Empathy and Vulnerability

I had dinner at my apartment with one of my best friends, who has gone through a lot lately. We were talking and she said, “we tend to hide from the people who know us best. Because they can see us.” And all of a sudden, the pain and the hurt over the past few months made sense. I have been her, and I have written about it. Because being seen when you have been through so much shit feels so fraking painful. It is so much safer to hide yourself than be vulnerable, and it is often with the ones who love you that you hide from. It is so much easier to put on a front of antipathy when you are feeling like your world is collapsing.

judgment self-destruction

Except it really isn’t easier. This has taken a lot of time and self-reflection to get this perspective.  For further explanation, I wrote about it here. It was before I understood that I am worthy of sharing my emotion with people. That by shutting off my emotion to those who love me the most, I could end up with fractured and untimely-ended relationships. Trust is deserved to go both ways. It wasn’t until the past six months that I understood how much I potentially and unknowingly hurt my friends in the past. I wouldn’t let them in. I thought it would hurt too much based on prior experience. I thought I had to be the strong one.  It was all very wrong in every aspect. Learned behavior is such a bitch to change. It was an epiphany of epic portions.

point in life

There is something about being empathetic that engenders compassion, obviously. In the past couple of years, I have somehow become able to control how myself embraces the empathy to create a wall, but still feel the emotion so I can use it almost like a tool. I am no longer crippled by it, but I can sense and try to figure out how best to problem solve the emotion. It’s an interesting development, and pretty cool to interpret. I am truly blessed with this gift, where for most of my life I thought it was a painful burden.

life is all the feels

I think it was when I made an unconscious decision to be seen and my presence known that this mindset shifted. It was no longer about me. It never truly was. It was my decision to step up to my value as a human being and a person when things started to shift in my life. I am gifted with a variety of leaders in my life, but I am stepping up to the Viper, taking flight, and starting to become my own leader. It’s not a role I ever thought I’d be playing, but here it is. It is time to step up. Step up to leadership and responsibility, in spite of how terrifying it is. It is time to be me. Whole-heartedly and with passion. Fear be damned because it’s my time to be bold. It’s my time to grow into myself, again.

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Vulnerability – Part Deux

I have been playing small with everything in my life for months now. I thought a contributing factor was the accident, but it was going on before that. It certainly didn’t help matters. Maybe I started then to doubt my purpose. Is that why the accident happened? To challenge how much I value the life I worked so hard to achieve? Who knows.

What I can tell you is that even months before the accident, I was coasting. I was “playing” life instead of achieving it. I was inconsistent with almost everything in my life except for a few aspects. Pilates and paddling were consistent. I just read the last section of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and if you haven’t heard of her check her out. Her books not only changed my business, but also changed my life.

As I was reading the last ten pages of a book I all but finished almost three years ago, several epiphanies occurred. The one constant in my life is my family. It is not necessarily my blood kin, as mentioned before I do not really distinguish between them anymore. One person in particular I think has been waiting for me to snap. I don’t mean snap as in implode into a ball of goo. I mean snap back into my true self. Snap back into vulnerability and action. Snap back into being seen again.

don't grow easy

I wrote two essays recently, one about stepping back into my true self via paddling. The other explaining how hard and simultaneously awesome my life is. I used to pretend it was roses, sunshine, and butterflies. At times it was certainly like that, and I realized it was true when I was being vulnerable and being willing to fail. I was out of integrity by continuing to tell the story of how my life was everything I wanted. Integrity is one of my core values. It’s one of the reasons why I broke my co-dependency and moved. I felt like a fraud. By telling the real story, the good, bad, and the painful I was taking another step towards being my true self again. It was hard to hit the publish button, and to let people see the struggles of my real life. It was brave and courageous. It was real. And the response was amazing.

Actions in proportion to fear is what determines progress.

One of the epiphanies I had after reading that section helped me clarify something I haven’t been able to identify for months. I stopped being seen. I went back to almost being invisible, but not quite. Because despite not accomplishing much in many months, people still look to me at times. It’s not as much, and it shouldn’t be. I have not become an asterisk. Even after I haven’t accomplished much with any of my passions in a long time.

