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Archive for the ‘self-awareness’ Category

I am reading a book I highly recommend, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown.  Brown is a researcher and educator that lives in Houston, Texas and her work on shame and vulnerability is both needed and valuable.  View it for yourself in her TED presentation (definitely worth watching!) or begin stepping your way through her words.

As we wrap up Let Me Be Me and transition into our new, punchy website (out in September!), this August Tidbit focuses on what it means to Be Me.  Only certain types of friendships offer us safe places for “me to be me”,  to say what I really think, be afraid, try new things, to disagree, cry, or admit things I am ashamed about…to be authentic.

What does that mean: be authentic?  Brown makes these statements about authenticity:

…in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. (TED)

…authenticity is not something we have or don’t have.  It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live.  Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day.  It’s about the choice to show up and be real.  The choice to be honest.  The choice to let our true selves be seen.

The idea that we can choose authenticity makes most of us feel both hopeful and exhausted.  We feel hopeful because being real is something we value…We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking.

As many of us hope for friendships that are safe and accepting, Brown’s words are an encouraging reminder that we all struggle with authenticity, with vulnerability, with showing our true heart, with allowing someone else to see.  And she’s definitely right about one thing –  it is a choice.

photo credit: Sally H. Falwell

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I was shopping at an antique gallery in Los Angeles when the owner, who I’d know from years previous, came up.

She complimented my hair and called the women surrounding her (clients? employees?) and said, “Look at her hair, it is sooooo cute, isn’t it?!”

Photo Credit: Nina Leen, 1947

I don’t like being called cute, and I don’t like being a spectacle.

She started talking about her new paintings, and what she could do for me and I barely could contain my annoyance.

This is one of the types of women I just don’t like. I don’t want to be around people who aren’t genuine good listeners. And I just wanted her to leave me alone.

I escaped and started browsing for things on my list, feeling vaguely disappointed in myself.

I needed my husband’s artistic ideas before purchasing a few items so I called him and settled down into a corner where the hopefully  no one would find me.

I opened my book and read,

“Marriage partners (or friends) either call order and beauty out of chaos or intensify chaos.” (Intimate Allies by Dan Allendar, which I have not read, but which was quoted in: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women by Dan Brennan, a book I’ve suggested all my friends buy).

Friends notice their friend’s beauty. They call out order; they see goodness.

What beauty was I missing in the antique dealer?

Why couldn’t I see any good in her?

Why didn’t I even want to try?

I was calling out chaos in her.

My husband and son arrived in a matter of minutes.  We started looking around and the owner spotted my son, “Is that your son?” she wanted to know.

“Yes!” I couldn’t help smiling because of how she was smiling. “He is so beautiful.”

I paused.

She was willing to see beauty.

I tried again with her, smiling into her eyes and willing myself to notice order and goodness.

It doesn’t come naturally, but it’s beautiful when we try.

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We are in the middle of a series on tough cookies, those friends who snap and crumble and hurt. So far we’ve talked about the Demanding Friend, the Unaware Friend, the Disappearing Friend. This week, get ready to hear about the Unforgiving Friend.

If you’ve ever been close friends with an unforgiving person you will know. Unforgiveness cannot hide.

Unforgiveness is like a bee sting, it hurts much longer than the initial zinger. It swells and festers and, like a bee sting, hurts the unforgiving one the worst.

Unforgiveness, ironically, turns the hurt person into the initiator of more hurt.

Imagine that Cindy forgot to invite her type A friend, Rilla, to her wedding. Rilla is understandably distraught, hurt, angry. When Cindy apologizes, Rilla refuses to forgive.

Years go by, Rilla carries her offense into their twenties and thirties.

She was the stung, but she’s become the bee, stinging with her unforgiveness. Which woman do you relate to? Cindy or Rilla?

Chances are we’re both.

Imagine if Rilla and Cindy both shared what it was like to be unforgiven and to be unforgiving…

Dear Rilla,

I know I’ve messed up. I can’t believe I failed to invite you to my wedding… but do you know the phrase a bee in your bonnet?

That is exactly how I feel being your friend.  You have simmered and waited and then, zap. You sting.

You haven’t forgiven me and I realize now you probably never will.  It makes me wonder about what sort of privileged pedestal you think you live on.

You are not above the rest of us. Your record isn’t spotless, either.

We both need forgiveness from each other.

I know, you’ve said you’ve forgiven me. But the way you shared it was like a ringed hand to a groveling peasant.

I don’t want to genuflect in your presence, I want to sit at your table.

I hurt you awhile ago, but forgiveness isn’t something you poured out, it’s something you’re hoarding.  How can I be free around Scrouge? How can I laugh with a bee in my bonnet?

Wondering when I’ll be hit again,

Cindy

<>

Dear Cindy,

You hurt me. You didn’t act like a friend should. I was supposed to be at your wedding, enjoying that important day. But you’ve proven you didn’t want me at that special event.

And I don’t think you get it. You haven’t really felt the thing you did wrong.

