Proof It Changed My Trajectory

As I often tell teachers–some of our most important leaders–we can’t always ask our students to take off the armor at home, or even on their way to school, because their emotional and physical safety may require self-protection. But what we can do, and what we are ethically called to do, is create a space in our schools and classrooms where all students can walk in and, for that day or hour, take off the crushing weight of their armor, hang it on a rack, and open their heart to truly being seen. 

We must be guardians of a space that allows students to breathe and be curious and explore the world and be who they are without suffocation. They deserve one place where they can rumble with vulnerability and their hearts can exhale. And what I know from the research is that we should never underestimate the benefit to a child of having a place to belong–even one–where they can take off their armor. It can and often does change the trajectory of their life. 

– Brene Brown, Dare To Lead

I am proof a safe place changed the trajectory of my life. 

You know that saying, “being welcomed with open arms,” I don’t remember a feeling a sense of welcomeness or openness when I was younger. “Constantly on edge,” is more accurate.

It didn’t feel like I had space to breathe. There was a suffocating pressure to be the best and it left no room for error.

When I think back to where I felt safest as a young adult my Highschool band room pops to the front of mind. I knew who I was in that room and Mr. Ponder was a calm dude who didn’t lead with guilt or shame. He genuinely cared for his students and never picked me apart, or anyone else for that matter.

Unfortunately, the band room wasn’t a day in and day out constant. It took twenty-seven years for me to find my safe place and another two years to trust it. I fought the ‘safe feeling’ because my mind and body didn’t know how to respond, and the two who were creating it for me weren’t the people who I thought should be the ones doing it.

Can I trust this soft place to land when it’s being given to me by my bosses? They’re not obligated by blood or marriage, is this how it should be, is this allowed? ps: I get hung up on shoulds and rules. #workingonit

If you’re like me, you need an example of this soft place to land because it didn’t compute in my head for a long time, so here we go:

My first “oh-shit-I-fucked-up-big” moment came about six or seven months into the new job. I was designing an e-blast for The Knot and spent a full week designing and editing content to create the best call to action, possible. Somehow I didn’t notice until after the email went out I had embedded the wrong link and was sending thousands of people to an incorrect event page.

I almost barfed. The word mortified doesn’t cut it. I quickly edited the page the users were being sent to, to represent the event we were advertising for but it took an hour to correct. Accountability is huge in my book so I prepared myself for a tongue lashing and the possibility I’d get fired.

Ya know what I got? “These things happen, you’re human.” If your mouth is gaping open and touching the floor, #twins. I didn’t know what to do or say, all I remember was feeling uncomfortable and wishing she had shouted at me instead. Wtf am I supposed to do with…kindness and understanding?

And fuck, just had another aha-moment. I’d rather be shouted at? In what world does that make sense. I’ve been following a pattern unbeknown to me until this very flippin’ second. Ready for this? Big breaths…

I’ve been striving for perfection and ultimately falling short, which would lead me to fess up to the ‘leaders’ in my life (bosses/parents) and their response was a consistent shouting and/or belittlement before being ‘allowed’ to move on until the next time it happened, and then the same pattern would occur.

Eventually, I didn’t feel better until someone had followed through on their part. And because I thought this was healthy behavior I’m guilty of shouting to release frustration. How sick am I for thinking it was therapeutic? #workingonit #therapyisawesome

This kind of openness to welcome me as is set the foundation for a soft place to land. Maybe some of you reading are thinking, “no, this is an example of your bosses being lenient.” Tell me what good comes from making a person feel smaller? Do you work harder for those type of leaders?

It wasn’t one instance, either. It’s been a compilation of little moments where it would’ve been easy to criticize or put me down and they choose not too. Instead, they reminded me I was enough and worth it. Constantly filling me up with feeling enough and worth it.

This new space encouraged me to read self-empowerment books, get into therapy, deal with traumas I’d buried, and shed a layer of crushing armor. It felt hippy-dippy at first and not for people ‘like me.’

But guess what? My spirit feels lighter, my life feels happier, and I appreciate my relationship with my Hubs ten times more than I did before. My head comes up for air more frequently instead of keeping my nose on the grindstone.

It changed the trajectory of my life. I’m proof.

