Oblivious by design or choice … ??

Yep. See that cranky ‘WTF’ look on that bird’s face? Pretty much captures my feelings about the first six months of 2020. The year was not anything like what I was planning. My “2020 Vision” was to head into what is realistically the ‘last quarter’ of my life checking things off my bucket list. I had eagerly got the ball rolling last September by reducing my work hours and booking some once in a lifetime travels. Things were shaping up so beautifully, but then … there was Covid-19.  And then … as if a pandemic was not enough … there was June 2020.

I am not a particularly contentious person. As a counsellor/therapist, I am deeply committed to honoring people’s perspectives. I am usually pretty good at it … but … June 2020 was a real challenge for me. I should share that I have been schooled through the Faculties of Social Work for both my undergraduate and graduate level studies. And yes, I am proud to be a social worker … to the deepest core of my being. In my post secondary education, I realized that although we may believe we are well-informed and well-educated humans, but there is so much we don’t know that we don’t know about our humanity and those who experience life differently than those of us in the dominant mainstream. My studies invited me to take a deep dive into exploring the “isms” (racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, capitalism, colonialism – to name a few) that were strategically ‘left out’ of our academic curriculums. I really began to understand the horrific oppression experienced by ‘others’ as a result of their marginalization.

Yes. Just like the fish doesn’t see the water it is swimming in, I felt ashamed to learn that I didn’t know a darn thing about the unseen advantages and unearned privileges I had unwittingly enjoyed for decades. Yes. I came to see very clearly that  as a heterosexual, middle-class, well-educated, employed, married white woman, I landed fairly comfortably within the center of the mainstream, dominant majority. There were a few things that nudged me a little closer to the margins, but for the most part, I got a free pass.

I did not have a Hallmark life by any stretch of the imagination so please don’t misunderstand what I mean when I acknowledge my ‘privilege’. In no way am I dismissing or disregarding the challenges and traumatic overwhelm I experienced as a child. Collectively recognizing our White privilege does not mean we have lived charmed lives. It merely means we recognize that our skin color has not generated any extra hardships, hurdles or challenges for us.

And so, somehow, through my evolution and growth, I became deeply committed to social justice. And, as my understanding grew regarding the challenges Black, Indigenous and People of Color [BIPOC] faced on a regular basis, I became more invested in disrupting all the systems and structures that relegated  some folks to the margins and kept certain demographics of people oppressed and ‘othered.’ In fact, it might be fair to say that nothing gets me triggered more quickly than acts of oppression and social injustice. I am not sure what happens within me, but I am not able willing to keep my mouth shut. And, it invariably gets me into really hot water.

One of the first times I took a strong stand was early in my career. I speak more about it in another blog entitled Better Because you Were Not the Least Bit Nice. It was the very first time I took on the ‘bully’ and, although it built deep strength in my ethics and convictions to disrupt oppression, it was unequivocally the hardest challenge I had tackled up to that point in my life. 

My commitment to anti-oppressive practices also got me into some serious contention with my supervisor in my Masters Practicum in a clinical social work setting. I spent eight months immersed in a mainstream, medical-model of mental health counselling/therapy.  Much of what I was witnessing was bumping into my anti-oppressive teachings and contrary to a more trauma-informed approach to health and healing. I almost requested a transfer … but … eventually found my way to the end of it.  It was also one of the darkest rides of my life. 

My commitment to social justice also inspired me to take a firm stand and report a colleague who I came to recognize was causing harm. They countered by threatening to sue me for defamation of character unless I provided a formal apology or substantiated my claims. I opted for the latter. After appraising my position, the individual decided to ‘retire’. 

I also opted to take a stance with my employer recently regarding a number of concerns that I addressed in a 25 page grievance which I submitted to the Executive Director. Although, ethically, I would argue that the Board of Directors should have been privy to weighing out the concerns expressed in my grievance before I was handed my Record of Employment and hefty severance cheque … things don’t always happen as they should.  It cost me $9000.00 in legal fees to confirm that I did, in fact, have a case for wrongful dismissal. I had two years from the date of my departure to decide whether or not I want to invest any more of the precious moments of my ‘final quarter’ engaged in the ugly energy of litigation. While I remain committed to ethics and integrity … I realized that I would never want my job back … not given the direction that the agency was headed. And, I had to concede that you can’t force insight.  So, I made the decision to opt for peace over principle. I expanded my private practice and have never been happier in my career.

I share all of this because I am not sure what comes over me when I am in the presence of something that seems unethical or unjust, but I feel driven to take a stand. And so, on May 25, 2020, as the news of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer was broadcast, I became deeply disturbed. Because the video of the murder was leaked online … there was no way to deny what had actually happened.

George Floyd was pleading with the officer to take his knee of his neck saying “I can’t breathe” and calling out for his deceased mother. These deeply disturbing reports motivated many, many meaningful “Black Lives Matter” protests which morphed into some destructive riots … and ultimately … generated highly opinionated and heated exchanges on all platforms of social media. Here is one of the worst ones that I felt compelled to address:

Seriously? Protestors are all unilaterally deemed terrorists?? I attended a protest. Does this make me a terrorist? I cannot begin to fathom what ‘rights’ White Americans were losing as protests tried to bring attention to the perpetual challenges, inequities and injustices experienced by those who are Black. But … Americans can’t breathe?? Oh my … I tried my best to be tactful in my response:

I struggle with posts like this because it seems to me that generalizing and defining all the protests by the actions of some is as unjust and misguided as judging and defining all police officers by the actions of some. I am not sure I understand how generating more ‘us’ versus ‘them’ by using inflammatory name calling is likely to foster a peaceful answer either.

The Black Lives Matter protests were quickly met with counter claims that “All Lives Matter” and “Rioting is wrong” and “Not all cops are bad.” I saw a great commentary speaking to this backlash written by one person but “stolen” from someone else. It’s another pet peeve of mine when people don’t credit the source of the sentiments they are sharing on social media. I realize that sometimes the source is entirely unknown … but would it not be far more respectful to simply give credit where credit is due rather than to ‘borrow’ or ‘steal’ from someone else? Anyway, I digress. Here is something that I found worthy of consideration regarding all the competing opinions.

It might be a bit of a stretch to presume it makes them feel like a good person … but, I would agree that it allows people permission to discredit the expressed concerns of ‘others’. It also occurred to me that another way of looking at it is in terms of being a landlord with several rental units.

If one of my tenants calls to inform me of a problem with their water line … pleading with me by saying “I need water.” Would it be helpful for me to respond by saying “all my tenants need water?” Although it might be technically true that all my tenants need water, it would intentionally dismiss the problem. 

Would it be helpful for me to counter with “Hmmm, no one else is complaining about their water lines.” This also might be a very true statement … but … is not the least bit helpful for the tenant who isn’t getting water.

No. If I am a decent landlord, I am going to listen to their very real and specific problems and then focus my attention to correct the problems they are experiencing. My focus in their direction does not diminish my concern for my other tenants. Rather … it ensures that each and every one of my tenants have equal access to water.

