Sunday, January 12, 2020

Getting Past the "What-Ifs" - Part Two

If life gave us easy answers, there wouldn't be any heartache, what-ifs, and regrets mixed with relief and the wisdom of knowing we made the "right" decision.

The other day as I was watching one of my favorite shows, I was reminded of the dangers of ruminating about the "what-ifs" in life. One of the funny things about collective consciousness is that it's everywhere and can show up with answers and messages in places you weren't looking for them in. Anyway, two of the characters on the show were having a conversation that ended with the words "two of the most dangerous words in the human language are 'what if.' Other people made their choices and you made yours."

In the moment that I heard those words, I reacted with a feeling of wisdom as I smiled a little in profound "knowing." In less than two years, I've made difficult choices to leave environments that had turned toxic for me. These were environments where I once felt safe, comfortable, cared for, appreciated/valued, and enjoyed. I had made investments in each, grown in these environments, had achieved something within each, and both contained aspects that I did not want to let go of.

One of those environments was my place of employment. The other was my first home.

Of course, for years I had known that it was time to let go of each and take the next steps in embracing a different kind of "what if." The kind that fits and embraces who you are now, who you are becoming, and the different needs that have surfaced as a result of growth.

I let go of my employer first, in the spring of 2018. Since then I've debated about whether I should or could have communicated differently. I've wondered if it would have made a difference, while knowing deep inside that the outcome wouldn't have been any different. After all, I'd observed some co-workers with similar issues communicate in more "forceful," "direct" ways with the same results. And - one of the resolutions I had made after leaving my previous employer before this one was to not escalate disagreements, problems, and frustrations in this way. I had wanted to be a better person. Unfortunately, I think that some people will make choices to either intentionally or subconsciously take advantage of those who want to "be the better person."

So, while I'm aware that people around me made their choices that led me to ultimately make mine, I now realize we were in two different stories. I wish that other people's choices had respected me as a person who likes to make her own choices, who doesn't want to be controlled, who values open and honest communication from the get-go. Yet, I also understand the other version and that people are ultimately people, with their own flaws, Achilles' heels, inner struggles, and difficulties. Someday, I hope everyone can move past their inner demons, find purpose, happiness, and the ability to breathe.

At the end of 2019, I finally decided to let go of the home I purchased when I was 31. It was a good first home that I had made several upgrades to in the past three years. However, the noise from the neighbors, the shared walls, and the changes to the neighborhood had become a constant source of irritation. As a quiet, reflective and sensitive person, I need my home to be my sanctuary. This one no longer resembled anything close to that. Despite the sharp increase in CO home prices, I knew I needed a different set-up. That meant letting go of the work and progress I'd made and having to face the reality of starting over on some things in a different house. But as soon as I stepped into my new environment, I knew I had made the "right" decision. It was the same sense of elated relief I felt on the first day of my new job in 2018.

Yet, if I want to be completely honest that second decision of "letting go" has been easier in the moments afterward. I've had to learn that unraveling your heart from a place where you invested your heart in the first place is a process. I'm not sure if I'll be able to do that again. While I'm reminded by one of my own character's voice that "there are no destinations. Only steps. And time," I don't really know if I'm moving. That's the hard part of choices. You make them without knowing what's going to happen. You can't see if you're moving forwards, backwards, or simply stuck on a wheel that gives you the illusion that you're going somewhere.

That part comes afterward, as your choices mingle with others. Producing effects that no one can see until they become a lesson, a chapter, an obstacle, a blessing, a way out, a revelation, or one of the countless moments that make up our existence.

The thing about "what-ifs" is that all choices contain them. And while each of us will probably spend moments of our lives wondering about the effects of alternative choices, the paths and "what-ifs" we made were chosen for good reasons and with the knowledge we had at the time. And, if we had to make choices to respect our boundaries and needs, the real "what-ifs" are the costs of relinquishing who we are and need to be.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Story in Progress

I don't know what you're thinking

Out there alone

Or with everyone you claim

Is important to your breath

But what is this now?

Are you here

With me

Speaking whispers of yesterday

That day, that look, that smile,

That time when you

And I


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Release and Goodbye

As I approach my 42nd birthday this fall, I've been doing a lot of mental and emotional processing. You could say I've had a lot to process the last four months, besides the normal reflections of middle-age. This is the time where people normally decide to either start living or continue the process of figuratively dying. Middle-age is also a time where people usually decide who they're going to be for the second half of their lives, evaluating what's worked, what hasn't, and what they need to do to embrace the changes they've decided to become. Some of us more reflective types have been doing that for decades, but why not take the time to do it when it you've accumulated enough wisdom to make it seem more real?

