Saturday, June 9, 2012

How I feel, isn’t the same as how I’m doing - Gemma Baker

Feelings... whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.......
How I feel isn’t the same as how I’m doing.....This statement tapped me on the shoulder when I read it  recently.  It’s a great reminder to live mindfully instead of allowing the willy-nilly sea of emotion determine a perceived quality of life. It’s all perception too.  The quality of my life is up to me.  How you perceive it, is none of my business.  Your perception should never really matter to me in living my authentic life. 
I know this thought will continue to produce monumental change in the perpetuation of my serenity..... If/when  I remind myself of this when caught up in the thick of it; depression, anger, sadness or even happiness, love, and joy.  All just feelings.  After reading and absorbing the words over, I was struck by the times when I’ve felt depressed.  My body was healthy, I had a great job, plenty of money in the bank, and love surrounding me. What was the deal? I was doing well.  On the flip side, the last few years I have had surges of peace, joy, and contentment. In the eyes of those of the world, I appeared to not be doing so well, professionally, financially, or even physically.   
I’ve said this many times before, my feelings don’t define me.  Just because I feel crazy, doesn’t mean I am crazy.  If I feel sad, that doesn’t mean many things in my world aren’t beautiful. If I cry all day, it doesn’t mean I am weakling. If I feel lost, it doesn’t mean I am.  I know this now and have learned, for the most part to simply go with the flow of them, like an observer stepping back, quietly saying, “Huh, so that’s how sadness feels.”  I believe now it’s a good thing to experience what these emotions feel like in our bodies instead of running from them.  I used to pretend I didn’t know them and used all kinds of methods to hide out from actually experiencing them.     The problem was, they caught up with me and when they did, they overpowered me. They then became how I was doing for a time. 
I’ve noticed acknowledging my feelings and letting them flow, they no longer have a silent stranglehold on my life. I don’t have to stifle them anymore.  When I shushed them, they screamed at me. Now, they appear appropriately knowing they won’t be judged. Sometimes beautifully ebbing and flowing in and out of the hours in my day like the tides, gentle and predictable.   Other times I find myself holding on for dear life as a tsunami threatens to batter my spirit into a pulp.  No matter.  I’ve learned to accept them all.  And, be grateful for them all.... Yes, all of them.    
Having felt them fully now, I see how useful and wonderful they are.  Sometimes, they keep us safe from harm.  When the heart is beating wildly, and the nerve endings are jangling, those feelings might be telling us to walk away from something that could be damaging.  Or, when we recall the exhilaration inside our soul that cause us to lift our arms and rejoice, we could be on the right path.  Feelings help us to connect with other people too.   If we didn’t know the stabbing pain of grief at the loss of a loved one, how could we ever reach out and comfort another.  If we can’t identify with the goosebump thrill of great excitement and joy, could we hug another with authentic enthusiasm at their great joy?
Feelings are like markers along our path, leading us inward towards understanding and learning. They are that scent of holiness inside of us guiding us to healing. I like to think of feelings as the spirit part of me that dances, weeps, rejoices and, sometimes, recoils from the world for awhile.  They are the life line to God inside me, leading the way to my authentic home, in compassion and love.   
I can’t imagine a life without feelings, my Holy Spirit of the soul. I’ve learned it  behooves me not to use them as a measuring stick for how I am doing.  Although, I do believe without them, I wouldn’t be doing well at all.  Feelings are my tools.  I needed this reminder.  I am always fine.  My life is right where its supposed to be. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

People Pleasing - Part II- Playing yourself small....

