On this Day One, I am just so jazzed about all the possibilities and opportunities I feel and hear and see coming in this year!!! I think this feeling comes from all the inner work I’ve been doing this past season: practicing gratitude in a deliberate intentional manner, working on being dead honest about all that bothers and vexes me about me, shedding chains and garbage that have been weighing me down for so long.
This has been my mantra for the past few months, and I think it will remain so the rest of my life……
And what it means to me is not at all about beating myself up for not doing well yesterday. Like I need to start over because I’m a failure. No, it’s about recognizing and celebrating the clarity with which I intend to start each day. The “doing” may be all internal, or it may be real action. I want to feel a sense of accomplishment more often, rather than my usual gut-wrenching feelings of I didn’t do enough, I blew it, people are just being nice to me but they don’t really mean it, I’m a fraud, I’m lazy, all that negative self-talk. Otherwise known as GARBAGE. I want to feel satisfaction with myself more often. And then build on that.
So in that vein, I did a blog post for the Brave Girls Club a few days ago. It is called “6 Walls Between Us”. It’s all about stuff that has been percolating inside me for a long time. About how we use words, state intentions for more connection with others, yet our behavior often sabotages that very real need. This is the dead honesty I’m talking about, as I step back and observe my own actions and and own my own not-always-so-pretty behavior. And I think a lot of other people feel the same way.
Are you a lurker in life? Do you hold back? Do you believe it’s best not to engage too deeply with others? If that is your bliss, then read no further because this post is not meant for you. But if you have a yearning to be better connected with others, to be heard and understood and accepted, and somehow this seems to be out of reach, then maybe something here will ring true for you. What prevents us from connecting?
The need for personal boundaries gets a lot of traction these days. And rightly so!!! I heartily agree that they are absolutely necessary for a joyful life, and I have a lifetime of experiences to prove that. Boundaries are for protection. Protection of our souls, our tender hearts, our sanity, our peace, our relationships. But if we’re not careful, we can take the notion of boundaries too far. That can cause separation, disconnection, isolation, and depression. Healthy boundaries should not be impenetrable walls. Protecting our wounded souls at the expense of our very basic human need for connection need not be an either/or notion.
Over the past few years, I’ve participated in many circles of women, at Brave Girls Camp and at other art and spirit retreats around the country. I’ve witnessed, and experienced, countless aha moments of deep connection, of soul restoration, of release, of utter honesty, of sistering. In all the stories I hear, one thread keeps bothering me. And that is the feeling shared by so many of us that we are alone, forgotten, unimportant, inconsequential, disconnected. As I hear these stories and witness how people behave, including myself, I’ve noticed some pretty interesting things. Things that people do that probably help perpetuate their feeling of disconnection — the very thing that we don’t want!!!! I’m going to call these WALLS. And please know that at some point in my life, I have constructed each of these walls. I am trying really hard to pull them all down now. Let’s see if any of these speak to you.
Here is my list of THE 6 WALLS BETWEEN US —–
Shyness is probably the first wall of defense we put up as young children. It is a comfortable place to be when we’re put in new and unfamiliar circumstances. It is driven by fear. As children, we don’t have the life experiences to be able to predict what might happen in any new circumstance we find ourselves in, so we hide behind our mother and peek around her legs, don’t make eye contact. It’s kind of cute. We’re not yet at the point of feeling the need to make connections with others.
As we grow older, shyness becomes something more. It is still based in fear, but now it’s preventing us from engaging with others. It is self-protection, but at the risk of being closed off and isolated. It’s really a pretty selfish state of being, isn’t it? I love the term “navel-gazing” because that pretty much encapsulates it, and it’s not very cute anymore. Shyness is all about me, my fear of what you might think of me, or say to me, or do to me. There is no empathy here. It’s not at all about you, about what you may be feeling or wanting. Shyness does not help us connect with others.
One thing I know for sure is this: if we are thinking of others, their feelings, their discomfort, giving our attention to them, listening, extending a hand, we won’t have time to waste being shy.
There is healthy pride and there is unhealthy pride. I think healthy pride is that feeling you get for a job well done. It is a very personal and intimate emotion, a rewarding well-earned satisfaction with yourself.
But the wall I’m talking about here is the other kind of pride. The outward, almost aggressive need to toot your own horn a bit too loudly and too often. Feeling superior, being smug, cynical, competitive with others, voicing your opinions as gospel, never apologizing — these are all sides of the same prideful coin. Of course, we know these behaviors come from a deep hurts, a deep need to be acknowledged, a deep feeling of not being good enough. Overcompensating for that in, let’s face it, a not very attractive way. If inflating one’s sense of one’s self helped one make connections with others, then we wouldn’t see others avoiding us.