One might ask why that is. It is the value I bring to the communities I am involved with.

This may be selfish, but I don’t want to become an asterisk. I want to be seen and be the example for people. I just realized that I want to strive to be “this is what happened to her, and this is how she rebounded to be even better”. So people realize that you can crash and burn, and come out a bigger badass then before.

I look back on when I was really rocking it with all aspects of my life. and what was different. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time trying to pinpoint what was different. I was different. I was bold and daring. Ready and willing to fail forward as often as necessary. And I did, repeatedly. I swam paddling when trying maneuvers; failed in writing, and failed repeatedly and often with my business. Until I got better and achieved the momentum necessary to explode to be seen for the badass I am. It was an incredible feeling of accomplishment and joy. It was something I did it. I showed up. It might not have been pretty and I might have been wet, but I showed up.

What happened? A combination of things, and all of them referenced in the Gauntlet if you’d like a more in depth understanding of it. The underlying cause? FEAR. And Self-worth.

that is pain

It was like a 2×4 to the face. As Brene Brown says (I’m paraphrasing), “there is nothing as uncomfortable or heartbreaking than standing outside of your (my) life looking in and wondering how I got to this point?” What happened to the courageous woman who broke through the reinforced concrete barrier of being seen?

Life did. I didn’t realize how much I had shrunk back until we were talking about it with one of my best friends today. I still don’t know why the accident caused me to shrink back into self-conscious and low self-worth again, and it’s something I will puzzle out. It’s another piece of the deeper reason behind all of this.

The realization took my breath away with all the implications yet to be uncovered. But it is also an epic relief. I can fix this. This is something I can now tackle. I will be vulnerable again with failure and imperfection.

magic in water

Paddling is my outlet for this. THAT is what I was missing all those months. The challenge, the fear, the action, and then the reward. Of doing something that provided me with such passion, clarity, and sense of fulfillment. A phrase I heard used today is perfect. Listen through the fear, and I’m going to go one step further and then act on the fear. This is why paddling is so important to my psyche. It’s the physical manifestation of working through listening through the fear. It’s about setting that challenging and rising to meet it, and therefore increasing my self-confidence in the process. By doing so, you are raising your own bar of expectations to the level of excellence in your life.

Grief – Revisited

This has been a tough and emotional week due to the loss of a family member, one of my best friends mom passed away.  She was really like my mom as well. I no longer distinguish between blood and chosen families, they are one because they all have significance in my life. I have been numb for most of it, and still haven’t processed it all yet.  The crash hasn’t happened yet.

The funeral/viewing was yesterday. The family decided to have a private viewing where only a few were invited to come, and to spend alone time with Donna. It was more intimate than any viewing I had ever been to, and I think I finally understand the originally intent of a viewing. It’s not meant to be a mass of people going up to the deceased, and paying respects for a split second. It is one last time for closure, and to spend time with them privately that you might not have had a chance to do so. It gave me an entirely new perspective on funerals. I took my time with her. I spoke with her, and expressed my gratitude for her and her family accepting me as one of theirs. I also expressed my concerns, and to send her strength to her family that could use her fortitude. She was one of the bravest, most sassy, and stubborn women I have ever known. The service was informal, and kept as “light” as possible. With mingling until 1:30, and then there were eulogies given. It’s what she would have wanted. It was perfect. It was Donna. The room was filled with pictures, memories, and moments in time that were captured and shared by her husband John and other family members.

happiness in my life

She fought until she couldn’t anymore. She gave us all she could give, and went out on her terms. She was ready. It reminded me so much of my Nana and her last day.

I have felt my Nana’s presence strongly in the past couple of weeks. I still don’t know what she is trying to tell me, but I am ready to hear it. Maybe Donna will help, too.

