justice, self-acceptance, Uncategorized

Ladies, Do what you love and find you (a post on identity)

tableturning1

This past year I organized a rally/protest called Table Turning.  We held it on Holy Monday at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Seattle.  You can read more about Table Turning.  I want to write more about that event specifically sometime soon, but for this post I want to talk about identity.  I learned something about my identity through the organizing of the protest.  This post is for women who have struggled with their identity for one reason or another.

For most of my life, I have been not-so-lovingly referred to by family members as rebellious.  The tone of such comments are fraught with mild irritation and sometimes ascend to frustration.  And these labels and comments have had a shaming impact that I have to actively dismantle.

A year ago I started attending a spiritual community and a door opened to organize a protest for justice in the mistreatment of immigrants.  There were no second guesses– I enthusiastically took on the role.  A few months into the role as we started talking about titles one of our leaders said how about, “Lead Disruptor”.  And again, it just fit for the role as lead organizer and we incorporated it.  All the while, not completely sure what it would mean or how it would lead me.  People were down with the idea of “Lead Disruptor” so I tried it out.

Where I come from being a disruptor of anything was not nice.  It was not the nice, Christian, good-girl thang to do.  And the “Nice Christian girl” image was reinforced all throughout my childhood.  Being “nice” was more important than being truthful or having boundaries or pursuing what you want.

Women receive unsolicited feedback regularly about how they look, how they speak and what they do. It is like society conspires to give consistent and on-going feedback to fashion and frame women into a likeness that serves itself.

It-is-like-this-because-it-is-this.

Women are supposed to strike the perfect balance of easy-going, ready-to-help, palatable and compliant while also having a readily available opinion on the things that are okay for women to have opinions on like cross stitching, shopping or hair. When women show curiosity around science or technology or politics they are told to shut that shit down as it is certainly not their role or position or capability to know such things. If women use their voice they are told to not take up too much space.  When women show up they are told to shrink back– to fold into the shadows and be as low impact as possible.

And I know this all seems like this is in the past— I mean we have feminism now, but it is just as relevant today as it’s ever been.  And we need to talk about it, because it is still an unnecessary burden that we bear.

I just listened to a woman who said that after her parents observed her enthusiastic, persistent hand raising and questions in a science class she was told that she didn’t want to be “one of those types of people who are loud and bossy”. This feedback set her on a path of unnecessary self assessment and criticism that questioned her excitement or curiosity to speak up on a subject she was passionate about.

Another woman told me that relaxing and having a low-key day spins her on a path of anxious thoughts about what she is neglecting or not getting done.  The idea that staying busy and productive meant that she was always doing what she was supposed to be doing.

Another woman told me that when she is driven to get a project completed at work she is told that she is too abrasive and difficult to work with.  She is a direct communicator, states her expectations and sets deadlines and the feedback is that this is intimidating– she is intimidating.  She’s learned that this is code for “scary”.  And so she is being labeled negatively for being direct in order to complete the task successfully.

Well intentioned and uninvited feedback gets plunked in the same place as the negative psychological voice that says, “we are never quite doing the right thing or being the right way”. We are accustomed to turning that criticism on ourselves.

So last week when I did something I’ve never done before and led a protest to call out the heinous acts of harassment and mistreatment of immigrants by this administration and I.C.E. I felt not only empowered in my voice as a resistor in the cause— I felt empowered in my personal narrative. I felt an ease in myself as a lead disruptor— as though a part of my identity just clicked into place and finally made sense.

I asked myself, “how could that be”? And I concluded that it must have something to do with following my heart and doing what I love.  When I do what is in my heart and what compels me– I find my most authentic self.

Truth is, I’m a resistor and a disruptor. Looking back at my childhood I was the kid that did not take things at face value.  I wanted to know why and how. When people were mistreated and abused in the family I was the one to say something. I wasn’t a status quo kind of person. If the system or structure was hurting someone I spoke up.

When I’m speaking up whether that be as a therapist or a mother or a friend or an organizer (now I know ;)) I am most in my power. I am most me and it is a glorious feeling to be connected and know myself so clearly.

