Wow, that was quite the opener after months and months of silence! But that is how I feel right now, but let me back up a little.
As I have mentioned before, probably too many times... I have been working to bring my vision for my life in line with my reality for some time and to move past the ideas that swirl in my head way too often and that again, all too often, I let define what, when and how I will do, see, respond, participate and react. Even when I feel I am trying to move forward and honestly feel that I making progress, all of a sudden it hits me - YOUR ARE NOT MOVING, YOUR ARE STUCK! OPEN your EYES!
Most recently, I finally hit a wall and in the process I tried my best to stand up for myself and step-up to say that something was unacceptable. This is something that I find very difficult, to allow people that I don't trust, or won't allow myself to risk trusting, to see and understand how vulnerable I truly feel and am. To ask for something and risk rejection, are not things that I routinely do. I much prefer doing for myself instead or just not acknowledging that there might be other possibilities. To risk finding that what I am perceiving may not be all of what is occurring, because I may have been letting my perceptions cloud my vision. Why? Because somehow in letting someone do something for me, to let someone know that something hurts or that I feel let down, I have to acknowledge that I do not feel worthy of their effort and that it means that I am not capable, all on my own.
As a result my actions, standing-up for myself, some things are beginning to change, specifically the things that I found unacceptable. But also in the process I learned that again, I am not living up to my goals for my life. I few people brought this to my attention in the last week.
Someone, whose opinion and friendship I value greatly, spent some time, well a lot of time really, this past week helping me to see that I continue to isolate and insulate myself from people and then make excuses when I do not feel a positive connection with people. It took a lot for me to see it, as it always does, that at times when I feel most vulnerable and probably would be best served by reaching out, I shut out people. That I can't expect things to improve, unless I contribute all that I am.
Then when arriving at the second of my three annual stitching retreats yesterday afternoon, my friend Judy asked me "have you been posting on your blog lately?" She has said before that she enjoyed reading my posts and I have to admit that in my mind I feel uncertain and wonder why? What I talk about on my blog is,,, well,,, well, it is not what I would deem enjoyable. Thought provoking maybe, but enjoyable? So, when I responded that I had not, she asked why not? I thought for a minute. I thought of doing what I normally would when asked a question that if I answered honestly would expose my true feelings and open me to judgement. And what would I normally do? Evade, make a joke or tell a positive white lie to avoid telling the truth. But with the fresh insights gained from my friend, I answered her honestly, "Because I felt I was whining and bitching too much". Which is how I always feel I seem when I speak honestly and openly about my feelings and experiences. The look she gave me spoke volumes, at least to me. I am not sure of her words, but what I understood was that she completely disagreed with my assessment of my blog postings and that I needed to rethink my opinion. So, why is it that I seem to see things so differently from everyone else? Why is it that I anticipate rejection and find acceptance, expect negativity and find enthusiasm? Why do I feel this invisible yardstick pressed against my spine, that no matter how straight I stand and stretch and contort my body, I am just not able to measure up, that it just isn't enough to be me?
There were some new stitchers that joined our January retreat this year. Not long after I arrived, one of them, J, asked for my email address, phone number and asked if I would like to get together sometime in Ottawa? I immediately felt shy and wondered and questioned in my mind how she could immediately know, want and ask to spend time with me. We did not talk a lot, but later in the evening when she was talking to my friend Lesli, I brought over a chair and asked to join them. Shortly after Lesli left to stitch, J and I continued to talk for more than an hour. I learned that J, similar to me, had left a job she felt trapped by, had worked to overcome significant barriers, made amazing changes in her life and I could clearly see that her success and contentment shone from her face. In listening to her tell of her accomplishments, I saw my own journey in a different light. She spoke of set-backs, falling flat on her face and the absolute joy she experienced in doing what she loved, on her terms. She spoke with confidence and gave no indication that she hesitated in sharing, or felt that she was or would be judged. And she did all this within moments of meeting me.
I thought back to the first retreat I went to. Arriving at the TimberHouse and then immediately taking my bags to my room and literally hiding in the bathroom for 10 minutes telling myself, "You can do this" "You can do this" Slowly meeting everyone, asking and answering questions and trying my best to get comfortable. I thought about how there was no way I would have felt that I could ask anyone for their personal information, "what if they don't like me?" "what if they feel I am too pushy" "they already seem to be friends / have friends in the group, so how can there be a place for me". The amazing thing was, by the end of that first weekend retreat, I had a place in the group, I was welcomed with open arms and was accepted and had contact information from my new stitching acquaintances. Before I left, every single woman hugged me and told me they hoped I was able to come to the next retreat. These acquaintances have developed into friendships, with confidences, laughter and warmth shared. Each retreat that I have went to, I have opened up more, shared more and learned more. The only barriers have been the ones that I have put up, because they certainly have not been put there by others. Slowly those barriers have ceased to exist to the point that in November I fell asleep on the couch, in a room with 20 stitchers. This would have been an impossibility in the past.
Then I shared with Sharon, her sister Debbie and Judy that my magnifying mirror was broken and that I would have to contact Ann, the owner of Knowledge and Needles, to buy a new one. Sharon, who lives nearby, immediately said that she may have the piece that was broken at her house and that I could have it. Sharon got her purse and despite my protests, she got ready to go to pick-up the piece I needed from her home. I have shared many wonderful conversations with both Sharon and Debbie and have felt nothing short of true acceptance, interest, caring and their willingness to share their experience and insights for my betterment. Despite this, the idea that Sharon would immediately drop everything to leave and get this for me, made me uncomfortable. This is just crazy, her actions are exactly what I would do, I would never think twice and would enjoy doing it, but it took Debbie saying something like, "really, just say thank you. She is going to go, no matter what you say. Just say thank you" So that is what I did. I am still thinking how I could show Sharon how wonderful her gesture made me feel. But why do I feel this compulsion?
Then finally, someone recently endorsed my skills twice in the last couple of weeks on Linked-In. In some respects, this concept along with the idea of asking for professional references makes me uncomfortable. Compliments make me uncomfortable. In looking at Linked-In tonight and the profile of a friend that I lost touch with many years ago, that I reached out to at Christmas, I happened upon a video link about the worlds ugliest woman. Watching her, letting the fact that for years she wanted to "scrub the syndrome off and that every morning she woke up disappointed" sink into my consciousness, it moved me to write this post.
Her statement "what defines you" followed by "brave starts here" summed up the last couple of weeks for me and the journey that resulted from my desire to be confident and accept me on my own terms.
This journey started by me quitting my job, then some time later sending an email to two complete strangers and gaining a community of wonderful, lovely, talented and successful women, going back to college and starting over once again from the bottom, to me realizing this weekend that I am finally starting to define me on my terms. That even though I fall on my face, fail to see what is in front of me and learn the same lessons over and over again, I am moving. It is just that my movement is not in a straight line. My path winds, twists, turns and snakes and with each new turn, helping me to see is doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where I end up, where I want to be, just that I am going.
Until next time,