As a result, I rarely got to truly be myself. I wound up often questioning myself.
So then cancer came along, and changed everything. I found myself saying and doing things I never would have only a few years ago.
My life has been turned on its head.
As a result, I now say a lot more, a lot more openly, and find that people often respond to things I say, but not always in agreement. Often, actually, in disagreement for what they think I am saying.
There are times their comments address the phantoms they think they see in what I say. I bet they always did that, even before cancer, and it was at least partially the reason I kept mostly silent.
The difference back then was that I wasn't clear enough about myself to see what was happening. I would be caught in a storm, headed out to sea, and feel wrong, or helpless to be able to combat what was happening. It would look nothing like it started out to be, but I had no idea how it got where it got to - or how to even get back to anything even remotely close.
The easiest thing to do was to try to avoid situations like those. Inevitably, though, there was just no way to do that, and my avoidance created other issues.
There are times when I feel misunderstood that I feel like I should address what is said. The problem is that there are times others are determined to see whatever it is that they do. No matter what I say, it will only fan their perspective.
I even try to proactively address what I think people will say, but oddly enough, what I say doesn't seem to register. They only hear everything else I said that they disagree with.
This is something that I am now clear happens with great regularity. And it is not just my experience.
How often do you silence yourself? How often are you misunderstood? How often do you compromise a piece of yourself by "allowing" others to steer the ship?
I am fairly certain that most who read this would know exactly what I am talking about, and yet, without even realizing or recognizing it, be the one who does this same thing to another.
It sometimes takes an effort to be able to hear another in the way they want to be heard. People are quick to jump on things that aren't even present.
A perspective serves a purpose. If you are hearing something in a certain way or experiencing something in a certain way, it is serving a purpose. It is fueling some part of you.
Is it "right" or "wrong?" I must be saying that it is one, or the other, right? Otherwise why bring it up?
I struggle with this stuff because I think there is value in the conversation. I am just not sure what the conversation is.
When in the midst of something, it is very much a part of you. What is, and who you are are not only seemingly one, there is often nothing prompting an awareness that you can be separate from what you believe. In that moment, you will fight for the belief you have, as you would for your life itself. Because in that moment, without that distinction, or an awareness of that distinction, it IS life itself. To threaten a belief you have, is to threaten you.
How in the world do we interact with those who feel threatened? We try to allay their fears by telling them that what they fear does not exist. That doesn't work terribly well, does it?
It doesn't help that while they are defending their beliefs, it can feel like our own are threatened. It is a cycle that gets no one anywhere pretty darn fast.
If we could stop thinking of the world as "right" or "wrong," if we could stop thinking about everything in an either/or context, and started to consider things in an "and" kind of way, maybe we would be better able to interact with each other, and more often we would see similarities than perceived differences. As a result, we might be more empathic and understanding and do better at truly relating.
When I share stuff, I would like to think I am sharing some helpful perspective. Instead it is often treated like I am defending an idea and/or saying other perspectives and ideas are wrong.
I am sharing my experience in the hope that there may be some value for others in a perspective they may not have considered. I often share the whole of my experience, which can often include the not so pretty parts.
I show how I can be two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously, while there would be those who would want me to only be in the Positive Camp. It is not realistic, and I think most who think that is the only place to be know that it is a more realistic desire than reality.
I could be wrong, but I think contradicting what feels real can cause more problems than help at times. It is a form of self-denial, and what good can come out of us continuing to deny ourselves of our perceptions?
So where does this fit in when it comes to our interactions with others? I think as long as there is an "and" undercurrent to the conversation it can work. But if your response is to defend an opinion, or because you think the other person is wrong, I suspect there will be times almost everyone involved will be going down a track no one really wants to go. And instead of getting somewhere, there will likely be a derailment and train wreck along the way.
I don't know about you, but I would rather try to figure out how to avoid the wreck, than be in it. That is why I think about these things, and share about them - even in "imperfect" form.
If we wait for the "perfect" approach, there will never even be an approach. If we sit back and do nothing, nothing will change. If we remain silent, the only sounds we hear will only be those of others.
I may be less than perfect, but my times of sitting back are over as I want to hear my voice now. I realize that my voice won't work for everyone, and at times even inspire the opposite effect of what I would hope for, but I now see that is more about the other person than myself.
I also see how a defense for a perspective that isn't valid in another person's eyes can become all the more reason for the person on the offense to believe they have support for why they think what they do.
I am sitting here, thinking about all the different pieces to this conversation. I know I will never "win" when it comes to things like this. I can already hear some of the things people could say to what I have said.
I will gently remind you about that AND thing above. I am not saying these things to say one thing OR another. Saying what I have said does not preclude something I haven't said.
It is difficult - if not impossible - to cover all bases. And yet, there are times we think that not only should all bases be covered, they should be tied up in a neat, little bow.
When will we stop thinking that these unrealistic ideas that we have about how we - or things - should be is the "norm" or what we should aspire to? If we are doing it to be empowered, we are only sabotaging ourselves in this Empowerment Game.
Want to feel empowered? There is nothing more empowering than acknowledging, and claiming, all that makes us human. I know. It may be a hard pill to swallow, as we have been taught otherwise.
If you want to feel empowered, though, try it. I think you will really be amazed at the power you retain when you aren't fighting what is, when you aren't fighting the feeling you aren't enough, when you aren't fighting the idea that you are not in some way good enough.
Try it. You might like it.