The Universe/God/Narnia has a plan and a reason, and sometimes that reason sucks at the time. I started to write an entry about the fluidity of friendships, and it has morphed into this. There are a number of friendships in my life that have become distant for a myriad of reasons, and some have already started to be mended. Life happened, choices were made, and we were all in pain for different reasons.. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself first because you are not capable of taking care of others. Learning that lesson this year was quite painful and hard. The grieving process has brought us closer together again.

grief is

It still hurts. All of it. I am sure it will hurt more in the next couple of days when it really settles in. I have cried plenty. I started crying at 9:30 yesterday morning and continued periodically until we left the funeral home at 2. I even sent a text to one of my best friends saying, “it’s too early for me to be crying.” She said, “Love. and it’s never too early to start crying.” I am crying now as I write this.

lauren funeral

It was not that long ago when I rarely cried. And never in public, except for once.  It’s being vulnerable, real, and present. It’s about letting it all in, and then letting it all out. I held all my emotion in for so long because I didn’t think I was worth the opportunity to express my emotion in public. People bond via emotion, and I am realizing while writing this that Grief brings us together. If the silver lining is that this brings more amazing people into my life, and relationships to mend, I’ll accept those gifts.

Sense of Self Returned

Since the accident there have been a number of things that have been taking away. It is much more than I initially thought it was. The greatest loss I had, besides the actual car, was my inability to paddle a river.

Nature in general is my go to mental reset, and always has been. However, since I found paddling that became my instant happy place. Even going through whitewater, it’s better than any day anywhere else. When the accident happened, I lost my go to mental reset. They were worried about the twisting, and the possible implications of hitting my head on a rock. Which is entirely possible situation because I’ve done it.

Today for the first time since March of 2017, I got to paddle my favorite creek. The Tohickon, or as we call it the “Toh”. It’s a 3 mile Class Three paddling difficulty. I had been out paddling maybe four times since the accident on little local runs, and they were wonderful. However, they weren’t whitewater.

I was so excited this morning that I was jumping up at down at Presenter’s School this morning. As it actually became time to get on the river, I was getting more and more nervous; I didn’t see my normal crew, but I did find another group to paddle with. They are one of the best communities out there. Shout out to the Philadelphia Canoe club for always been awesome.

Apparently paddling whitewater is like riding a bike. Once you have a depth of skill, your muscle memory takes over. I nailed every rapid and every line I wanted to for the most part. The water wasn’t that pushy and it was glorious day. It truly was me stepping back into my true self, and it’s the biggest step I have taken so as I claim my life back. Hours later and I’m still pumped about that run. It was exactly what I deserved, and I’m so glad my PCC crew and Grink were there to encourage. After the first rapid when I hit the tight eddy, I knew I was golden. It feels so right being back in my boat, and finding something else that I lost. Sense of self returning one boat length at a time.

Adulting – Lonely and Worth It

Since I talked about this with a friend of mine, I have been meaning to write it. I just didn’t yet. Because that means it’s real. It means I am becoming an adult. I will be the first to admit it is damned lonely and scary being an adult as a xennial. That is the weird generation in between Generation Y and Millennial. I am by definition a millennial (the last year), but I don’t define myself as one.

This is not because of the stereotype that incorrectly states they are lazy, bored, or entitled. They do not want to be stuck like Gen Xers, with a mountain of debt and for the first time ever worse than their parents. I don’t define myself as Millennial because I knew what the world was like before readily access to the internet, cell phones, texting, and constant social media presence. All of those things came later. It was glorious and free time to grow up.

mud

I will take the mud any day 🙂

Xennials have a different issue that might have real world implications later on. They are stuck between wanting to stay in the mindset of it’ll all workout and actually becoming an adult.  They have created a verb – Adulting. I will be the first to admit that being an adult can suck. Having to choose being participating in one of my passions and paying the bills for the first time was a big wake up call. In that moment, I want to run screaming and say “no, I can’t help you. I’ve got the Tohickon this weekend”. My adult brain says, “this your craft that you deserve to learn. The Tohickon will be there, and you can do it Saturday.” It literally hurts, but I know it’s the right decision.

There are people I know who choose to not be an adult, and I have no judgment for this.  It took me a long time to decide to be an adult. What I do not understand is their inability to see how painful it is for other people who are trying to grow up, and they ask unknowingly to join them in their life choice. It is not noble. It is not bold. It is a life choice. And it is okay to do so.  Sometimes I kick loose and do the same.