And oh my, oh my, oh my.  People were highly charged by all the talk about racism. And, their ‘opinions’ were liberally plastered on every social media site possible. The opinions were not necessarily founded upon facts. I would agree with the following, but … that didn’t stop people from exercising their right to elevating their ‘opinion’ and deliberately discounting the experience of other people.

And, as the days turned into weeks in June, my heart struggled with it all. Although, as I said, I am usually able to hold a variety of perspectives side by each, but as the days turned to weeks, I became more and more outraged by what I was seeing online. I got into a few debates on social media myself. I took a few stands when it seemed that my silence was making me complicit with oppressive energy.

I did, however, get myself unfriended. The most egregious evidence of the “latch onto some minor inconsequential statement to discredit the whole thing in their heads” logic was displayed in a meme that I saw on on one of my friends Facebook profile. This was the one that tipped me right over the edge. The creator of this post went so far as to scoff at the suffering .. and … suggest very clearly that no one wanted to be bothered to hear any more about the injustices BIPOC have been experiencing for centuries.

I must admit that I lost my usual decorum and responded from an outraged place. While this meme may seem humorous at first glance … if we peel back the layers of what is not being said in the actual words … there is no denying that some racist attitudes are unequivocally visible in this message. From where I am looking, the people “copying and pasting” this sentiment are giving themselves permission to effortlessly elevate the damage sustained to corporate ‘material things’ as something far more grievous and worthy of their attention than caring the least bit about whether or not equality and justice is being served to each every part of our collective humanity.  

I concede that I should have waited until I was less heated before I responded. I am not proud of the way I handled my frustration in that moment.  I think my position was solid, but I could certainly could have made my point with less bite. I regret that. I trust they did not see what I saw in that posting because I cannot understand how seemingly decent people would deliberately choose to malevolently mock and callously dismiss the reason people are protesting in the first place!  Sadly, with a bit of grammatically incorrect quick wit, the entire intent of the 2020 civil rights upheaval was being hijacked by mainstream, dominant-centered thinking that globally dismisses experiences that they cannot relate to personally.  And, in doing so, unequivocally renders visible the racist attitudes that are being challenged by the protests.  

In my humble opinion, the folks who are chuckling while posting and re-posting this statement affirm and reify the entire root of the problem. And, sadly, it seems that as they self-righteously scoff … they obviate their absolute apathy, denigrating dismissal and utter disregard for the plight of others with their clever quip. Had the centuries of peaceful pleas persistently presented by BIPOC been held, heeded and honored rather than historically ignored, we might not have seen the looting and vandalism that emerged as a last ditch effort to get the public’s attention.

Where is the compassion for people who have had enough? While I am not condoning the looting/vandalism, I really do wonder how many of us can say we have never been mad enough to break something in our lives? How many of us have ever felt so helpless, hopeless and powerless that we lost our regard for the value of material things?

Unless and until our opinions of ‘others’ are informed and tempered by compassion, we will unwittingly continue to perpetuate the problems and erroneously believe we had nothing to do with it.

I’ve been watching myself with compassionate curiosity.  For the most part, when I see something on Facebook that I don’t agree with … I can simply scroll on by it. Somehow, though, as I have shared … I am not able to do that when it comes to social injustice. So, I have continued to speak up some more. I have stood in considerable discomfort. I have engaged in some really tough conversations.

As I shared, I attended one of the protests in a city nearby where I live. Even though we were in a pandemic, I donned a mask and headed out to stand in solidarity. From where I am looking … the potential for risk that I consciously took to attend was an essential and necessary risk to help mediate the persistent and certain risk faced every day (not just during Covid-19) by BIPOC. While many of us are getting our first taste of having our personal liberties compromised by the pandemic, many folks have endured a lack of liberation over the entire course of their lives.

It struck me that we might be wise to let our experience of reduced freedoms during Covid-19 inform and fuel our compassion for those who persistently must live without even the most basic liberties in life.  Not everyone saw it that way though.  Many people took exception to the fact that people were “allowed” to protest, but not allowed to visit their family members, attend weddings or honor their loved one’s passing at funerals. For me, the decision came down to deciding that violations of human rights must take precedence over concerns regarding application of public policy. That said, I was really relieved to hear that our Chief Medical Officer of Health here in Alberta  confirmed in a recent update that no cases of Covid-19 can be traced to protest activities in our province.

Not everyone is convinced that racism is a problem though. And, it seems that White people are particularly averse to thinking that they might be considered racist. Other bodies of thought contend that we are all racist. And … we can participate in anti-racist work even though we are working on our own implicit racist tendencies. There was a really good placard suggesting we treat racism like Covid-19.

However, most folks have trouble with the whole notion. It seems to evoke a black versus white thing instead of an opportunity to come together to eradicate the inequalities and injustices experienced by others.

Well at least it should be! Since my eyes were opened in post secondary education, I have never presumed that my education was adequate, so in response to this recent uprising, I started reading “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. For us white folk, it’s a necessary but very humbling read.

I also discovered, in June 2020, that despite my five years of social work education, I had no knowledge of all the inhumane “Indian Hospitals” that unapologetically existed in addition to the atrocious Residential Schools throughout Canada. I wanted to learn more about why our understanding of those hospitals was nationally hushed, so I ordered “Medicine Unbundled.” It was not until reading that book that I became informed about how Indigenous people were used in very inhumane but government sanctioned medical experiments. The more I learned the more disheartened I became. I sometimes wished I didn’t care so much. I have wondered why I couldn’t just turn my attention away from it all …

But … the conversation about White Privilege was too much for many people. Oh my gosh … the backlash.  People responded quite indignantly that they had hard lives too! What they do not understand is that by acknowledging our privilege, we are not saying we have had an ‘easy’ life. The term ‘privilege’ speaks to the reality that skin color has never complicated a white person’s life in any way! In fact, it is typically an advantage … despite any other challenges white folk may be required to endure.  Well … except for the risk of sunburn. Yes. My pale, white freckled skin leaves me very vulnerable to sunburn … but that is it.

As we learn more, we can come to realize that our privilege affords us the power to effect the changes that the Black community has been beseeching and pleading to the masses for – for years.  I saw this placard when I attended the protest in Lethbridge …

The reason it resonated so deeply with me is because the oppressed don’t have sufficient power to effect the change that is so desperately needed. They need the mainstream majority to use their power and privilege to enact the changes.

My internal drive to advocate for social justice also inspired me to join a local equality alliance in our community several years ago. I marched with them in my first PRIDE parade in 2016.  June has been decreed as PRIDE month. It is usually marked by celebrations honoring the LGBTQI2S+ community.  And then, also in June of 2020, I sensed that my ally-ship was being discredited.  Ouch. Double ouch. I am assuming it was speculated to be “performative” (i.e. offered only to make myself look good). I spoke up on my own behalf, and could have belabored the discussion, but I decided not to invest my energy trying to shift perspectives in this regard. People will believe what they want to believe. It is really frustrating to be misunderstood. I am just going to keep doing what I am doing. 