One thing I know for sure is this: if we deflate our sense of ourselves and come back down to earth, we’ll be surrounded by so many others who would love to connect with us at a mutual level.
This is the sad wall of missed opportunity between us. It is so simple: we are so much more than the labels we put on ourselves, that society puts on us, that others put on us!!! Especially in these times, when religious and political labels have become so divisive and toxic and hateful and deadly. We are not our name, race, job, gender, religion, dress size, family, country, political affiliation, tribe, favorite flavor, age, education, music, neighborhood, style, productivity, team, or any other words used to describe us. Yes, really, we are not. Labels are so limiting! We are human souls. Every single one of us has soooooo much more in common with each other than all the labels we could ever assign. To meet another person on a soul level is the greatest of gifts, of love.
Through my own life’s journey, it has been shown to me over and over and over that I can learn something from every single human I meet. Something good and unique to that person. Even if on paper, the words that describe us are opposing. Perhaps ESPECIALLY if the words that describe us are opposing.
One thing I know for sure is this: if we only stick with the familiar, with those who share the same labels as us, we’re cheating ourselves out of potential soul-lifting or soul-shifting connections. And we’re clipping our own wings.
4. WHITE LIES
Relentlessly cheerful. Shallow chitchat. Cocktail chatter. Ingratiating compliments. False flattery. Idle gossip. Tact at the expense of betraying one’s sacred beliefs. The wall I’m talking about here is the wall of the well-intentioned untruth. The patter we slip into so easily when sort of attempting to make a connection, but without the risk of revealing anything deep and true about ourselves. White lies are seen as the way to politely test the waters.
But something happens, or I should say, doesn’t happen when we never leave that white lie world. They may be “harmless” fibs, but really they are false representations of who we really are. They leave nothing for anyone else to really connect with. Shallowness is defined as “not caring about or involving serious or important things.” Being open and vulnerable is hard, and I’m certainly not advocating diving in all the way (see #5 below). But a little bit of authenticity can open the floodgates of connection. How many times have we spent talking to someone in a social situation and then afterward not feeling like we know them any better than before? Do we really need to just pass the time this way?
One thing I know for sure is this: if we don’t go any deeper than the surface when trying to make connections with others, we will reap what we sow.
We’ve all experienced this from someone else, and we’ve all done it ourselves at some point, right? It often comes from a place of genuine excitement, a need to be heard, to spread the news. The wall I’m talking about is when there is no conversing back and forth, just a monologue. When someone talks at you rather than with you. It becomes inappropriate when too much detail about one’s personal information is shared on and on as a method to forge a connection. When that monologue is a whining pity party, you lose your audience. And if the sharer doesn’t come up for air, it leaves no space for mutuality.
Another way of saying this might be “UNDER-LISTENING”. If every time you listen to someone else’s story, you can’t wait to trump them, butt in, share your own, then you leave them in the dust. If your need for sympathy is greater than your sense of empathy, your desire for connection with others will be difficult to achieve.
One thing I know for sure is this: if we slow down and pause for a breath, or three, we can learn so much from listening to others. Often, we can learn a solution to the very thing that is vexing us. And sometimes, we may be able to help them.
Being a gracious receiver is just as important as being a giver. Many people I know are expertly excellent GIVERS. They can’t do it enough and it makes them feel great. YAY for that!!!! Yet many people also have a great deal of difficulty being receivers. I mean to the point of paralysis, especially if the gift is unexpected or mundane. They don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. And by ignoring those kindnesses, whether out of embarrassment or feelings of unworthiness, brick by unacknowledged brick, a wall is constructed.
I’m not talking about material gifts, necessarily. I’m talking about any gift, such as time, teaching, friendship, listening, supporting, cheering you on, the list is endless. Of the 6 walls I’ve named here, this one is by far the most important one, the one that can separate us most deeply. Express gratitude every single chance you get. Acknowledge the kindnesses of others. Voice your appreciation of their thoughtfulness. Tell them why you’re grateful they’re in your life. There is always something for which to be thankful. Don’t hold back. Just say THANK YOU.
One thing I know for sure is this: WE CAN’T EXPRESS GRATITUDE ENOUGH.
Our need for connection is not only a basic human need, it is SACRED. True connection is MUTUALITY, meeting our own needs while accepting how others tick.
We can’t do anything about other people’s walls. Or can we? Maybe by taking down our own walls, opening up that space, we give others the opportunity to let down their walls. Let’s see if that’s true.
I hope you’re excited about 2015!!!!! The possibilities are endless!!!! Let’s do this!! xoxoxo