will start steering it for me.
Often the people that cross my orbit are a reminder that maybe
my life choices are taking me somewhere I don't want to be.
In this post, I want to talk about the people that show up
and that I need to pay attention to
because they are NOT the people that 
I need or want to be hanging out with.

You actually know exactly what I'm talking about.
Your parents likely drilled this into you from age 13.
You are who you hang out with.
Or sometimes, you can become a shadow
of those you hang out with.
I know this but I don't always take ownership of in the moment.

Ever find yourself sitting in the middle of a group
that espouses beliefs that make your skin crawl?
In a long term relationship that is heading exactly no where?
Bored by the life that you are circling around in a hamster wheel?
Sitting across the table from a person who you 
believe you are essentially better than?
Dreading the social commitment that you're walking into?


I have.

How did I get there?
Well....basically I walked myself right into that place.
By not paying attention to my own worth,
not listening to my heart,
valuing comfort over honesty,
and basically doing what someone else told me to do.

Who was telling me what to do?
Those people who were in my orbit...
that didn't actually have the same values that I have.

I used to be somewhat of a fixer....
a person who took in lots of strays.
No matter what kind of values a person held,
no matter how they treated me,
if they wanted to be in my orbit,
then I let them.
In many cases...I moved them in nice and close.
The more difficult or damaged they were,
the more of my orbit I gave.
Lord help us both if they had a label that appeared to connect me to them.
Mother.  Best friend.  Employee. Roommate. Lover.
If there was a label, I was going to MAKE THIS WORK.
I spent much of my prodigious energy
bending myself
(and my values) 
into someone else.
Or worse...trying to bend them into someone else.
Driving their life for them.
So that I could tolerate them in my orbit.


Here's the thing.
It never works.
Eventually, when I am in a relationship
that requires me to pretend to be someone I am not
or value things that I do not
then it will end.
Often in a glorious, bridge burning way.
And I realize now that it's 100% my fault.
I have no business keeping people in my orbit
who were meant to pass through.

That relative who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder?
Needs to be loved from afar.
That friend who refuses to own a single decision in her life?
Or wants to just cut down every other woman in her orbit?
Or believes that the world is in competition against him?
I have more pressing business than nodding silently through another rant.
The beloved family member who hasn't been sober in decades
and doesn't see the numbing as an issue?
I paid the price for years to keep them in my orbit...and it wasn't enough.
The currency I spare for them now is less urgent.


This has been a hard one to learn and 
there's been a cost that I've paid.
I do not cut people out of my life lightly.
Or even holistically.
I've come to understand that the lesson that these folks
are in my orbit to teach me was actually....
that I need to let some people go.
Not everyone is for the long haul.
Not everyone should be allowed to remain in my close proximity.
People who love me, will want to see the whole me.
People who don't value me, or value the same things I do...
-integrity, openness, courage, equality-
well...we just need to see LESS of each other.


Do you have people who need to be moved
out of your orbit?
Or at least moved back some levels?
#beherenow