That really pinched, but June wasn’t even near done yet. Forgive me in this paragraph where my privilege speaks loud and clear. Turns out that the old boy and I had to cancel the indulgent and idyllic ‘last-quarter’ trip overseas to cruise behind the Iron Curtain. We had booked it almost a year before and were supposed to be enjoying in September 2020. My Bestie and I also had to cancel our eagerly anticipated 100km walk along the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  We also had a trip to Salt Spring Island cancelled in July 2020 because interprovincial travel was not yet recommended because of Covid-19. Yes. All the power and privilege I have  gained by being positioned comfortably in the mainstream got revoked. My skin color couldn’t get me on that boat … nor … could it buy me a pass to wander the Camino. 

Oh and because I attended the BLM protest in June…. I followed the recommendation of our Chief Medical Officer for all those who attended a protest. I didn’t have any symptoms and although the test  came back negative, it was interesting to experience the sense of shame that accompanied the whole situation. I hoped no one saw my car in the ‘testing line’ because I felt like I was somehow tainted as the Public Health Nurse approached me wearing all the layers of PPE possible. She was wonderful, but the process was definitely stigmatizing. All in all, it was such a humbling experience. 

And then, one night our phones started screaming with highly alarming alerts warning of a tornado from a storm that delivered hail stones the size of golf balls near here and the size of baseballs and grapefruits in neighboring communities. Good grief … 2020 seemed to stop at nothing to make us tremble in our boots. And, if that wasn’t enough for marking us half way through 2020 … it looks like some people were still committed to re-electing Trump in November.

Yes. June 2020 was a real head shaker. I share my comments about Trump’s supporters, because June 2020 really taught me a lot about ‘opinions’ …and … how unshakeable and how unreasonable some of our opinions prove to be. Pluto does a great job explaining:

And, it has been my experience that people, for the most part, don’t have the conversations suggested by Pluto. Nope. Seems people are exceptionally committed to their opinions … even if evidence to the contrary invites them to stretch their perspectives. All one has to do is spend a little bit of time online to see that people are quick inject their own beliefs into a situation without any obvious connection to the real meaning of the discussion.

Here is another example of people avoiding the deeper issues with police brutality and instead trying to turn the tables on the ones who have been assaulted. It’s really interesting to me because how many of us actually KNOW for sure … beyond the depictions we see on TV … how the police interact with minorities. Most of us have very little interaction with police. And so … we take our limited experience … and come to the conclusion that brutality wouldn’t happen if people didn’t get into trouble?? Seriously. Lots of people thought this logic made perfect sense.

Unfortunately, what people don’t know is that in the United States, the Thirteenth Amendment was established to forbid slavery, except where the condition is imposed on an individual as punishment for a crime!! And so, after the 13th amendment was passed, slavery was just resurrected in a new form. As confirmed in the data, the police were urged to charge as many Black men as they could in order to assure free labor continued. And so, contrary to the notion held by White people suggesting that people are being apprehended for lacking common sense, Black people were/are stopped for all manner of ridiculous reasons. Mass incarceration is an indisputable fact that White people have no idea about. It is, in fact, one of the reasons for the protests.

Oh my gosh. There are so many layers and complexities to consider in all of this. Unfortunately, it seems that many folk are either unable or unwilling to consider the possibility that their perspective is not entirely inclusive. I also came across another post on a Facebook group that I could not scroll past either.

One of the groups I enjoy invites people to post pictures of their travels! And, especially during Covid-19, it has been a real delight to experience the world through the lens of other people. That said, however, I came across this haunting picture of Auschwitz.

It took my breath away because it reminded me of our own visit there many years ago.  Of course we had heard about the unforgiveable atrocities that were committed upon Jewish people during WWII … but … to get a ‘felt sense’ of the place took my empathy and understanding of the heinous actions to a whole new level of understanding. Anyway, one of the comments under this post caught my eye:

I saw a number of responses suggesting that by removing evidence of the suffering and sanitizing these atrocious historical events and places, we risked allowing horrific things like this to happen again.  Valerie remained committed to her position and responded to another person’s suggestion that these moments in time must be honored, rather than rendered into something more palatable and “nice”.  

And well … at this point, the social worker in me was unable to simply keep scrolling.  For all of my life, I had understood empathy to be an act of feeling our way into another person’s experience … taking a walk in their shoes to embrace a deeper sense of how they must have been feeling.  It struck me that Valerie’s refusal to let the suffering of others into her awareness was the antithesis of empathy. Her stance was one of self protection. She could not bear to see it. 

But please don’t get me wrong. My issue with Valerie was not the sensitivity of her nervous system. I, too, can relate to being overwhelmed by external influences. I even quit watching the news because it triggered my arousal system so deeply that I needed to protect myself.  No. I recognize that there are times when we need to protect ourselves from the the stressors around us. That said, there are times when protecting ourselves from the ‘felt sense’ of experience of others can be very divisive and lead us to a lack of real empathy! 

For example, I vividly remembered feeling something similar to Valerie many, many years ago when I went to see the movie Born on the 4th of July. When the character played by Tom Cruise was paralyzed and forced to live in a horrid hospital setting … it was so sickeningly horrific to watch … I wanted to get up and leave the theatre. I felt like I couldn’t bear to see it anymore. I could actually hear myself thinking, “I can’t stand to see this … I’ve got to get out of here”.

And then … another voice within me firmly contested: “Those people, in that circumstance, didn’t have the privilege of leaving that horrendous space. They were trapped there for days, weeks, months!!  And, now, this is too much for YOU to bear … so YOU are going to bolt?? If they could LIVE through it for that long, you can sit through the truth of it for a few more minutes!!” 

Gah. So, I stayed. I sat in that seat and let myself really feel into the egregious circumstances that people endured during that war. And, I would argue that it was by actually facing the discomfort of another’s pain that I found a deeper sense of empathy for their circumstance.

So, as much as I could completely understand Valerie’s desire to look away … I took issue with her notion that by not looking into the truth of another’s experience that we were honoring them??  I took issue with her notion that no one should have an opportunity to get a felt sense of that horrific atrocity simply because ‘her’ personal experience of it was untenable?  From where I am looking, it is often our inability to relate to other’s experience that impedes our capacity for compassion. And so, I responded to Valerie:

I can see now that I might have wrapped my comments in a bit more context. My intention was to invite some awareness of how lucky most of us have been to escape the brutal life experiences that other people had no choice but to endure. Valerie did not accept my invitation to see it as ‘privilege’. In fact, as I shared before, that word is a real trigger for many folks  … and well … Valerie sure let me have it!!

Whattt??? As I pulled the daggers out of my chest, I double checked her comments to ensure I had not erroneously taken her out of context. Nope.  I had not. And I was once again reminded of how quick people choose to hurl insults at others when they don’t like what they are hearing. And maybe I should have simply ignored her comments, but I hoped I might be able to clear up any misconceptions … and … stretch her to seeing where I was coming from.

And so … it wasn’t long before the owners of the Page deleted the picture and all the comments. And, I completely understand why they did so. The unfavorable energy generated by my comments was not in keeping with the vision or intent of the Page.  And, I regret that my voice added to the anger and vitriol that was spewed about as a result.