This is a lesson for all of us.  We have been managing the external expectations while holding our own hopes and desires for far too long.  How can we free ourselves to be who we are?    

Three things needs to happen:

  1. We need to be aware of the inner conflict.  What are the messages you’ve been told that are holding you back from yourself?  
  2. We need to prioritize our desires above all the societal ‘shoulds’. When you do what you love you experience yourself more completely.  And you can do this unapologetically.  
  3. We need to accept ourselves. Acceptance is an ongoing process.  You get glimpses of yourself and you learn to accept the things you see over time and this sets us on a path to be your liberated self.  

This video explains more of that process.

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Building from scratch (more life transitions)

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A little less than two years ago I decided to leave.

I made a decision to leave a position of 10 years at the local church that I served, while (at some point) also deciding to leave a marriage of 15 years.  I left a whole life behind.

It’s complicated and I never knew that these two events would overlap or coincide with one another, but it’s the way things worked out.  Many who know of these transitions or are even reading this now may be saying– “Wow, what a nutcase”.  But most never knew the pain.  And so to use the well known saying, “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”.  Well, that feels appropriate for now.

Maybe over time I’ll be sharing more of my story, as it might be helpful to others, but for now I share what I’ve learned over the past two-ish years about transitions.  (This will likely be over several blog entries)

Some of the hardest transitions have to do with divorce, death and identity and there are no road maps for these transitions.  Maybe that would be easier in some way, but here’s a freeing thought: the path is really all our own— for better or for worse.  The decision or circumstance around the change is deeply personal.  And guess what?  So is the path through the transition.  That said, it’s really nobody else’s place to assign judgement, criticism or critique about how or what you are doing on that path.  You get to be the one who invites whoever you want to be on that path with you– joining you in exploring and finding insight & wisdom to navigate these sometimes shark infested waters.

And to those who feel that they have the authority or take the opportunity to force their viewpoints on you when you are walking this path well feel free to push back.  There is nothing wrong with letting those know to, “Back off– back WAAAY the F off”, because it is not their place or their path.  This is sacred ground meant for those that can handle with care, humility and kindness– all others, no entry.  Know that this is not unkindness– this is firmness to protect the space you will need to heal, grow and move forward.

In the next few entries I’ll post some of the topics of transition, but I’ll leave this entry by saying that the in-between of transitions can often feel like a kind of pit– not like a deep, black hole but like a plateau-ish space that is in-between the thing that was left behind and the new thing that you’re moving toward.

The plateau can be marked with all kinds of emotions: confusion, grief, discomfort, loneliness– even anger.  It is often uncomfortable and when people ask how you are it is hard to come up with any words to describe how you are feeling or what is even going on.  It’s like trying on a suit that is four times too big and trying to figure out how to make it work so that it puts out the appearance that it fits you and it expresses some semblance of your personality and style.  The longer you wear the suit and reflect on it the more you begin to ask, “Who am I, anyway”?

This is awkward– and so the instinct here is to run and to get out of this stage of transition as fast as you can.  This space is the most ambiguous of the stages of transition and it can feel as though one is not moving, but just standing still.

Pause for a moment.  Don’t rush.  This stage is a vital part of the process.  There is something to be learned and listened to in this moment.  And although, it’s uncomfortable and difficult and– even painful it is an important stage.  In his book called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes William Bridges talks about this shift and he states that you cannot move into the new without the old ending.  This in-between state which Bridges calls ‘The Neutral Zones’ is something we have to go through and not around.

So you might as well sit back and try to incorporate a few things at this stage:

1) Stop fighting & Surrender.  The struggling about and trying to fist your way through this stage is only suspending the inevitable.  So relax and accept where you are at.

2) Pause & be patient.  

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”  Henri Nouwen

3) Take this pause to write your autobiography or your passage journey.  Find time alone– reflect and listen.

4) Be ever so kind with yourself.  You haven’t done anything wrong to be in this particular space in the process– it’s just a natural part of the process so do some self-care and have grace for yourself in all the awkward moments.