I am writing this blog because I would like to unlearn my ingrained and learned habit of hiding. Editing myself. Censoring what I say and to whom.
My goal is become ever more authentic. This is a deep value of mine.
If you enjoy reading my thoughts and experiences, great. I'd love to hear from you. If not, never mind. That's okay.
BODY ARMOR FOR POODLES, & A NEW FRIEND
November 27, 2022
A few weeks ago, my baby Jack got bit by a big dog on our evening walk. Four nasty gouges in his little back. It was horrifying.
Here's Jack before he got attacked.
I love our little Jack, as you can see. He is the best idea my husband ever had (besides asking for me.) ;-)
Here's little Jack after he got attacked.
He laid like this for several days, stunned. I was so worried he'd be a nervous little dog after his physical wounds healed. When a friend came to visit a few days after the attack, he growled at her.
Jack, growling! He had never growled at anyone in his life! He took to hiding in his crate after being outside for just a few minutes.
What would become of my sweet, always up-beat little pooch?! I was so worried.
And the attack was traumatizing for me, too. When the other dog bit into him, Jack made a bad noise, like a scream. I screamed, too, running in to grab Jack away from the big dog.
After he was safely in the arms of the vet that night, I went outside and sat there wailing, howling, rocking . . . I was shaking from head to foot. For the next two days I pretty much just laid on the floor beside Jack. Neither of us felt like moving.
When I did have to go back to work, my heart was pounding and I felt like I was trying to move under water. I just couldn't get my limbs to move fast enough to keep up the pace. It was a very strange feeling.
SHARING IMPACTS INSTEAD OF BLAMING
I shared all of this with the owner of the other dog. I'll call the owner Max.
I had told Max the door was open, if he ever wanted to talk. He did.
So we sat outside in the chill of an early November evening, in front of the church; Max, me, and a friend who is versed in Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Circles. My friend brought her golden retriever, which was helpful in settling the tension we each brought.
As we sat there on our folding chairs in a pool of light from the church, we talked.
I told him I wasn't interested in retribution; I was interested in relationships. I told of the impacts on me and Jack. I had no anger, just distress.
Max shared the impacts on him. He said he had been hearing the human and animal screams running on repeat in his head. He shared how upsetting it was.
Max told us of the steps he had already taken to help prevent this from happening again. He offered to pay Jack's medical bills, and came prepared with hundred dollar bills in his pocket.
We all came together that night with tension and a handshake. We left on a hug, with relief all around. And it's not about the hundred dollar bills. It's about the good-will they represent.
It was a grand success. The sharing of impacts instead of blame and shame was a grand success.
I am so pleased! Max and I have continued to share our mutual worries and joys. The harm has been repaired, I feel happy, and I have gained a friend. What a beautiful thing!
And if, just what if, we could do these circles as a matter of course in our church when some harm has happened? What if we had restoration circles in addition to church discipline? And then, to take it further, isn't restoration the whole point of church discipline? Hmm.
And just one more question.
Wouldn't little Jack look cool in some body armor? I think it might just be the thing! :-)
October 30, 2022
Earlier this year I was overseas at a 9-day retreat, immersing myself in living and teaching Nonviolent Communication in a large group of like-minded people from many countries. On day 8 I came down with Covid.
I dialed up my husband and told him.
"Honey," I said, "I'm stuck here. I don't know when I'll be able to fly home." He was alarmed and said, with intensity and in a high-pitched voice, "It's going to cost a lot of money to change your flight! And the hotel! How much is that a night?! This is going to cost us XXX thousands of dollars!"
I took a breath, and, because I had been luxuriating in a pool of empathy all week, decided to try empathy instead of setting the record straight.
"You're really worried about how much this is going to cost? This is really upsetting to you, isn't it?! Yes? I can hear the alarm in your voice." And so we went on, with me "feeling with" him and then guessing that he had needs for predictability and stability around finances, and asking him if I had heard him right.
The next morning he told me, in a much calmer voice, "It's not going to cost us XXX thousands of dollars. We're going to be okay." Which was true. But he wasn't ready to hear that the night before. Nobody can hear anything when they're in a reactive state. Not me; not you. And we settle when we are seen and heard with empathy and resonance.
My lesson: Connection before Correction
I put this note on my desk to remind me.
Of course, there's a problem with this frame of "other people are misinformed." Can you see it?
It says that I'm right, they're wrong; I have a better way, they have a worse way and they should think like I do."
What's wrong with this?