Nonetheless, I believe my point was well taken. And I am sharing it here in order to expand upon the concept of privilege and choice. It does not escape me that I have sufficient privilege to escape many unfavorable discomforts that are part of BIPOC’s everyday realities.

And, so as we enter 2021 … I wish I could say that the challenges between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ has landed in a place of mutual understanding. Not so. I find myself questioning whether we are oblivious to the challenges of others ‘by design’ or simply ‘by choice’ … or maybe … it is a complex combination of both.

This past week, a whole new type of protest happened.

  • On Capitol Hill.
  • Incited by the 45th President of the United States.

Donald Trump and many of the 75 million who voted for him were still contesting the results of the November 2020 election the deemed Joe Biden would be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States of America. The news reports have acknowledged that the perpetrators of this attempted coup … which is now being touted as “domestic terrorism” … were emboldened by the racist attitudes that have been seemingly normalized by Donald Trump over the last four years.

Media is also rendering visible how different the global response might have been were it BIPOC who stormed the Capitol. It is outrageous to think that people could gain access to these premises as easily as they did … and … the suspicion that their skin color aided and abetted them in their endeavors must certainly be considered.

This cabinet seat was arrogantly appropriated by one of the protestors.
Adam Christian Johnson smiled and waved as he was carrying Nancy Pelosi’s podium through the U.S. Capitol Building with other rioters. It is reported that he is 36, married with 5 children and has reportedly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement.

So, as of January 9, 2021, there have been 55 arrests associated with the insurrection that claimed the lives of five people, including a police officer who was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. I find it somewhat curious to notice that the pages of Facebook have not been littered with criticism of the “terrorists” who led this march? The general public, at least the memes being circulated on social media, are comparatively quiet about this protest. How come??

It is very interesting to note, however, that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have chosen to ban Donald Trump from any further posting.

Gah. What am I missing here?? How is it permissible for this PROTEST to be instigated by Trump and carried out by his “Make America Great Again” [MAGA] supporters, but the protests honoring the Black Lives Matters movements were vehemently dismissed by MAGA … disregarded entirely as unsubstantiated claims of a non-existent racism. How is all of this possible?? My queries were confirmed by the ladies on The View.

I suspect part of the problem is because we have not been educated to see beyond our own personal experiences. The mainstream, dominant majority effectively projects their own experiences upon everyone else … and … readily dismisses any narratives that do no align nicely with their own. We create silos filled with people who share the same thinking as our own and we do not stray beyond that much. We do not embrace opportunities to entertain notions that don’t fit our own story lines about life. Therefore, I would say that to some degree, we are oblivious by choice.

And, further to that, we are simply not invited by our educational curricula to see (with any compassion or empathy) into the lives of those who do not look like, walk like, talk like the mainstream dominant do. No. The voices of mainstream power and White privilege are amplified in our education systems and fail to adequately instruct us (in thoughtful and meaningful ways) about those who are different from the normative standard that has been elevated before us … i.e. White, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, middle-class, English-speaking Christians. Therefore, I would suggest, we are oblivious by the sheer design of our academic institutions. Jane Elliott speaks to this issue very emphatically … in ways that many of us have before been invited to consider.

And, while I would hope that we would be open to learning from each other beyond the walls of our educational systems and religious organizations … I am not seeing a whole lot of that on social media platforms right now. But I certainly hope we can continue to have these hard conversations. I hope we will make room for discussions that make us reflect a bit more … that make us a bit uncomfortable … that invite us to check our privilege … that give us eyes of compassion … and ultimately … stretch our perspectives so that we might bridge the divide currently exists between us. 

With both hope and humility, 🧡 Karen 🧡

We Get What We Tolerate …

We get what we tolerate

There have been countless times in my life where I have hit the end of the line.  There are times when I know in my heart that enough is enough. I’ve been pushed to the limit.  And, I’m solid and clear that I am simply not going to deal with or put up with ‘it’ (whatever it is) anymore.

And then … 40 minutes, 40 hours, 40 months, 40 years later … there I am … complaining about the same dang thing. And I find myself questioning that if I was really so “done” with it then …. how come I am still dealing with ‘it’ now?  I’m guessing some of you can also relate.

Or sometimes the end of the line looks something like this.  We catch our selves declaring, with complete exasperation:

“Why does this always happen to me?”
“I just can’t handle this any more!”
“This has to S T O P!”
“Oh no … NOT again!”

Well … there is a reason for the persistence of that which we say we don’t want anymore.  In the words of the infamous life coach, Tony Robbins:

“We get what we tolerate.” 

And so … if we are still enduring whatever it is that we were so ‘done’ with … whether it be personally, professionally, culturally, globally … it means we have continued to tolerate ‘it’ in some way … for some reason.

I learned in my life coaching training with The Ford Institute that we tolerate the unacceptable because despite our aversion to ‘it’ we are actually more deeply committed to something else.  For example:

  • We are deeply committed to losing weight, but we are more committed to snacking because it helps soothe the pain in our hearts.
  • We fail to set up firm boundaries with someone … because we are more committed to being ‘nice’.
  • We tolerate the challenges of staying with an addicted partner because we can’t bear to be perceived as the kind of person who abandons someone who is struggling?
  • We tell our kids it’s time to turn off their iPod … and then we let them ignore us because we are too tired to muster up the energy we’d need to argue them into submission.
  • We want to give up on something … but we persist because we rather not feel like a “failure”.
  • We give and give and give until we are empty because we don’t want anyone to call us “selfish”.
  • We tell ourselves that if the boss says ‘that’ one more time, we’re quitting … but we never do because we really need the money.
  • We desperately need to ask for help … but don’t want people to think we are weak, stupid or incapable.
  • We don’t stand up for ourselves because we feel so much compassion for the other person … we know they are just really stressed and didn’t mean to hurt us … again.

I could go on and on with the list of examples, but you get the picture. We say we want one thing, but in reality, as my mentor Debbie Ford explained … we have ‘underlying commitments’ that keep us stuck in unfavorable patterns.  And so, if we really want to be ‘done’ with ‘it’ … we have to be willing to uncover the subconscious pay off and risk losing whatever it is we’ve been getting from putting up with ‘it’.

And this is where we need a whole schwack of brave … and … a whole ton of determination.  This is where we must push ourselves beyond the ‘toleration’ and must challenge our deeper needs, fears and foibles.  This is where we need to take a really good look at what has been keeping us stuck.  And, this is where it can help to have a counsellor, a therapist, a life coach or a support group to help us figure our way through it all  … because … it is really hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame.  But, I have also learned that it can be one of the most fascinating journeys of your life!

Source Unknown

What if things could actually change? What if you really could be ‘done’ with whatever it is that is keeping you stuck? What if you didn’t have to keep tolerate ‘it’ anymore?

What if … for 2018 … as a gift to ourselves … we committed to surrendering one of the things we have been tolerating, Karen




 

 

 

 

 

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Boundaries are Sooooo Tricky …

 

In this very short but compelling  video clip, Brené Brown discusses the notion of living a B.I.G. Life.  Her research has revealed that the most compassionate people are the most “boundaried” people. She begs the question of what Boundaries we would need to erect in order to live in Integrity and be the most Generous in our assumptions of others (i.e. believing that everyone is doing the very best they can in each and every situation). Makes perfect sense … intellectually. And, I’d venture to say we’d inhabit a world filled with expressions of compassion/empathy/good will if it were easier to actually do this in our day to day existence!

