Name It, Claim It

The Fall season is settling in here in the Ozarks, with crisp mornings and weather that allows me to sleep with my windows slightly open. I love this time of year because it signals to my soul that another season is coming to an end.

The holidays are often a busy time for most people, but I have a small family and I’m not really all about the consumerism of the season. I buy my son a few items: Something he wants, something he needs, something to wear, and something to read. But, when it comes to adult gift-giving – I’m just kinda, like, “Meh”. It seems a little ridiculous to me that I would buy a $25 gift card for someone because it is expected, but then they turn around and give me a $25 gift card because, well, it is expected. And then we both go our separate ways.

Wouldn’t it mean more if we collectively took our $50 and, I don’t know, spent two hours at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, ordering a pitcher of Margarita’s and learning about each other over an endless basket of chips, a large bowl of queso and free salsa? I mean, I would like that…and I’m an introvert for goodness’ sake. Oh well. I’ve never been one for conformity. Why start now.

This little tangent really isn’t about holiday gift giving or free salsa, although it wasn’t a bad introduction, if I do say so myself. It really is about rethinking how we invest in people by giving the gift of truth to them by spending quality time with them.

Remember my post about connection? Connection starts with a common interest – I like Mexican food, you like Mexican food, let’s go have tacos. But real connection – real live down-in-the-dirt-see-the-ugly-cry connection – starts with vulnerability.

I’m not comfortable with vulnerability. I’m the classic “I’m fine” girl. In the past I probably would have ‘I’m fine”-d myself into having no friendships, no true connection, and, dare I say, into an early grave. I have ‘I’m fine’-d myself, especially with this guy, so many times when what I really wanted was to fold myself into his lap with a blanket over my head and just say “I have no idea what’s going on in my brain right now but I feel utterly terrified and alone. Please just hold me.” And you know what…he would have. He seriously would have done this for me. If only I’d let him.

This guy knows a lot of ugly things about my life, so opening up about the dark and twisty thoughts is becoming easier. But, it wasn’t always the case with us. It’s taken nearly thirty years for me to be honest with him about some things that have hurt me and thoughts of what scares me. But, alas, in order to do hard things, you need training wheels. And I’m about to hand you your set.

So – swinging back to gift giving and the previous paragraph – I want you to know I’m going to pull this all together and make my point soon.

Here goes: The greatest gift we can give the people who love us is our truth and vulnerability. If you, like me, are not super-great at this – may I make a few suggestions on how you can start small and move on to the bigger stuff? Here are the easy things to bump you out of “I’m fine-ville”:

  1. Find your home team. Everyone has a home team – the ones you call when you have a flat tire or something terrible happens. These are the people who just get their own glass of water in your house or know where you secretly stash your feminine hygiene items and help themselves. Start with them because they are rooting for you. They might not always agree with you, but they will listen. Start by telling them something that scares you about this crazy world we live in now.
  2. Take it to the mat. It’s no secret I’ve started taking a Gentle Yin Yoga class because I blogged about it for weeks. It’s been more ‘church’ and ‘therapy’ than ‘yoga’ to me but you don’t literally have to take it to the ‘mat’ to employ this step. What I mean by “take it to the mat” is start getting honest with yourself about your feelings. Set daily reminders to get into a quiet space so you can feel your shit. You can do that in a journal, you can do that on a blanket in your back yard, you can do that on a rock bed near a lake on a windy day. You can, if you try really hard, even do it in the car line while you wait to pick up your kids. Wherever you choose to take it to the mat, you will learn what I’ve learned: You can’t be vulnerable with others until you are vulnerable with yourself. You can only stuff that shit for so long before it screws up your brain chemicals. So, admit to yourself that you are scared. Admit that you are lonely, you are anxious, you were hurt by that comment or devastated by that divorce. Admit that you feel these things – and then tell your soul “thank you” for allowing you to be brave in that moment.
  3. Give yourself the gift of permission. In his book “Permission To Feel” author and researcher, Marc Brackett, writes that you have to name it to heal it. So many of us say “I feel like you don’t love me anymore” or “I feel like we are going in two different directions”. Here’s the thing: You can’t ‘feel like’ something. Those statements above in bold? Those statements reveal absolutely nothing about your feelings. Let me rephrase them for you and let’s see how much more impactful they are:

    “I feel like you don’t love me anymore” becomes “I feel lonely because we never talk about important things anymore. I feel unloved.”

    “I feel like we were going in two different directions” becomes “I feel left out. You aren’t sharing your thoughts with me and I feel alone in this relationship.”

    See what I did there? You ‘feel’ emotions. You can’t ‘feel like’ anything. Ugh. I know, right? The second is so much harder because you actually have to give a name to that emotion locked inside. But…I promise you that your relationships with your home team will become so much more intimate. I promise. I ain’t gonna lie though…it will be uncomfortable. It will require you to actually voice what you feel. But again…it is so much better. So. Much. Better.

    So. In summary, as we approach the season of giving…how about you make a deal with a few members of your home team and let them know you are going to be more forthright in naming your feelings. Warn them ahead of time, and buy some peanut butter whiskey* because it might get ugly-cry serious. But once you do it with them it becomes easier to do with….I don’t know 68 people who read this blog and don’t even really know me? Hmmm. There is that.

    I’m curious though: What scares you? Have you told anyone on your home team this? What delights your soul? Do they know this about you? You don’t have to spill the beans about your entire life’s story, but come on…you can tell them that a bottle of wine and a box of Milk Duds makes you feel loved. That ain’t too hard, is it? As always, I’m leaving you with a song by one of my favorite people on the planet, Bobby Jo Valentine. I know you aren’t listening to these because my blog stats tell me so 😉 but can you please take a moment to click this link and like his song? You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

    *Oh, and PS…the only PB whiskey you should buy is Skrewball because the rest of them taste like shit. You’re welcome.