I never thought that being a 36 year old striving to be an adult would be lonely. But it is. More than I would like to admit my friends (and sometimes I) stay out too late and drink too much. There is no judgment in this, because I have also done those activities in excess. I am over that part of my life, though. My old self sometimes like to claw its way back, and say “you are this lifestyle. You don’t deserve better.” It is my job to say, “no, I’m choosing something better. Something that is going to enrich life”.  And sometimes I fail at that job, which is okay, too. You can live your life, have fun, and be responsible, too. They are not mutually exclusively.

The goal of life is to become an adult and own your life. Instead of your life owning you. I am striving towards that goal every day, but doing so does require becoming an adult in not only income but mentality. In the past six months. I have had to choose between a lot of things I love to do, and making sure I can cover my expenses. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, and make choices you don’t want to make out of necessity. They suck every time. The most painful is limiting time with people in your life that just don’t serve your lifestyle anymore.  I miss them for a variety of reasons, and it’s a choice.

Personally that is the hardest part. When I realized my circle of friends, many I would consider family, do not have the same aspirations as you do. What do you do then? You love them where they are at, and this is crucial with NO judgment. You love them, but you end up spending less time with them because they are not in the same place emotionally you are. I still struggle with this. A lot actually. When my old-self and doubt come knocking, I usually response lately with “I’ve got this. I am growing into myself, which does not include you [former self].” I stay in, and am working on developing more friends who want to grow as much as I do. You choose. It’s rather sobering when you think about it. Expect judgment and criticism, and you’ll figure out what boundaries you want to draw.

Going Back to Progress Forward

Sometimes I self-destructively go “back” in my self-development. I revert back to the apologizing, second-guessing, and self-esteem riddled self. And it sucks every time I do. Depending on where my headspace is at, I can pull myself out of it very quickly. Other times, it takes awhile to recognize where I’m at and get my ass out of it.

day stop self-destruction

I’ve been in a funk for quite awhile, and if I was honest it was well before the accident. The accident certainly added to the confusion of where I was going and what my path was. I was lost, and I wasn’t sure how to get out of it this time. It was a dark time, and quite frankly for a number of my friends, too. It’s like we were all going through our own personal gauntlet. I am quite frankly over the being tested by the gauntlet.

This is a mostly free write entry, so if it doesn’t make sense, I apologize. It’s okay if I lost myself for awhile, and my path. The important thing is that I’ve found it again. As most things in my life, it’s been the circuitous route.

me training 2-1-16

Training about my story when I promoted.

The past five years have seen some of the highest highs, as well as the lowest lows. Normally I wouldn’t use such a cliché, and it works in this context. Interestingly enough, they have sometimes co-mingled.  I have bled, cried, read, written until my hand couldn’t write anymore, confided and trust more than I had the previous 15 years combined. I had grown into the leader and person I am meant to develop, and I have shrunk back to the self-questioning person of my early 30s. It got too real. I was becoming known. For the first time probably ever, there was expectation. From both myself and others. Instead of growing into that expectation, I shrunk back into the role of self-doubt and mediocrity.

The reality and thought I had banished was that fraking onion of self-worth. Another layer of niggling thought, “who am I to deserve this?” This reflection and subsequent self-judgment came from a number of sources: people reaching out to me for help with their business, the accolades, and recognition. My own apartment, which for the most part remains undecorated. All of which originated my fake deep down true that I didn’t think I deserved. Even though I worked my ass off to achieve all of those things.  Somehow in my mind, it didn’t matter. I still didn’t believe I was good enough. For much of anything, really.

I figured out all of this b.s. was a self-worth issue about two month ago. Something I thought I had buried and was free from. Nope. Complacency brought it all back. The comfort of knowing I did it, and thinking I could forget habits that let me achieve greatness. It let doubt sneak back in, and fester like a spot of mildew on your bath mat that soon covers it with slime.

beat-her

I brought out the bleach and scrubbed it clean. Going backwards and cowering back into something you thought you had defeated sucks.  Examining and getting ready to “out” the coward is one of the best feeling I think I’ve had to date.

Family

My definition of family has expanded quite a bit the past several years. Anyone who truly knows me, I will do anything for my family, both blood and chosen. I am blessed to have developed many friends who have turned into family. And sometimes those people come from the most unexpected of circumstances.