But, boundaries are so darn tricky to execute.  It is so much easier to erect a boundary once you are PISSED OFF.  There is NO second-guessing about putting up a boundary once you’ve been hurt.  We may not even think twice at that point … and then … we erect it angrily and often self-righteously.  But the problem with putting up boundaries in ANGER is that the meatiest part of our message gets lost in the perception of ATTACK.  When you put up a boundary with someone because you are feeling violated … they feel your anger … and may not be able to hear your justification for erecting the boundary.

In fact, many people who have been chronically wounded in their prior lived experience struggle terribly in their attempt to set boundaries … because – they often approach the boundary WITHOUT the assumption that people are doing the best they can.  Their perceptions that people in the present and future will be out to get them just like the ones in their past shift the energy and intent behind the boundaries.  And when we are coming from that defended space, our boundaries are like fences erected out of barbed wire … rather than compassionate reminders of how we need and want to be treated.

And so, we must learn to set the boundaries before we could shoot daggers out of our eyes …to  set them proactively … not … reactively.  We must learn how to set them kindly and firmly.  And then … lovingly hold them in place for the benefit of all of those concerned.

And to do so, we might have to sit in the discomfort of guilt rather than the self-righteousness of resentment.  This is the trickiest part to navigate.  Many of us are more comfortable living with the resentment directed at others than inhabiting the guilt we might feel in our own hearts if/when we have our own backs …before we get mad at another. BIG lives do not just happen … they are consciously and courageously created.

May we all commit to living BIG … Karen

 

 

DONE and DONE-er: Resignation Tendered …

mom - heaven and hell

Source Unknown

Quite some time ago, I was chatting with a new mom and during our heartfelt and honest exchange … she dared to utter something that  I have heard on countless occasions in my work as a counsellor and/or parenting coach.  She said “I feel like I’m failing.”  In my compassionate attempt to save her from her own self-deprecation, I promptly responded saying, “No need to do that to yourself.”

That particular moment has always stuck with me because my response was unintentionally dismissive.  It failed to honor how challenging it is to negotiate the peaks and valleys of parenting and, ultimately, the pain of falling short of your own preconceived ideas of  how it going to look when you, too, claim the crown of motherhood.  What I wish I had said was this:

Yep … you are going to feel like you failed. Often.  It’s sheer hell.  And, you are going to feel the pride of success. Often.  It’s absolute heaven.  And, from my humble place of reference, the secret of surviving the inevitable roller-coaster between the polarities of agony and ecstasy is not gripping too tightly to either one.  It has been my experience that things seem to work out best when we can savor our victories (however fleeting they may feel) … and … stop ourselves from ruminating too long over the failures (however devastating they may feel).  I’ve learned that the best we can do is let it all come … and then … let it all go.   Be like a cork bopping along the seas of motherhood rather than trying to anchor yourself into any one place. 

Yes … I know … that is easy for me to say now that my children are all grown and parenting children of their own.  I can still clearly remember, though, planning it all out while I was pregnant for the first time … comfortably assured that my kids would never have snotty noses or melt-downs in public.  I even had the subscription to Parents Magazine long before I had the baby.  And then, all that glorious theory collided unfavorably with reality when I found myself lost at sea with ‘real’ children.  I remember how shocked I was by the shame and sheer exhaustion I encountered as my best efforts to do what the books said failed.

Oh my … as I reflect upon my experience of motherhood over the last 35+ years, I’ve had more than my fair share of epic failures. You’d think my schooling and work experience would have been fool-proof prophylactics for problems in parenting, but the seas get rough – even for the most well-schooled sailors.  A while back, I came across a “Letter of Resignation” in my filing cabinet.   It was in the scribbler we used for family meetings over 20 years ago. I howled when I read it!! In retrospect it seems quite humorous, but during that hellish time I was clearly DONE!  Or … maybe I had completely come UNDONE.  I was clearly drowning. Capsized completely.  Floundering desperately and gasping for some small breath to save me from the menacing undertow of raising three strong, independent girls.

I knew something had to change … and here is a wee excerpt from my feeble but six page attempt to right the ship:

Dear Family Members:

  1. I have had MORE THAN ENOUGH OF: 
    • (I had a very long list of frustrations … I will spare you the details).
  2. I am TIRED OF:
    • (I will also spare you the  lengthy but compelling arguments I used to defend my position)
  3. SO … FROM NOW ON:
    • if you want it clean – clean it
    • if you want to eat – cook it
    • if you cook it – I will  eat it too – but I will no longer cook with the family in mind
    • if I show up for meals, I show up … if I am not going to show up, I will call you … unless I forget
    • if you have laundry – wash it … do mine too
    • do NOT use the white towels – they are NOW all mine – that way I will know I have clean DRY towels
    • please do not ask to borrow another thing of mine … not. one. thing.
    • if it is convenient for you to use the van, fine, but if not … do NOT waste your breath trying to convince me
    • someone should assume responsibility for groceries – we will need them replaced
    • use your own mirrors in the morning please – I want mine available so I can use it when I need it
    • set your own alarms – and GET UP when they ring – I will be sleeping until I have to get up myself
    • please do your chores and I will do mine.  I will do a good job.
    • it would really be nice if someone would co-ordinate all the comings and goings and appointments for all the family members
    • I would like to spend $200 per month on golfing this summer … so sorry … you will have to go without your extra-curricular activities … it is my turn
    • I am charging  $20 for my black pants that were borrowed but not returned – PLUS $10 for the aggravation of not having them
  4. AS WELL:
    • Do not worry about how what you do affects the rest of us – we are all just individuals living under the same roof.  We would only need to concern ourselves with that kind of consideration if we wanted to be family oriented and supportive of each other
    • I will continue to work and pay bills BUT I expect NOT to be asked to do anything for anyone else if I have homework of my own to do 
    • You can ask for my help and I might give it – if I feel like it – or I might forget – but you will understand.
  5. AND:
    • I only mean some of this – can you guess which ones I will hold you to…?

Oy Yoy Yoy.  Wouldn’t you know it …  I couldn’t even get the darn resignation signed before the maternal guilt started eroding my sanctimonious indignation.  But, that’s how it is with mommy guilt.  It’s always hovering … surreptitiously snatching every small snippet of self-care and ruining our resolve!  And even funnier … I must have thought that adding that dash of uncertainty about what I really meant would leave them quivering quite uncomfortably as I tossed in the towel (well – all except for the white ones). 

I don’t recall how they responded.  I don’t even remember how long my resignation lasted.  Probably only until the next heavenly wave of motherhood washed up warmly around me, melted my heart and swept all that hellish resentment out to sea.