Ferris bueller quote

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Starved for Joy and Hungry for Gratitude

If you starve yourself of joy, the best way to combat this tendency is to practice gratitude. Here’s what I learned in chapter 4: The Vulnerability Armor of Daring Greatly.

In a culture of deep scarcity–of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough–joy can feel like a setup. Everyone in the family is healthy. No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. i’m working out and feeling good, Oh, shit. This is bad, disaster is right around the corner. 

Hold the phone. Other people do this, too? You mean my secret (subconscious?) way of dealing with the too good vibes isn’t an original plan? You’re telling me this is one of the three ways people evade vulnerability and I fit into one of those damn boxes!?

To be honest, I don’t know if I’m more annoyed that a STRANGER is calling my shit out or that I’m becoming an annoying Brene Brown Superfan. Ooh! Or that I’m not as original or skilled at dodging emotions as I thought an hour ago.

So here are the three types of ways people shield vulnerability.

  1. Foreboding Joy – never allowing yourself to feel joyful because you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  2. Perfectionism – the belief that if you look and act perfectly it will help you avoid pain and /or shame.
  3. Numbing – dulling our emotions, personal feelings, and being a busy-holic to avoid what’s at the root of your own personal problems.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has figured out how to shield vulnerability by foreboding joy.  Except I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until page 119 in Daring Greatly. #smdh

Do you do this, too? The second you feel too happy, too joyful, or too good, you immediately stop, drop, and let your imagination run to all the worst possible scenarios that could jeopardize the joy your feeling moments before your head takes over?

You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand in solidarity (actually I’m raising both damn hands) because I’m so suspect of good vibes I believe I’m actually un-jinxing it by worrying about all the potential bad.

Never do I ever want to be unprepared for ‘what’s the worst that could happen?” Hands down my number one fear. Well, it’s tied for first apparently. Vulnerability is trying to take the trophy.

What makes you feel vulnerable? Give yourself a second to think about it…then scroll to hear mine.

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Photo by Sven Scheuermeier

Love makes me feel vulnerable. I don’t want to love anyone or anyone to love me, that way if something bad happens (divorce, death) it’s easier to recover.

Being pregnant. You’re not out running danger or anyone trying to harm you while 8-months preggers. And it’s quite obvious you’re vulnerable, no hiding it.

Too many good occurrences happening all at once or systematically. Shit like that doesn’t happen to me, the shoe always drops so don’t enjoy it for too long because when it does hit the fan, it’ll be harder to recover.

I used to think the best way to go through life was to expect the worst. That way, if it happened, you were prepared, and if it didn’t happen, you were pleasantly surprised. Then I was in a car accident and my wife was killed. Needless to say, ecpecting the worst didn’t repare me at all. And worse, I still grieve for all those wonderful moments we shared, that I didn’t fully enjoy.

– A man in his early sixties, Daring Greatly pg. 120

I don’t want to starve myself of joy and according to my boo Brown, the best way to turn the tables on foreboding joy is by practicing gratitude.

When I first read the bolded title, I snorted. Like, I am grateful. I don’t live on the streets, in a third-world country or in Russia, so how the hell else am I’m going to be grateful?

Nope, missed the point.

This is how I interpreted it: Yes, there are others in worse situations than you, but you are ENOUGH and deserve to feel gratitude for your own life. She recommends keeping a gratitude journal and making an entry once a day. This way you practice appreciating all of life’s big and small moments.

There are only two days in my entire life that I can whole-heartily say nothing could touch me because I was on cloud nine and truly enjoying the joy. Those two days were my wedding day and when I graduated college.

I don’t want to die and only be able to actually feel only two days of joy out of my entire life. So as ridiculous as it sounds to me, I’m going to start a gratitude journal (better than a food journal, right?) and acknowledge gratitude at the end of each blog.

Keep me accountable 😉

Currently feeling grateful for: the hot tub at my apartment. 
It's the only place the Hubs and I can communicate effectively 
with no distractions.

What are you grateful for today?

Cultivate it.

I play better on Instagram than Facebook but regardless, come be my friend online. 

Shame. What Is It Good For? Absolutely​ Nothing.

Do you have shame? Apparently, we all do according to Brene Brown. Here’s what I learned after reading Brown’s chapter about shame and how to combat those nasty gremlins talkin’ nonsense inside your head. Sharing in case it helps one of you, too. 