I can’t move on until you get that. I can’t move forward until you show me you really understand how awful you’ve been.  You can show me with a couple of things

1- tell me you’re sorry whenever I bring it up.

2- accept that I don’t trust you when you say you want to hang out with me unless you prove it.

3- remember to remember me.

Until these are met, I can’t believe you really want to be my friend.

Feeling like you don’t get what you’ve done,

Rilla

<>

Unforgiving people are often unaware. But those who befriend them are not.

Most unforgiving people cannot share how deeply hurt and how deeply bitter they are…toward you. But when they do, WaHATCH out. Their list of demands will snowball into a serf/lord relationship.

That some mistakes damage trust, that some mistakes irrevocably alter friendship is undeniable.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means we refuse to punish, to stand as judge and look down upon our offender.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you will be chummy again, but forgiveness does not socially shun, it doesn’t turn cold when you begin a conversation.

We can learn to cultivate the distance between us and unforgiveness, because it’s a vice that’s tempting to all of us.

Have you noticed how easy it is to nurse unforgiveness, to feed unforgiveness morsels of self-righteousness, to raise it up into a monster, until the unforgiveness is all you have left when you remember that one friend?

Yesterday I locked my keys and my phone in my car. When I walked, humbled, into the coffee shop and asked to use their phone the barrister exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve totally been there.”

She was full of grace.

Later that day our babysitter got stuck in Silverthorne, her car broken down. Since I had endured a full weekend of nursing my family through a horrible bout of fever, I really needed some time off.

Our babysitter had to cancel and I wanted to be bitter.

But my tired and unwell husband piped up, “It’s like locking your keys in your car. These things just happen.”

Jesus said it well, “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

It seems our ability to forgive is directly related to our depth of awareness that we have been forgiven.

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Artist: Robert Indiana

Love as a word, as a theory, as an emotion is hard to describe, but love as it shows up in every day life is a bit easier to grasp.

  • Exclusive Love: You only love me truly if you love others less.
  • Possessive Love: If you really love me, I want you to pay special attention to me.
  • Manipulative Love: When you love me, you will do extra things for me.

Emotional Reactions expecting love from others:

  • Vain: You must see something very special in me.
  • Jealous: Why are you now suddenly so interested in someone else and not me?
  • Angry: I am going to let you know that you have let me down and rejected me.

As humans, we long for others to see how special we are.  We long to not be forgotten.  We long to be seen, accepted and valued.   But when we demand it, often requiring others love us before we love ourselves, we end up polluting our own specialness.

What if, in our friendships with other women, we lessened our efforts to squeeze and seduce love from another human, and confidently asserted our availability:

“You can reach me if you but considered what I am, and you can reach me still whenever you wish if you are content to find me as I am and not as you wish me to be.”

And for others, we could love them like this:

I will try to reach you after considering what you are, and I will patiently and kindly encourage who you are, because I am content to find you as you are and not as I wish you to be.

Adapted from The Genesee Diary: Report From a Trappist Monastery by Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

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We’ve been watching a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh lately. Throughout this 2011 movie, Pooh must struggle to help his friends or feed his rumbling tummy. Piglet makes the decision easy.

Piglet offers to reach into a swarming hive to get Pooh some honey.

When Pooh suggests catapulting Piglet up into the hive, head first, Piglet says the most unbelievable line, “Well, I’m sure you’ve thought this through Pooh.”

He then steps bravely to the board and Pooh teeter-totters him splat into the hive.

Pooh doesn’t apologize, instead Piglet calls out from inside the hive, “I’m sorry I messed up the plan, Pooh.”

Pooh is busy trying to find a large branch to bat the hive off the tree, meanwhile Piglet says, “The bees are really quite friendly as long as I don’t make any sudden movements.”

Then, Wack! Pooh batters the hive to the ground as Piglet genuinely asks, “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Pooh?”

Pooh reassures Piglet it is.

Piglet and Pooh remind me of myself. I can be the self-assured bossy Pooh who uses his friends to get what he wants and the naive and easily persuaded Piglet who sacrifices his personal safety and intelligence to to give his friends what they want.

The over-apologizing is something I did just today at the store, apologizing to people for their inattentiveness, apologizing when someone had to help me figure out the dog food I needed (I mean, come on, Jonalyn, it was their job!).

Next thing you know I’ll be apologizing when someone trips me.

Do you know what causes this abundance of apologies?

The belief that I’m responsible for other people’s feelings or actions.

By apologizing to the person who put my head in the bee hive I’m forgetting the one person I do have responsibility over: myself.

What about you, have you ever apologized to someone for their mistake?

or gotten into a sticky situation to help someone else get something they could have reached by themselves?

 

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Often on Let Me Be Me we propose that healthy friendships are built on healthy foundations.  Am I taking care to make myself healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially so that I bring my best to the friendships I am working to grow?  Remember, the first person you are a friend to is yourself.  And what kind of friend are you – supportive, encouraging and loving  – or a tad bit demanding, perfectionistic and unforgiving?

A quick interview with Dr. Oz about his “Transformation Nation” program reveals five things the healthiest people do.