You’d think that by the time you are a grandmother to seven,  you’d be a fairly skillful sailor, right?  Well … a little bit ago, we were watching five of our grandchildren and on the fourth night of five nights, we were pushing the limits for the littlest ones to be away from their parents.  I had the two youngest in bed with me (sideways and upside down) and the two year old had been having a rough night.  We had barely slept between 1:45 and  5:50AM (not that I was clock watching!) so I thought a little distraction might help.  We got up in search of the kitty.  It was mere minutes before the one we had left behind snoozing soundly in the bed joined us … and then … without my awareness promptly awoke two more.

Being cranky, over-tired and wired up (and I am not just talking about me) prompted body checks in front of the TV,  jumping on the furniture, refusals to share, teasing until there were trickles of tears and toy tossing in sheer frustration.  They were doing the best they could (and so were their grandparents) but let’s just say, tempers were terribly tippy even before the pancakes were on the plates and the sun had a chance to peek up over the horizon.  Somehow, it all fell apart for me when I caught sight of one of them buttering the bacon.  For some reason, that was the moment that tipped me right over the edge … into the depths of the dark blue sea.

Before their very eyes, Grammy devolved from being calm, cool and collected into someone sputtering threats to detain them all, right there in our home … solitary confinement of sorts …. until their parents returned the next day. Their eyes got big and bigger … as my voice got stern and sterner.  Not a muscle  dared move until I finally exhaled and bit into my pancake.

Yep, epic fail.  Now, intellectually, I know that buttering the bacon is not immediately life-threatening NOR inherently dangerous, but emotionally, I was lost at sea and losing all logical grip and reason in that moment. Agony eclipsed ecstasy. And,  worse yet, I am supposed to be the GRAND parent.  You know … the ‘grand’ one who knows better. Argh. Double argh.

Bless their little souls and shattered spirits. They have such pure little hearts … and are made of good stuff.  I felt really bad when I came to my senses.  I hoped they’d find it in their hearts to forgive me. I earnestly apologized for losing my cool and I tried not to ruminate about it … too much. After all, I did buy them the foam blocks, bubble wands, pop guns, paint sets, window catchers  and a mega-jumbo canister of play dough.  We went to the pool twice and to the spray park once.  I even got soaked with them under the great big bucket that nearly levels you with the gallons of water it dumps on you.  No slight intended to Papa, but he wasn’t nearly as good a sport! Not even close on this one.  I got some of it very right.  Yes I did.

Fast forward about a  year or so: some of our grandchildren had spent the night. It was heavenly having them with us. We were all seated at breakfast … just laughing and savoring our time together. It was one of those magical moments of connection and I sensed we could all feel it.  And then, with a wee gleam in his eye and probably an instinctive attempt to preserve the ecstasy in the space, my eldest grandson judiciously cautioned “just don’t butter your bacon.” 

I started laughing so hard that I nearly piddled in my pajamas … and … with their cheeky little chuckles, I could tell my blunder was forgiven, but not entirely forgotten.  Yep, bobbing along like a cork between the waves of agony and ecstasy … riding the tides between heaven and hell.  Best idea yet for anyone  trying to stay afloat in turbulent seas of parenting (or grand-parenting).

With humble appreciation for all that motherhood has taught me, Karen

P.S. If I ever get really, really, really brave … I will have to tell you about the time I ransacked my oldest daughter’s bedroom looking for my missing gold belt.  Eeegads …. THAT too is long since forgiven, but never been forgotten. My daughter and I have shared some good chuckles about that epic fall from maternal grace.  🙂

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Talking about POWER is like talking about AIR …

check your privilege

PRIVILEGE can be defined as the unearned access to social POWER based upon membership in a dominant social group.  And, yes, if you find yourself checking and of the boxes including White, male, middle to higher class, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual and/or able-bodied … you are afforded unearned social power. And, with that power, comes many privileges that you may or may not actually be consciously aware of enjoying. This is not something to feel guilty about … but … it is an opportunity to learn more about how it benefits you to belong to a dominant group.

In my opinion, talking about POWER is like talking about AIR. We all know it is there and we all use it, but we have the luxury of ignoring/denying its critical significance until we are somehow deprived of it.  It’s somewhat insidious because although the element itself is not visually perceptible, the substantive effects of its relative presence or absence are highly tangible.

Without it, the personal distress becomes grave and quite palpable. For this reason, I think it is incumbent upon all of humanity (but particularly those of us who work in the human service disciplines) to be highly diligent in seeking out and acknowledging areas in peoples lives where, metaphorically speaking, the air is thin. I believe an integral part of that inquiry involves us becoming aware of the covert ways in which we (from our oxygen rich standpoint in the mainstream majority) can unwittingly suffocate ‘others’ … or … be of the opinion that their shallow breathing as personal deficiency needing individual remediation rather than seeing their lack of oxygen as a reflection of a collective issue requiring systemic respiration.

Source Unknown

When I check the ‘privilege’ list … I can see that I dwell in a fairly empowered space. I can’t check all the boxes, but nonetheless … I enjoy a whole schwack of benefits and social power that I didn’t actually earn. I can breathe pretty darn easily in this culture.

And so, in the presence of that knowledge, I have a choice.  I can use the power inherent in my social standpoint and professional position to disrupt any impediments to universal and equitable access to air … or … I can allow myself to be richly oxygenated by my privilege and assume no responsibility for the shallowed breathing of others. And if I choose the latter, I might be tempted to assuage my guilt by blaming the labored breathing on the gasping individual themselves – admonishing them for not inhaling deeply enough … instead of faulting a biased ventilation system that privileges some while it asphyxiates others.

In every moment … in every interaction … with every thought, word and deed … I am always making a choice.  I am either sharing the oxygen mask I have been gifted or I am saving it for myself.  There is no neutral ground here.  Whether we like to admit it or not, those of us with the most privilege are responsible for the air quality. Yes. We. Are.  Because, we are the only ones holding the power to oxygenate it equitably for all.

So, each and every one of us has to decide whether we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. And, I have learned that I must keep a very close eye on myself … because it is so darned easy to take my power and privilege for granted. From my oxygen rich place in the dominant social majority, it is easy for me to take a nice deep nourishing inhale … and then obliviously … neglect to notice that so many others are woefully wheezing on the margins of my awareness.

May my personal and professional interactions with others be a breath of fresh air,  Karen

[Guest Post]: No, I’m Pretty Sure I Rank Higher

I just had to share this post … from a thoughtful and compassionate writer … who speaks from a heart that clearly listens with love. She wisely and kindly offers us an open invitation to consciously abandon our seemingly compelling need to ‘one up’ in a mindless, maladaptive effort to empathize … or … minimize another’s pain when are in the depths of despair ourselves.

If a sentence begins, “Well, at least YOU…” you can bet your sweet bippy that it is a comparison that aims to show the speaker in greater need or pain than the listener.

“Well, at least YOU know some of the people at the party. I don’t know anyone.”

“Well, at least YOU have a job to complain about. I can’t even find work.”

“Well, at least YOU have a kid who tries to get good grades. I can’t get mine to care.”

star winner2

You get the idea. There are some people who always seem to need to rank higher on any “scale” of life being discussed. Kristen Wiig’s Penelope character from Saturday Night Live is the queen of “one-upping”:

YOU WILL HAVE TO CLICK ON THIS LINK TO SEE THE VERY FUNNY VIDEO OF PENELOPE BECAUSE NBC AND WORDPRESS ARE MAKING MY LIFE DIFFICULT.