Well, what do you think might be the results of this type of thinking? What's wrong with these evaluations? Maybe I do have a better way. What about that?
I've decided that whether or not I do is beside the point. Because the problem with me thinking in these terms of right/wrong and good/bad and should/shouldn't is in what it leads to. It bears an ugly fruit.
When I think in terms like that, I start to become violent. I start to educate people. I use "gently" coercive methods to get them to where I think they should go. I'm maneuvering them. Steering them. This is a very subtle form of violence. It's also arrogant. And besides leaving me feeling burdened and discouraged, it is also a sure-fire way to never see the world I long to see.
Because I long to live in a world where power-over and domination and hierarchy and oppression are gone, and in their place we practice empathy and humility and collaboration and loving-kindness and mutuality. I want to see this in our world and in the marketplace, yes, but even more so in our church and in my home and with my family. I am tired of the pain that comes from the current game. I want better for all of us.
And it begins within me.
Would you like to join me?
(If you would, please get in touch. Let's talk.)
I'M CLEAR, AND I'M NOT CLEAR . . . YET
October 2, 2022
I am grounded and clear about my own identity and about what I value. I know that I am innately good and loveable, and I have confidence in this. Not to say I never screw up or miss the mark. I do. Yet, I am always God's Beloved. This is irrevocable, and comes without condition. I know that. I know it deep in my bones.
But does the church know it? Does my family? Am I accepted without condition in those places, too?
Here is the rub. I'm not so sure about my irrevocable belonging everywhere.
This touches on my deep fear of abandonment. It leaves me feeling shaky. Vulnerable to getting triggered and flooded and dis-regulated. It happens sometimes. And it's never fun. I lose my power in those moments (that sometimes last for days.) And even when I'm regulated and calm, I never feel entirely safe.
But what if I could know that if/when other people reject me - or parts or me - that whatever comes out of their mouths is about their own fear and their own unmet needs? What if I could know that in my bones?! What if I could have confidence about that?!
One of my teachers, LaShelle Lowe-Charde, assures me it's true. So does my former therapist, Steve Davies (may he be blessed.)
If I really knew that and kept that awareness in mind every time I went to share something risky about myself, wouldn't that leave me feeling safe? I would be able to care about others, and yet be like Teflon when it came to caring about the nature of their feelings about me.
In fact, I'm quite sure I would be a more caring person, more able to reach out, because I would actually feel safe.
If I receive praise? Well, that's nice. This other person is having some human need met by my actions. Let me ask them about it.
Getting rejection or heat? Well, okay. This person has some unmet human need. Let me guess what that might be and maybe even give them some empathy if I feel up to it.
Doesn't that sound powerful? It sounds like freedom! It's what I long for and what I'm aiming for.
Teflon woman, here I come!
CANT' HAVE BOTH . . .
September 10, 2022
When I joined the church at age 19, I killed myself off. I mean my authentic self. It was a death of my soul. Excruciating. I was the murderer, and I hated myself for it. But I never left the church. I wanted to get to heaven, and I thought this was part of the deal.
When I took my first class in Nonviolent Communication 28 years later I could finally make sense of it. I had made a choice (unconscious) within a system that was set up thousands of years ago.
The class, taught by Miki Kashtan, was titled, " It's Not Just Me: Bringing a Systemic Lens to Individual Healing." I was introduced to the Star of Life. It goes like this.
Us human beings are born into a contradiction. As tiny, new beings on this earth, we are forced to make a choice. We all make an unconscious choice. Either we can be safe and secure and belong to a community/family/tribe/church, or we can live in freedom and authenticity and in the truth of who we are and live without a safety net. But we can't have both. This is the system, as it is set up currently.
This is cruel.
I chose safety. I murdered my authentic self in order to belong to the church, to be safe and have a safety net, and to maintain my belonging in my family and faith community. This was cruel. But it wasn't my fault, exactly. I was just trying to make the best of the two choices I was offered.
Safety vs. Freedom. Belonging vs. Authenticity. These were my choices. And they are yours, too.
But why? Why can't we have both?! I want to belong! And I want to be myself. I want to be able to voice my opinions and thoughts without fear of being cast out. I want to live in freedom and truth.
I am trying hard to do that now. I mean, I am aiming to express myself, even when I fear the consequences.
It is so hard. I am afraid. I am afraid even to publish this. But I'm going to. I so badly want to reveal myself to the world. And to give you the permission to do so, too.
Here's to getting our needs for belonging and authenticity met - at the same time, in the same place, and from the same people!
May it be so.