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Do I have shame? “Well, I don’t know,” was my first thought after reading the question. On the surface level, I’m not ashamed of who I am, how I got here or where I want to go. There’s a chip on my shoulder I’m a bit proud of and have a deep inner strength that propels me to keep pushing forward–no matter what. All characteristics I’m proud to own.

Shannon in a nutshell; moved out at a young age and paid all her own bills without EVER having to ask for help, got herself through college and graduated with a Bachelor’s despite having to take a year and a half off to deal with the joys of being a Navy wife. It took longer than everyone else, but I paid my way through junior college and figured out how to manage University with loans, internships and a solid year with no day off to get me in the position I am now.

Point blank, nobody thought I could do it and nobody paid my damn rent or filled my refrigerator with groceries, or gave me daily pep talks to counter-act all the other shit that life was flinging at me in those years.

I did it, and then me and my man did it, together. And I’m proud of those years, proud to say we did it alone. The flame that burned deep in the pit of my gut kept me pushing, climbing and propelling myself to the finish line, is what I’m truly proud of about myself because not everyone gets the guts and glory.

But wait, one simple question breaks all that internal strength and leaves me fumbling for words. So, where’s your family? Boom. Instant shame. Well, instant shame mixed with anger, let me explain.

When people find out I’m not from around here (or wherever I’m living at the time) they immediately want to know how I got to the patch of grass we’re now sharing, which is great because I’ve gotten extremely good at giving the watered down ‘me in a nutshell’ version to people.

I’ll get to the end and without fail, the first question is, “so, where’s your family.” Cue anger. “Wtf do they have anything to do with this conversation,” is what I want to say, instead it’s, “oh, we’re spread out. Some live back in New York while others have planted in Florida.”

People are curious, I get it. But can I just control the conversation and only talk about what I want to talk about? Of course not, and this is where I begin to understand shame.

My family couldn’t pay for my college tuition, or give me the movie ‘going away to college’ experience. No dorms. No sororities. No college keggers. I had to pick (what I say in my mind) lower end schools because I couldn’t afford the fancy four-year state universities my friends got to attend. I had to work, pay bills AND try to finish school.

That’s shame.

It sounds silly to write down, but it’s true. The shame gremlins (what Brown calls the nasty voices in our heads) tell me I’m not smart or good enough because I didn’t go to a state university with a competitive football team, which leads to the circumstance of my parents not being able to provide that luxury.

On one hand I’m proud to have hoofed it myself, but on the other hand, I’m ashamed of why I had to hoof it. The reason I’m proud of myself for making it through is the same reason I’m ashamed, strange right?

I don’t want to be labeled, ‘less than’ because of circumstances out of my control i.e. finances. So when somebody asks me about my family after learning of my life’s journey, I assume it’s because they want to know where the hell my family has been through all of this and I instantly feel shame, not because I’m ashamed of them but because the person doing the asking is probably judging them for ‘not being around,’ and that makes me angry, too.

Brown says, “shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience. The people who don’t have it lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: Fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath. Quick note: This is the only time that shame seems like a good option.” 

Okay, Okay, I admit it, I have shame.

According to her definition, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging, and that there are 12 shame categories that’ve emerged from her research.

  1. Appearance and body image
  2. Money and work
  3. Motherhood/fatherhood
  4. Family
  5. Parenting
  6. Mental and physical health
  7. Addiction
  8. Sex
  9. Aging
  10. religion
  11. Surviving trauma
  12. Being stereotyped or labeled

Sidebar: There’s a difference between shame and humiliation (yup, apparently they’re not the same thing even though they sound pretty mutually exclusive). Shame is thinking “I am bad” while humiliation or guilt is “I did something bad.”

Shame holds us back and keeps us from being our best self. My best guess is that because I think less of myself I limit myself to opportunities that seem “too grandiose,” and possibly in other ways I can’t even see because I’m still operating out of shame, fear, AND guilt. WOOF.

How do you combat shame? Talk about it. Give it a name. The more you talk about it the less control it has over your life.

Cheers to hoping that Texan Brene Brown is right, because my damn gremlins are telling me this whole post was a waste of time and it’s not helping anyone, and that I just want to bable about myself…

Cultivate it.

I play better on Instagram than Facebook but regardless, come be my friend online.