Walking with my daughter the other day, the conversation turned to an affliction we share.  People pleasing.  Whether genetic or taught, I am happy to report this debilitating disease is in remission for both of us!   Our observations, took a turn towards her three little girls, my granddaughters, and the legacy we would leave.  We decided being an example of self-love, acceptance and authenticity is the best book on self-respect they will ever read.  My last post I wrote about how we dishonor ourselves by putting others first, compromising our values, and giving, with an ulterior motive... to be liked, or loved.  
There is something else we do in order to fit in.  Play ourselves small.  I fear I’ll battle this one from time to time.  I am often in conflict with remaining humble and that inner voice which tells me its safe to use my talents so others may benefit too. I’ve been blessed with examples of those who share their light and let it shine;  individuals who honestly know who they are, use their strengths in honorable ways and are a joy to be around.  Their genuine self-confidence and acceptance of who they are is worthy of following. 
This people pleasing... where did it start for me?   Maybe being a military brat and moving all the time.... I had to quickly assimilate into a group in order to have friends.  It seemed easier to fit in if I wasn’t tooting my own horn about anything and presenting myself as a threat to the status quo.  Even as a child I loved words.  Readers Digest used to have a section called “Enrich your Word Power”.  Every month, I took the test and studied the words carefully, moving on into using them in my conversations.  I recall, even back then, my dad telling me I should cool it with the big words, because it would just intimidate others.  I guessed it would make me friendless if I used a word containing more than five or six letters in it. 
When I moved from out West to Ohio, my clothing, taste in music, hair, and language was a little different.  I know it made my peers in the good old Midwest farmland, squirm. So, I quickly became more conservative even though I felt like a foreigner floundering in a country shut out by a major language barrier.  Oddly enough, two years later they were all indulging in the same trends.  Could I have been a trendsetter had I allowed myself to walk through the ridicule and let my fashion sense shine and be proud of who I was?  Perhaps, but, it was easier to become a part of the herd, than stand out and be the different one. 
That mindset has followed me all my life.  In the workplace, I feared speaking up because no one had much use for a smart woman with ideas of her own. Roles of authority were predominately relegated for many years, to the males in the company. It was clearly, a boys club. Ladies played the support roles.  The guys didn't even have to be good at what they did.  Just being a man gave them extra stars on their evaluations.  Rather than risk losing all, by speaking up openly, I played games and manipulated to get my ideas across and  allowed superiors to take credit and believe my ideas were their original thoughts.  Then, I sat by and watched as they were compensated for those same efforts, mine. 
I went back to school in later middle-age.   I was so much older than the average student.  I let the young-uns lead the way in group endeavors, hiding my working knowledge and experience for fear of being thought of as an arrogant old woman.  What  positive influence could I have had on the learning process of those younger cohorts in sharing my hands-on, practical experience and knowledge? 
In my relationships, especially with men, I have minimized my intellect, my talents, and my personality in order to be with someone.  I thought they wouldn’t be able to accept many of my likes and strengths and I could be perceived as too intimidating.  It made for very lonely relationships, not being able to be myself and shine.  Many of those relationships went by the wayside anyhow because its awful difficult to keep shoving your original thoughts, personality, likes and dislikes, and gifts out of the way and not become a little miserable. Others sense your misery and move away anyhow.   
Finally, in my relationship with my God.  Rather than celebrating His love for me by being my best self, I’ve often prostrated myself,  claiming I am not worthy. I’m not worthy?  I’ve come to know, He created me, His spirit lives in me.  Playing myself small, I play Him small too.   
I was visiting with my 90 year old friend and neighbor last weekend.  He’d received a packet from his granddaughter with a wonderful collection of her achievements, related to her College graduation;  a program, several newsletters featuring her, and an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about College graduates and the tough job market they would be entering.  His granddaughter was mentioned in the article as being one of the rare graduates walking into a great job.  The  opening sentence of her cover letter to him said, “Grandpa, Here is some articles about my AMAZING accomplishments!”  And, they were! International study and awards were peppered throughout her list of achievements.  Maybe that’s why she has a job post graduation.  This is a young, self confident woman who refuses to play herself small.  
It’s not humble to hide our God given gifts.  The true definition of humility is knowing, acknowledging and accepting our strengths AS WELL as our weaknesses.  I am fully aware of my weaknesses and freely share those with others.  Witness this open examination of my unexamined life.    Why not share my strengths as well?  Sharing our weaknesses helps others to not feel so alone.  Sharing our strengths plants seeds for change, gives people hope, and helps others to grow as well. 
Today, I choose playing myself exactly as I am..... defects of character AND gifts. I love this quote by Marianne Williamson. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”  
Perhaps it’s true it is our light which scares us.  When we are walking in the light, we are out there for everyone to see and that takes a lot of courage.   The darkness might provide a degree of anonymity which we find safe, but few things of great beauty survive or grow in the dark.