I would say I have four types of family: blood, Arbonne, paddling, and everything in between. They have different places in my life, and I do not discriminate with whom I love. They span all genres, sexuality, and age.  I give readily, but rarely do I give myself.   I do not trust easily, and I readily hide myself because I thought it was easier that way. This is an error in judgment, and it’s a constant battle I fight with myself.  To be worthy of giving that trust.

genetically related

In truth, it is easier that way. It is much easier to show façade rather than to tell the whole truth. To pretend everything is perfect. Be the highlight reel for people.   One of my best friends says that “he has barely scratched the surface of me” after being friends for more than a decade. But it’s a lie. I love my life, and it’s not perfect. They are not mutually exclusive.

One of my consistent challenges is to be vulnerable. I am certainly not unique in this aspect. I would go even further to say a majority of people when they broke down to the basis of their fears that it would rank very highly. We seek perfection in our society. I have written about this, and I am going to extrapolate further. It is much easier to portray the lie of perfection, then to tell the actual truth behind the mask. The truth is almost without exception, messy and multi-layered. There is no easy “fix.”

My closest family members are the ones I trust without question. The ones who ask and push the questions that no one else wants to ask when necessary. They push us out of our comfort zone into a whole new reality and space. Which is often terrifying, because we have often lived and believed our own lie for far too long. They help us confront the truth, which is often deeply buried and disturbing.

being broken

Blood family doesn’t often push that boundary for some reason, at least not in my family as of late. I am still puzzling all this out, and everything is becoming clearer.  Not crystal yet, but it’s getting there. Our own minds are often our biggest obstacles. As one friend of mine put it, “Stop using your big, beautiful brain and just do it.” Put your faith in trust, as terrifying as that may be.

I am working towards putting my trust in consistent vulnerability, and making myself known to everyone I love. It is scary. It is messy. And the effort and pain is worth it. I am worth it. It is one of the hardest aspects of personal growth I am pushing through. It’s another step towards my progress to being the best me.

I am the vault for people. People tell me things that they don’t tell anyone else, and I value that trust as sacred. I have rarely put that amount of trust into other people. And that is where one aspect of my self-worth breakdown is. When people trust you enough to tell you their innermost thoughts and feelings, you are worthy of doing the same for them. You not only deserve that amount of trust that people place in you, but they also deserve the same from you. It is not a burden to them. I will repeat because I have felt this way my entire life: it is not a burden to them. It is a comfort of reciprocity.   If there is not the same amount of trust, they will pull back from you. And it hurts. I have only now just realized why the pull back happened. Loyalty and trust must go both ways.

relationship detective

Thanks to those who haven’t moved on, and I understand the ones that did.  🙂

I have lived most of my life in fear of being hurt by trusting the wrong people. It is a path I am striving to banish. If you find this true about yourself as I have, and you realize the pedestal you place yourself on both undervalues your needs as a human being and the gift of your truest self to others.

PTSD (not military) and Acknowledgment

I was in a major car accident in late March, and since then I am so grateful to be alive. I walked away with injuries to my neck and upper back, but I walked away from the worst accident I’ve been in. One of my best friends right after the accident suggested that I will probably have PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Which, of course, I blew off.   I will explain below.  I just realized, months later, that I do, indeed, probably have PTSD.

Let me be clear I am NOT comparing my PTSD with those who are, or have been, in the military. I know several people both active or former military that served in the military and some of them have PTSD, and that is fundamentally different from mine. I could not imagine how haunting some of the circumstances they have been in would be for me. Both have lasting affects.

Stolen from Facebook. I don't know who, but I love it.

I didn’t think I had it.  I didn’t process much emotion during this whole ordeal except a few times. I thought I had dodged at least bullet out of this ordeal. It wasn’t until I got and read the police report that it sunk in how close it was. If the light had changed a second sooner, it would have been a full on t-bone collision.  And I, most likely, wouldn’t be alive to write this. However, one of my best friends said something to me the other day that struck so deep that I didn’t even give a half smile. I gave a full on grimace. He was listing my injuries to a police friend of his and at the end “and almost had to see a psychiatrist due to not being able to paddle [be on the water] for months”. I not only gave a full on grimace, I stood military straight and whispered, “that is not funny. It is not remotely funny.”