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Check out his spot on the Today Show and consider what he says…and why the simple things we already know need to be personal and meaningful.

One thing I loved that he says, “There are no boundaries around who gets healthy…There is no reason for you to put a limit on who you are.”

  1. Eat breakfast – set yourself up “right” at the beginning of the day.
  2. Exercise – no short cuts here!
  3. Satisfying sex life.
  4. Make time for self – see self as worth it.
  5. Stress management.

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/3041426/ns/today-today_health/#47336226

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What do you think of when you think of seasonal friendships?

  • A wintery cold ending to a friendship that was once warm and welcoming?
  • The chance to make a new friend?
  • A faithful friend that loved you through a difficult time?
  • The loss of someone special as a friendship dies or breaks-up?
  • The loneliness of a more shallow friendship that never seems to gather depth?

Our blog on female friendships often references seasonal friendships.  We also reference things like healthy friendships, self-awareness in friendships, honesty in friendships, confrontation (yikes!) and ending friendships.  All of these things are important when considering your friendship experiences with other women.

Photo Credit Sally H. Falwell

You Never Know

When it comes to friendship, we may not know what shape a friendship will take. Some women hope for the best, give the benefit of the doubt; some eye women with suspicion and tip-toe carefully into anything that smells of openness, love and appreciation.

Seasons are a mark of change, an idea we can apply to friendships.  Consider your wedding party – would it look any different today?  Think about the friends you hugged and signed year books with at the end of high school.  Or think of the woman that you miss, who you thought you would never be without.

We have a tendency to think that our lives can hold a million close friends, we swear we will keep in touch, we vow to never trust again, we just know that “she” won’t do “that” to me…the thing she has a reputation for in friendships (e.g. One woman told me about the pain and confusion she experienced at losing a friend for no rhyme or reason, but her friend, known to “disappear” suddenly on people, pulled her “Disappearing Friend Act” …and has moved onto another “favorite”).

Do Friendships Have Expirations Dates?

Seeing friendships through a seasonal lens might soften the negative connotation we normally carry with a relationship ending.  We all change – we change marital status, career focus, living location, philosophical and theological beliefs, interests.  We get hurt, we lose perspective, we tire of someone (yes, this happens), we mature, we discover things we didn’t know, we get stabbed in the back.

Endings are as normal as beginnings.  Winter is as normal as spring, summer is as beautiful as fall.  How it happens might be painful, but it also might be natural and easy.

Women, Friendships & Seasons

Women’s friendships can often fall into these types of categories.

  • An “all four seasons” friend is a life-long friend, one who is part of your world not matter the stage of your life.
  • hot and cold friend is a friendship that has its “on” times and its “off” times. When things are good, when things are bad, when things are easy, when someone is in need.
  • A season friend might be one that fits at a certain time in your life.

Life Long

To me, these are friends that fall in the “whole” category – friendships that exist through any season.  These friendships are not bound by location, and they endure differences of age, interests, health, marital, working or financial status.  While similarities might be a strong part of a friendship like this, the actual person is likely the glue.  There is a level of love and commitment that is more focused on who the two women are and less about their ability to relate through similarities.

Time and Place

Friendships based on time and place are very common.  This might be a friendship that begins with similar experience, such as having children in the same classroom at school or a diagnosis of breast cancer.  We easily connect with and share our lives in areas of similarity and what life requires from us at that time.

A friendship of time and place might change as the child grows and his teachers and interests change, or as a health diagnosis betters or worsens.  While the change can be a bit challenging and sometimes feels like a loss – someone you knew and spent time with is now someone you only know from a distance – remember the place in your life they vacate leaves room for another fun soul to enter!

Hot and Cold

These friendships require a lot of openness.  I definitely have had friendships that had a burst of life and then faded out as it got harder to connect or get together…only to be revitalized at a later date.  I have found that women are okay with this type of friendship, but tire of it after awhile.  These can provide challenging situations because a friendship can be emotionally expensive, and the two choose to enjoy the style of their connection, stay silent about it, or one person eventually speaks up and asks for more.

Don’t Forget To Forgive and Grieve

The same way that leaves fall off of trees and warm air turns crisp, our lives include change that causes us to grieve the loss of a friend.  The loss might be from a fallout or a simply a life change that takes friends to different places physically, spiritually, emotionally…any number of things can happen that impact our relationships and leave us with broken dreams (e.g We were going to grow old together!) and dashed hopes (e.g. I trusted her!  I thought I found someone who really got me.”).

If the friendship ends on a bad note with a pile of hurt feelings, grief and forgiveness become all the more important.  It can be extremely hard to welcome grief and forgiveness into our lives because these experiences require willingly walking into painful feelings and memories, but the results ready us for healthy relationships, good emotional boundaries, and freedom from the heaviness of emotions like anger, bitterness and resentment.

What’s Your Story?

Jonalyn and I enjoy our readers adding comments about their friendship experiences.  Seasonal friendships is a topic that is relevant to us all…we would love to hear what you have to say about how you have experienced a winter, spring, summer or fall friendship.

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