Most of us are not Penelopes…

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I am not what happened to me …

not what has happened to me

I just came across a very heartfelt stream of consciousness that I recorded in an old journal. I was wrestling with my aversion to confrontation.  I was questioning why I got so anxious at the thought of disappointing others. I was pulling at the roots of my prior people-pleasing tendencies.

Here is what I discovered as I coaxed myself deeper into the subconscious inquiry:

Why am I so uncomfortable with contention or confrontation?

Because I don’t like it when things aren’t going well between people…

Why don’t you like it when things aren’t going well?

Because I am afraid people will leave me.

What am I afraid will happen if people leave me?

I will be alone and scared and have no support.

What will happen if I am alone, scared and have no support?

I will have to do things all on my own … and/or … reach out to strangers for help.

What if I reach out for help?

Then people can hurt me, when/if they don’t care enough about me to help me.

What if they don’t care enough to help you?

Then I will feel rejected.

What if I feel rejected?

Then I feel worthless and insignificant.

What if I am worthless and insignificant?

Then I am nothing.

What if you are nothing … ?

If I am nothing – no thing in particular, then maybe I can be anything.

Ha!   My stream of consciousness just took a sharp, very unexpected turn.   Upon deeper inquiry …. the blessings covertly tucked on the other side of my fear are rendered visible!  If I am no particular thing (nothing) ... then maybe I am at liberty to consciously create myself into something … and perhaps … that opens the doors for me to be anything.

In order to claim that prize, I can see I must be willing to step out of old patterns of belief and behavior. As Carl Jung so wisely contended “I am not what happened to me,  I am what I choose to become”. As a people pleaser, I developed a pattern of trading truth for safety.  In order to feel safe, I contorted myself into the most pleasing, sweet and endearing child … always.  All ways.  I can see that I did so (in order to minimize the probability of rejection) because I was often at the mercy of  leaning on a teacher, a friend’s parent, or a stranger.

BUT, that was THEN and this is NOW. I can choose differently.  I have access to resources and supports I never had as a child … and I can take care of myself.  Mostly. And, maybe … even more importantly … maybe at this point in my ‘all grown up’ life, it could be quite safe to risk be rejected. Perhaps, in being brave enough to risk the rejection of others, I could quit rejecting myself  by ‘going along to get along‘.  Perhaps that has been the greatest violation to my soul in my patterns of the past.  I have been unwittingly rejecting my Self when I trade truth for safety.

So, I am seeing that the ultimate gift in risking rejection is the opportunity to be authentic and real.  I can go along to get along … or … I can be real, raw and truthful to my Self.  I can do one or the other, but not both simultaneously.  So, let’s bring on the confrontations … eeek.  I say that knowing that they give me a chance to step out of old patterns … and … claim the opportunity to be something closer to the real me … 🙂

There is so much light hidden in the dark … if we dare ourselves to look deep enough,  Karen

P.S. I wrote this journalling years ago, and drafted this blog quite some time ago, but I never posted it.  It’s likely no co-incidence that since then, I have taken several bold opportunities to be real and risk being rejected.  It’s actually been quite an interesting ride … I think I’m going to hold on and keep doing it.  Much to my surprise, being ‘real’ feels really safe in a whole different kind of way … really.  Nothing could be better than stepping out of old patterns from the past.

Owning Our Voices …

Source Unknown

Source Unknown

She has found her own voice.

I am glad that she has because otherwise she will always resent mine.

She is so empowered by it that she will be likely to overuse it in the beginning.

That will cause some pain.

I hope it doesn’t take too long for her to quit singing solo and appreciate the harmony of a duet  … or … the absolute magnificence of a choir.

It serves no good is she has no voice, but it serves no good if hers is the only voice she cares to hear or appreciate.

There is a place for all our voices as the melody comes together … the music is flat without the depth of the tenor or the pitch of the soprano.

It is the difference in our voices that create the awe and wonder!

May she learn to enjoy the beauty of her own voice without rejecting the ones who want or need to sing along.

May I remember to be so willing and wise myself, Karen

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“You are not what you look like … “

not all wounds(With gratitude to Annie Oddflower for this amazing graphic!)

I feel like I’m going out on the skinny branches with this blog.  I’ve been deeply shifted by my introduction to Brene Brown’s impressive studies on ‘the power of vulnerability’ and Glennon Doyle Melton’s brave commitment to ‘shameless truth-telling and hope spreading’.  As a result, I am inspired to admit that I’ve been hiding my authentic Self behind a shiny facade of perfection, performance, and people-pleasing (but only for most of my life).  It turned out that I got to grow up on ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ (so to speak) and, since then, I have invested considerable effort and significant energy into ensuring my dignity and character were, as much as humanly possible, safely beyond reproach.

Nonetheless, despite my very best efforts to out-run my past and confirm my worth, I’ve been described as “fake” (Ouch).  I’ve also had people tell me (yes, right to my face):

·         “You’re the kind of girl we love to hate”(painful) …

·         “I don’t know you and I don’t think I want to” (excruciating)…

·         “I didn’t think I could ever be friends with someone like you” (encouraging-ish) …

·         “You are not what you look like” (criticism or compliment … ??).

Lately, I’ve been secretly flirting with what life would be like if I accepted Glennon’s scary invitation to “drop the cape” and meet her on the messy side of life. You know … actually risk letting people see the less thanI’ve got it got-it-all-together’ me.  But, honestly, since  I am a counselor, I SHOULD have it all together if I am going to presume I might support others in doing so, right?

So, the other day at work, while exchanging pleasantries over our coffee, a most lovely colleague of mine unsuspectingly asked about how it is that I always look so ‘put together’.  In that moment, I heard that small, still voice within me wildly proclaiming  “here’s a chance to ‘drop the cape’ Karen”.  Dang it!  I guess I should have expected that the Universe/God would lovingly conspire to help me grow into the next best expression of who I wanted to be in the world.

Anyway, with my consciousness frantically grasping for courage, I responded by saying “Do you really want to know?”  “Yes” … apparently she did.  Hoping she’d change her mind, I repeated “Really?”  She said “really”.  So … to the best of my anxious mind’s recollection, I think I said something like:

I’m honestly just trying to out-run the ‘better-thans’.    My father was an alcoholic who struggled very unsuccessfully to keep us all from sinking.  My mom was diagnosed as manic depressive (bi-polar) – and became addicted to several prescription drugs (with all the shenanigans that THAT involves).  Both of them were doing and saying things that shamed and humiliated me as a child … often.  After my parents divorced, I was raised on welfare and ended up in foster care three times.  Most distressingly … I felt like my friends and their parents were watching (and judging) the entire debacle called my childhood.