That's what I'm going to attempt to do here. Those of you who have been reading this blog for years or who have gotten to know me well enough in person realize this "reflection thing" is a core part of who I am. You also know how easy it is for me to oscillate between choices because I see, value, and am so many different things. Well, approaching 42nd birthday aside, for the past four months I've been processing a lot of mixed emotions and difficult choices. There's been resolve, resolution, relief, frustration, longing, sadness, some happiness, some regret, confusion, a desire to hold on to people, a desire to let go of people, a desire to let go of falsehoods, identities, and tasks, a desire to be honest, a desire to keep being the better person, self-examination of my contributions to the dynamics, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and hurt. A lot of hurt.

During the past four months, I left an employer I didn't really want to, but I let go of a job and an environment that had become toxic for me. I'd felt for years that it was time for me to move on, but someone always ended up leaving before I decided to put it in writing, or a big project and a lot of work was looming, or I was needed to do something else or support someone else.....everyone else except me. It's a long-winded way of saying I made decisions based on my perception of what others needed, not what I needed.

I also tolerated years of mistreatment - from bosses, peers, subordinates. When my fuse would finally start to spark, it was too much too late. And people didn't understand why nice, overly compliant, overly supportive, and overly agreeable me would be any different. Actions I took seemed unacceptable for me, but they certainly were acceptable for everyone else. I could be yelled at, demeaned repeatedly (often in front of others), misunderstood, interrupted, dismissed, and talked to condescendingly without consequence. But if I even started to resemble those things, it was game over. I didn't feel human anymore. I couldn't agree, I couldn't disagree, I couldn't take the time to think. There wasn't any support for my mistakes. In fact, it felt as though there wasn't any support at all. I was a punching bag and a dumping ground, and as long as I continued to fulfill those roles everything was okay.

Others who worked with me (some of them not even in the same department) pointed out my unhappiness and mistreatment long before I was willing to admit it to myself. I'm grateful for that and for the opportunity to take other jobs in the organization, even though I ended up not following through because of the nature of the job itself. I wanted to stay and I wanted to work with the people I would have worked with, but I didn't want to end up with a potential misalignment with my true interests and the responsibilities of the position. I'm also grateful for those who forgave my less than ideal (re)actions, and for the talks that validated my perceptions of what was happening. Thank you for offering to go to bat for me, even though I wanted to have the conversation myself with the people who were at the core of my feelings of betrayal and hurt. I never did have that conversation. I always felt as though I were walking on eggshells and I let my desire to please/avoid confrontation override the need to be honest and to honor myself.

I wanted to be honest, but the trust was long gone. And I didn't know if it would come back. Three years ago it was blown apart and I was hurt. Not the first time, but I was hurt to the point where I couldn't speak because what I felt as a result was so overwhelming. I couldn't process or identify the swirl of negativity that had happened. I knew what had happened was bullying - mobbing to be more exact. But I chose to say nothing because I wasn't sure if it was part of some sort of misguided, bizarre ritual that took place with everyone, if I had become a target because true to my conscientiousness I was a "model employee," or if this was retaliation for thinking for myself and choosing not to go along with what someone else wanted me to do at the time. Plus, when I'm shocked, uncomfortable, or a past trauma is triggered, my mind and entire body freezes. I lose my words, can't make decisions, and I can't act. I suppose a professional might call this an effect of PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, but since it's been with me since I can remember I consider it "normal." I had made a mistake, maybe several, yes. But the instructions I was given were to try and someone else would fill in the blanks, if needed. I didn't realize I was being set up to fail and then publicly humiliated for it, among other things that I did not have knowledge of and/or were beyond my direct control. At that moment, I stopped trusting. I stopped being completely honest. And I stopped wanting to continue trying.

