I heard a few stories from a few friends in the last few days (not from clients, btw–I don’t ever tell client stories on the blog):
A woman in her early 30’s tells the story of her parents divorcing when she is her teens. Several months after the separation, her dad called the children together to say to them: “I am moving away. There is nothing for me in this town.”
She lived for years “knowing” that she didn’t count. That she didn’t register as mattering to him for him to stay in the town. She was part of “nothing”.
It took her many years to recognize the cost of the divorce on her father in the small town…that his career and his friendships and his life had been so affected that staying wasn’t an option. As an adult she had a perspective she did not have as a teen.
The story she told herself about her dad’s departure was painful and mean. It led to years of seeking approval and value from men in ways that cost her. She lived her life to be noticed and valued in ways that were desperate. She ignored her inherent value as a human being. (And I can’t begin to tell you here about all the ways she is an incredibly lovely woman and it blows my mind and hurts my heart that she drew the meaning she did from her father’s departure.)
A woman I went walking with this week told of how she had recently had a bad day…her purse had been stolen from her car and she had been berating herself for her stupidity for leaving in the locked car while she was at the beach.
Her boyfriend hugged her and soothed her. He reminded her of her strengths and gifts. He let her know how much he valued her, and saw her as capable and gifted. She felt so much better after what he said.
When she talked with me, she was scared. Did the fact that she felt better because of his affirmation and encouragement mean she was needy? She has heard that being “needy” is bad…and what does it say when the love and comfort she gets from another has a healing effect?
She was still in the process of working out her “neediness” when we were walking–somehow in her world, being encouraged by another was a form of dependence.
And now…a story of my own:
My new husband is a sweetheart. He loves me, and he seems to cheerfully choose to use every opportunity to show it. He asked me on Thursday what time I wanted my latté the next morning. I told him I didn’t want him to bring me a latté. He asked me why…I wouldn’t tell him, I just repeated that I didn’t want him to bring me me latté the next day.
He asked me if I didn’t want the beverage or if I was just not letting him bring me one.
I have a commitment to not be deceptive to him…so I told him that I knew that Friday was an early morning for both of us. We had had a couple of late nights. And if he was to bring me a latté, then he would have to get up even earlier to make it and I wasn’t willing to have him do that.
At another time in my life, I was told I was “high maintenance”…and trust me, that was not intended as a compliment. I was told I was wanting to avoid being needy and demanding…so, in general, I spend energy making sure that I am not “high maintenance”. Refusing a latté is one way I can appear lower maintenance.
The pejorative comments from another years ago has the danger of creeping into my incredibly loving relationship my husband…unless I let myself explore the discomfort beyond my initial gut response of refusing his kindness.
I push my loving husband away, just a little bit, when I push away my own story.
It’s tempting to just leave it there. It’s only a morning latté; refusing it doesn’t break the relationship…my process could stop there. I could let the old narrative make the decision for me.
However, when he pressed me for details, the story became overt…and then we had to deal with it. I can decide to own my story; by reflecting on it, remembering it, mulling it over, exploring it’s significance. By trying to determine other perspectives that are possible with the passage of time and growth and other input, I can choose to dig deep, draw on my courage, and decide its impact on me.
It is easier to be judgemental, but richer to be curious about the underlying strings that pull my thoughts and behaviors.
It’s uncomfortable to be in the space of exploring the underbelly of one’s thoughts…but the power of these thoughts on how we live our lives is so often underestimated. An unexamined life leads us to be pulled away from our authenticity, and away from deep connection with others.
(Blush) The above poster has strong language…makes us want to avoid curiosity even…because it’s hard to wade into our own sh*t.
That memory of being called “high maintenance” still affects me, but it doesn’t have to hijack me, and determine my actions and my feelings.
I get to choose my actions and my feelings once I know what I’m dealing with.
All three stories above required the experiencer to be honest with some painful stories…to marinate in the discomfort in order to better process it. Lotsa ways to do that: write about it, go to therapy with it, walk with a friend–and really be honest about the way we wrote the story about the story.
Once the story I tell myself about it is identified, I can wrestle with it…rumbling with truths and issues of worthiness and authenticity, shame and vulnerability…I can do some of this on my own, but often it is with friends (with no small coincidence, often over a latté), or a colleague, or my husband, or with my readers on this here blog. For me, writing is an excellent way to find out what I’m really thinking. 🙂
So…this wrestling and rumbling and reckoning…discovering our deepest longings and our deepest truths and our deepest hurts…and recognizing how we have allowed old and painful stories to pull us away from who we truly are–this is painful stuff. It’s easy to feel there isn’t time for it, or judge it as useless navel-gazing, or any number of excuses that save us from the challenging battles with our own internal hijackers.
But to not rumble and reckon is to lose out on the learning and the growing and the releasing from the power of the crappy stories that are just beyond our grasp unless we stretch hard to grab them and pin’em down to understand ’em.
It is often through relationship that we receive our deepest pain…and thus it is through relationship that we often receive our deepest healing.
On Thursday night, I took a deep breath and told my husband the time I was getting up the next morning and what time he could bring me the latté.
I told him that I loved his lattés and I was also scared about what bad thing it might say about me if he brought me one. I told him that it felt selfish and mean of me to expect him to be kind to me when he is tired and going out of his way early in the morning. I told him that I was worried he would love me less when he did nice things for me because it would burn him out. I told him it’s hard for me to let him bring me a morning latté. (even if waking up to a kiss and a latté has to be one of the absolutely finest luxuries possible in all of life).
He gently told me that if he offered, it was because this was something he wanted to do. If he was offering, I could decline it if I didn’t want one, but to decline it to save him the trouble wasn’t fair to him.
And he told me that he was glad I told him all that. And he told me that he wouldn’t offer if he didn’t want to, so I should know if he offered, it was part of the way he would have fun in his day.
The rumble isn’t over for me…I will have to remind myself of this conversation the next time he offers an early morning latté. But I’m thinking it will be easier to stay connected in meaningful relationship with my husband knowing what he said and what I’ve worked through.
…and once again, Brené Brown puts words and concepts around ideas that I have swirling around in my head. Her new book, Rising Strong is now out on store bookshelves ready for you to snap it up, and devour it…time to start rumbling and reckoning with your own stories!! (All the above pictures are snaps from her book…you’ll love the pages that are behind the posters!)