To which he responded, “because it’s true.”
I said, “yes because it’s true […]I also added, ‘he could have killed me for no reason’.”  The first responder in Bath, Pennsylvania, who wasn’t responding to a call almost killed me.

As I said, I am very grateful to be walking and talking considering the damage of the accident. But for an extensive period of time (almost 7 weeks), I lost my mobility, my car, and independence because I had to bring a friend to evaluate used cars for me to replace my destroyed, beloved Honda Fit. I am not writing this to gain sympathy. I am writing this because for the first time since the accident, I am realizing that my trauma goes much deeper than just my physical injuries.

fb car pic

Taken the night of the accident.

For the over 150 of my friends on Facebook who have seen the picture above and wished me well either through a comment or private messaging, I thank you. It meant more than you know, especially because I didn’t post it to my timeline.   It was one of the most humbling and amazing experiences of my life.

I thought PTSD was something only soldiers, first responders, and the like suffered from it. I still really don’t know what it means to me because I just figured out I had it. I just know that people with it shouldn’t feel alone and/or shouldn’t feel like they can’t talk about it. It happens, it’s real, let’s acknowledge it.

Perspective

I spent the past week teaching a group of autistic kids nature and photography in my beloved upstate New York in Lake George at Camp Moki run through an organization called Camp TLC. This camp is all about love and giving not only the kids, but also the parents time together in a safe environment. This was my first year teaching there, and it was life changing to say the least. I’m excited that I’m teaching at least one more, and possibly two this year. Shameless plug, Camp TLC that runs this and three different camps throughout the country.  Go check them out:  Camp TLC.

doodle

This last day of the month is one of my favorite days because there are so many qualifications, promotions, and awards being celebrated through people kicking it in their Arbonne businesses. I absolutely love congratulating people on their different achievements, more so than my own. It was amazing as always, but it felt different.

When the time came to relax and finally go to bed, I just sat in front of my computer processing the events of the past week. It hit me what was different. I was different. They changed me as much as I helped them. For my social media posts, I started using #whohelpswho because I knew that it was going to change me. In terms of capabilities of the campers at Camp Moki, they ranged from high functioning to a few of them had a great deal of difficultly speaking and communicating. They were such an amazing group of kids, and they all started to come out of their safe shells by the end of the week. It was one of the most rewarding and awe inspiring things to watch and be a part of. That is why we do it.   It puts life in perspective.

courage-fear-do-it-anyway

We always say in Arbonne don’t judge anyone’s life by the highlight reel that is social media these days. Life is a challenge, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Lacey, another Arbonne consultant, was also remarkably at the camp with her two kids with special needs. One of them is quite disabled with Downs Syndrome, and she barely made it out of the cabin on Monday. Tuesday she was walking up and down the driveway path with her dad in tow. The dad and daughter both went home because it was too much for her, while her older son and Lacey stayed at the Camp. She wrote a beautiful post that described what their family goes through sometimes. You can go to as many classes, programs, and clinical rotations to get an idea of what it might be like to have a family member with special needs, but until you live it, you can’t possibly know the struggle. For those that don’t know, my sister has some special needs. As much as I love her, it’s a tough struggle that my parents are more involved in than I am.  This post isn’t to garner sympathy, just awareness. The more I mature, the more I realize that she is pretty amazing in her own right.

barriers-to-love

My life isn’t perfect and I have struggles with self-worth, discipline, and vulnerability, among others.   The universe conspires in odd and wonderful ways sometimes. I had been pondering for the last month or two about how I just deserved to get away for a few days and regroup with nature. Camp was at the perfect time, and because of the location allowed me to unplug. I never stopped being grateful, but after this past week I will strive to never to take my health for granted. Or my wonderful amazing extended family and friends. I do not think I have ever appreciated what I have in my life more than I do now.

Your life isn’t perfect either. Nor should it be. Struggles with family, partners, finances, jobs, etc are part of the package called life. It sucks at times, but don’t live there. There is always someone who has it worse than you. Bottom line: be grateful for everything you have. The good and the bad.  There’s a reason for all of it.