I knew from life experiences that people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt or they're carrying angst they don't know how to process in a healthy manner. I also knew at that point I started to disengage and thought of leaving. I started to line up possibilities. I was ready to leave, but I didn't because someone else beat me to it. And once again I chose to put the needs of others before my own. Looking back, I should have left anyway; regardless of what my absence would have meant, because I was only prolonging the inevitable. I carried the hurt and the shock of that experience for three years. I wondered why someone would choose to publicly humiliate and berate someone for making mistakes without clear direction. If you set someone up to fail, it isn't fair to punish them for not meeting your expectations. Why not use it as an opportunity to coach or mentor in private? Why not ask why certain directions and choices were made, and then explain politely and constructively why other directions and choices were more optimal?

But as humans, we often model what we've been shown or what has been done to us without realizing we're doing the same thing to others we told ourselves we wouldn't. After that "incident," I was no longer able to trust some of the people I needed to trust; people I was supposed to be able to trust. So for three years I wasn't fully authentic. And of course making that type of decision cost me a piece of who I was. And the job and its environment started to mirror the same experience I had separated myself from in 2011. It was more or less the same lesson given from a different angle. When will you listen? You matter. Your needs matter. What do you really want? It matters. Not what others think or what they want you to do. It's about you.

It seems selfish, but the truth is authenticity is the foundation of being able to give. And if you sacrifice your passions, your needs, your wants, who you are, you simply can't be anything to anyone else. And those who are around you or asking and needing things of you because of a mask, shouldn't be there. It's not healthy and it's better to let go.

Suffice it to say that letting go of an employer I didn't want to (but had to) is only one of the changes I've been processing. As my forty-first year of life comes to a close and my forty-second one begins, I'm hoping I can take better care of myself. I'm hoping I no longer tolerate toxicity and actually stand up when it happens, not when it becomes engulfing. I'm also hoping I learn to say "you hurt me. can we fix this if you're able to give me what I need." If not, I release and forgive you, but goodbye.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Reinvention and Time

When it’s time to let go, it may not be obvious that the string has unraveled at its ends, or the stream has been trickling in a different direction. We often look at our surroundings, at our present moments, and process that we’re here and that here is all we can know. Sensing change and the need for change is different for all of us. Some of us get a feeling long before we decide to walk a different path – mostly because the path hasn’t appeared yet. Some of us experience dreams that later become symbols and re-enactments of the decisions we’ll eventually make. Others find ourselves having seemingly random conversations with those whom we share a karmic connection from the past and those who serve as reflective guideposts along our journeys. Sometimes we get all the above – as if the universe and our higher selves are trying to push instead of pull those who are particularly inclined to become content with what is, rather than what has the potential to be.

I believe karmic connections either emerge or blatantly announce their existence through reflections. At times those can be pieces of yourself seen in another, whether those pieces are current or are those left behind in exchange for a different life. Of course, we all share connections with each other – the shared experience we call humanity makes us all potential mirrors. But sometimes those uncovered similarities we share make us realize there is something deeper at work – that our reinvention process does not occur solely in a cocoon.

Many of us possess an awareness that time does not consist of a straight line. Past, present and future are simultaneous, interchangeable, and constantly in flux dependent upon our choices – both individual and collective. Synchronicities that “shouldn’t” be there can help us catch a glimpse of this phenomena, but more often than not synchronicities are puzzles of truth meant to steer us in a direction we were doubtful we should take or help our “thinking” side merge with what we already felt was real.

The pilot of our experiences is always us – not a mystical being, not someone else, not someone we admire or fear, or someone who has temporary authority over what we do. Who we are is up to who we want to be. No one controls our destiny, but our sequential choices reflect what we value, what we’re willing to accept, what we’re willing to exchange, and whether we want to risk the time and potential ups and downs of visiting who we really are, separate from what we do and what others have come to expect us to do.

Perhaps a piece that was us continues to pilot the plane. And although the plane will land safely, the choice of whether to exit or continue the ride is dependent on the degree of pain one feels over leaving versus staying. We often ask ourselves how much is broken and whether that brokenness is worth continuing to live with. We also often ask ourselves if the person we’ve become (or becoming) is the reflection we want to give to others. If those answers are no, perhaps we ask if we’ve buried or not fully committed to a piece of ourselves we’d rather be. If that answer is yes, we disembark, leaving behind pieces of our reflections and releasing their imprints to a turned-backwards place.

Our pilots take on many identities. They are fragments, strewn like leaves. Seeds blooming in another’s soil, they can become flowers we once traced with our fingertips and embraced with our nose’s skin. They can also become blackened shadows, a set of wilted petals strewn beyond the zigzag of time once called “Me.” Which ones do you want to leave?