Kids can be honest (OK, maybe even mean) … so I intuitively sensed the good parents liked to keep their children away from troubled families like mine. Clearly, I had no way to save face when the police arrived at at my house or when my mom landed in the loony bin (both more than once).  It just stung too much to actually admit it, so I put a perpetual smile on my face and committed to never let them see me hurting. I resolved to someday become someone I could be proud of … someone like my amazing classmates Susan or Janice or Margo.  These girls were never ever mean to me, not even a little bit … but I always felt incredibly ‘less than’ in their presence.  They were kind, smart, athletic, beautiful AND rich (at least from where I was looking!). They were everything I ever wanted to be …

Somewhere along the way, I must have decided that if I looked and acted like them, then maybe no one would be the wiser about my shoddy roots.  So, I began dressing immaculately, behaving impeccably and earning straight ‘A’s … clear through to my Masters Degree.  Perhaps unconsciously, I figured that with perfection and performance I could fly under the radar and avoid any chance of further shame and/or humiliation.

So, as I honestly shared with my coworker, the truth of the matter is this … appearing “put together” was simply my fear-based and well-intended attempt to feel safe … to measure up, to be liked and to feel accepted.

But here’s the thing. I still got those kind of comments (like those listed above) that belied my ongoing attempts to carve out a safe place to dwell.  It wasn’t until I did some deep inner work through Debbie Ford’s Courage Coaching Program that I realized the ugly truth of it all. It turns out that in my sincere effort to escape and out-run the shame I felt in the presence of those ‘better-thans’ … I was unwittingly showing up just like like a ‘better-than’.  I had become what I most feared.   ARGHHHHH.   I was completely gob-smacked to know that in my protective effort to escape feeling ‘less-than’  … other people might be experiencing me as attempting to be ‘better than’ they were.  Eeeek … no wonder I got those kind of comments!  Whoa …  I felt sickened to the core with this painful awareness.

So, here I am on the skinny branches …with my protective cape tossed to the ground. I am publicly acknowledging that the real reason I have been inclined to appear ‘put together’ is because I am scared spit-less not to.  I am terrified that you might get a glimpse of the REAL me … a shame-filled girl who just doesn’t feel worthy of your admiration or respect.  Yep … this is the me most people don’t ever get to see.  Aside from my best girlfriends,  my husband and my precious community of certified integrative coaches, no one really gets to see the part of me that is wounded and hiding – hoping no one will look beyond the facade (on one hand) … BUT … (on the other hand) needing  desperately for  someone to consider that terrified little gal as someone worthy of their love and acceptance.

While it is hard to admit,  I hope I can stay this brave…. and … keep letting people meet the REAL messy me.  I hope so, because in all honesty, I truly have been fake.  I’ve been hiding behind my cape of perfection and performance and people-pleasing.   It is absolutely true,  I admit it  ….  I am not what I look like.

Yikes … maybe all those ‘better-thans’ from my past weren’t either.  Not all wounds are so obvious …

With heartfelt humility, Karen

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Better … Because of You Debbie Ford!

everything-shapes-us-kelly rae robertsWith gratitude to Kelly Rae Roberts for this lovely graphic.

The first time I heard the chorus in Kelly Clarkson’s hit single  Because of You  I caught a tear sliding down my cheek as my thoughts were high-jacked from  whatever I was doing in that moment to my less than Hallmark childhood. 

Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt
Because of you
I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid

As I tried to dodge the discomfort brought on by hearing those heart wrenching ‘truths’, I knew exactly who I’d been holding accountable for my ever cautious and hyper-vigilant approach to life. I credit blame my dad the most … but … my mom gets nailed quite often as well.  The shame and neglect of my early years has shaped my overly ‘anxious mind’ and unfortunately, it takes a whole schwack of energy to manage the various worries, uncertainties, reservations , doubts, qualms and fears that persistently and unpredictably pop into my awareness.  When uttered in the past, my husband would shake his head in stunned disbelief as my neurotic ramblings effectively sucked any potential for joy out of the moment.  Pretty soon, I just quit sharing them out loud …

As long as no one could hear the alarm bells going off in my head … I think I appeared pretty capable, confident and successful.  Most people who know me would probably be very surprised to hear this. I managed my fears as inconspicuously as possible but, it wasn’t until I was introduced to the remarkable work of Debbie Ford about 12 years ago that things really changed for the BETTER!  I had no idea how powerfully this would shape me …  

I have been so profoundly shifted and transformed by the last dozen years of training and learning with/through The Ford Institute for Transformational Training.  Who would have thought that this journey would invite me to make peace with so much!  Yes, we are undoubtedly shaped by the negatives in our lives, but we are also shaped by the positives! (Not that it always feels so positive in the process of tackling this kind of personal growth!) 

As I write this now, I am aware of another tear sliding down my cheek.   Debbie Ford transitioned on February 17th, 2013 … but … my amazing mentor, teacher and guide touched so many lives in magical and miraculous ways!  Fortunately, her body of work is vast and her legacy will live on in the hearts of so many!!  Thank you Debbie for loving me enough to hold me in my highest … to bravely risk my wrath and call me on my s*#t … to hold me through the ugly cry … to laugh with me as I finally surrendered my need for control and learned to lean in. 

Thank you for inviting me to stray from the sidewalk … to trust myself  enough to step out of the fears that have caged my soul and courageously reach for the untold possibilities beyond my self-limiting beliefs.  Because of you, I have learned to embrace my vulnerabilities with love and acceptance rather than trying to resist and suppress my fear-filled mind chatter. Because of you …I am now a part of an amazing, loving, supportive family of Certified Integrative Coaches. Thank you, thank you, thank you Debbie Ford.  

If I could sing like Kelly Clarkson, I’d write you a song, because I have been profoundly shaped by knowing you!  I truly am so much Better … Because of You !

With deepest gratitude, Karen

 

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My Tributes: Better Because of You ...

Better Because You Spark So Much Light!

Can any of you guess who this bright-eyed beauty might be?? I’d sure love to know what she was thinking when this picture was taken. I adore the gentle glow that ever so delicately glimmers through her upward glance. I can also sense such a sweet and sensitive soul reflected through that precious smile! I’ll […]

An Advent of Love … Better Because I’m bringing You Home For Christmas Momma!

Those of you who read my “Better Because you Spared Me …” blog will already be aware that Christmas 2019 marks the 30th Anniversary of my Mom’s passing. You will also know that I didn’t even realize the loss of my Mom had remained so unprocessed … until the words, tears and unspoken grief spilled […]

Better Because You Spared Me …

Do you suppose this is true?? I am purposely pondering this possibility because … I don’t even know the man.  I do know who he is, though. And because we have lived in the same small, rural community for the past quarter of a century, I have seen him out and about every now and […]

Better Because of your Shining Spirit Kori!

Better Because of your Shining Spirit Kori!

My first introduction to the sweetness of Kori’s spirit was not even in person.  Although we had never before met … many, many years ago when I was in charge of soliciting donations for something … she voluntarily dropped off a donation for our cause. Who does that?? Unsolicited?  I suspected, in that moment, that […]

The World is a Better Place Because of You … Fatemeh!

I was inspired to become a social worker given my passionate commitment to help people ‘live a great life anyway’ … despite all the people, circumstances and situations that often compromise our best efforts to do so.  As such, I attempt do so in a variety of ways. I am a counsellor working with people […]

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