It’s Always Okay

“‘It’s Okay’ is a cosmic truth.”
~Richard Bach

If there is one thing that I have learned from this November project that has taken me back over the last few years of difficulty, it is that this quote is truer than ever.

Perhaps it’s easy to say that when nothing absolutely “tragic” has happened.  However, despite the difficulty of this previous year, I am doing okay.  And, last year at this time, after a rather difficult year before that, I still said I was doing okay.

It’s all relative, I believe (and, isn’t that another somewhat famous quotation?).  So far in my life it seems like, even though nothing is ever perfect or what I would like it to be, everything is always “okay.”

And, that’s the truth.

Cynicism is The Opposite of Vulnerability

“I always think that cynics are really romantics who have been crushed sometime in their lives and have put up this cynical mask to protect themselves.”
~Jeff Bridges

Again I’ve decided to post last year’s post in it’s unedited form.  There is nothing more accurate and true that this post about vulnerability, in my opinion.

From The Old Blog, November 15, 2014:

This quotation makes me think of one thing: Vulnerability.
Actually, more appropriately, it makes me think of a lack of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I believe that this quotation is more accurate than most of us want to believe.  Why, after all, are we cynical in the first place?  For me, cynicism is my coping mechanism: Why be serious and face reality when I can be cynical and detach?  Cynicism is also useful for connecting with other like-minded people.  In fact, I am pretty sure Husband and I bond quite a bit over our cynical nature (who doesn’t love a little late night snuggling while watching The Colbert Report???).

If we are all hiding behind cynicism, what are we not revealing to everyone else?  Are we afraid of reality? Are we afraid of being hurt?  Or have we all been hurt  just enough times to make us not want it to happen again.  I don’t really know the answers to these questions.  Regardless, it all comes back to a fear of being vulnerable.

As much as I love being cynical most of the time, I strongly believe that if everyone (not just me) was 1/2 as cynical and 2x as vulnerable, we would connect with each other in a much more authentic and meaningful way.  Cynicism is easy, it is funny, it is relatable, and it is common.  Vulnerability is the exact opposite:  it is hard, scary, uncomfortable, and very individual.  We are all vulnerable for different reasons, yet we all have one thing in common: Vulnerability itself.

As Brené Brown would say, “lean into the discomfort.”  We shouldn’t be so reliant on cynicism.  On the surface it might feel like we are connecting in a comical way, but every time we are cynical, we run the risk of isolating the people we are with.  There is no easy solution to this.  I wish I could say that I would stop being so cynical all the time.  However, I don’t think I am quite ready for it all at once.
Maybe it needs to start with one person – then hopefully it will spread.

I’m Not Always Okay, And I’m Okay With That

“I’m not okay, you’re not okay, and that’s okay.”

~Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Reflecting on last year’s post thta accompanied this quotation, I realized that it still completely stands true: In our world, we have to get better with being “okay to not be okay.”  I struggled with the a lot recently, especially as I went through many internal difficulties but had no choice but to push through on the outside and act like everything was just fine.  In the past 12 months, I’ve lost an important friendship, come to terms with the idea that people aren’t always who or what we think they are, I had to say goodbye to my longtime and cherished blog, I decided to have a baby, and then I’ve made it through a horrible ill first-trimester.  Not all of that was okay… and that’s okay.  It really is.
(I’ve also realized that in the last little while I have drifted away from Brenè Brown and I need to get back into her books and philosophy)

From The Old Blog, November 3, 2014:

Do you ever notice how everyone is always “okay?”  I find it a little sickening, and irritating, and unhealthy that no one ever admits to being not okay.  Sometimes you can tell that people are struggling or having difficulty with something; yet when you ask them about it, they insist that they are okay.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we do this to other people?  I feel that by pretending that we are always coping well with our lives and not facing any challenges, we are perpetuating the idea that it is abnormal to struggle with life’s challenges.  We all struggle with life sometimes.  Some people have more struggles and some people have less.  Regardless, when we constantly feel that the people around us are coping well all the time, it only makes us feel bad about ourselves for not coping well.  And you know what’s worse?  When we feel like we are the only people struggling, we become isolated and we don’t reach out for help.  Similarly, when we know people are struggling and they don’t reach out to us for help (even when we offer), we feel isolated from them in just the same way.

I tried working on this for a while – while I was reading Brené Brown’s books on Shame and Vulnerability.  As Dr. Brown alludes to in her books, we don’t admit to being “not okay” because it feels shameful and we are afraid of being vulnerable.  I tried overcoming my own shame and allowing myself to be vulnerable.  However, there is an overwhelming majority of people who are not ready for this.  We have all been hiding our shame and vulnerability for such a long time that when someone reveals it, we are unsure of how to deal with it – so we push it away like we do with everything else that makes us uncomfortable.  Brené Brown is ahead of her time – and trying out her advice can sometimes make life a little more isolating.

You have to pick the right people  with which to be vulnerable.  There aren’t many people I will open up to and admit that I’m not okay.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them here with me now.  I need to go back and revisit the world of Shame and Vulnerability, I think.  In the meantime, I just hope that more people will read Brené Brown’s books and realize that there is a whole world of human connection that is waiting for us if we would all just admit that sometimes we are “not okay.”

An Old Truth

As promised in my last post, I found the proof of my long-time difficulty with having a Maternal Role Model.

Originally Posted on The Old Blog, November 2012:

… I am desperate.

Desperate for someone to care.

Not just anyone: I have requirements, and they are strict.  A woman, successful, an authority figure, someone who reminds me of myself in some way, someone whom I strive to be like, someone whom I would want to be my friend.

I don’t ever remember a time in my childhood when I got along with my mother.  In fact, I spent most of my teenage years hating her and for a few years I even lived with my dad.  My childhood memories of my mother are all fairly unpleasant: yelling, hitting, pinching, lying, being afraid, feeling shameful… I could go on.  You could say I had a better relationship with my dad, but it still wasn’t great and looking back on it now, it certainly was dysfunctional.

Growing up, I had no one who cared about me.  My parents were newly divorced and were too busy hating each other and making each other miserable to really realize what they were doing to their children.  They provided the necessities and we never wanted for anything physical – we were clothed and fed, we went to school and we did well.  Emotionally, they gave us nothing.  I never felt special or like I mattered to my parents.  My accomplishments always seemed to fall on deaf ears and land in front of blind eyes.  I was a 12 year old girl with nothing to motivate me and no one to encourage me.  And then I became desperate.

I started playing the clarinet in school and I was really good at it.  So good, in fact, that my band teacher took notice right away.  Ms. S., my band teacher was new, right out of university, young, fresh, ready to make a difference in some kids’ lives… it didn’t take her long.  Her attention to my talent was like a single drop of water landing on a cracked desert floor.  I loved it so much, it felt so good – like a drug.  I needed more and I needed it right away.  I excelled in music because it meant I could please Ms. S. – she would compliment me and encourage me, she would invest time in me and talk to me.  I started doing better in school too, because I didn’t want to disappoint Ms. S..  Then 7th grade ended and Ms. S. left.

I started 8th grade and the desperation was back.  I longed for that satisfying drug of encouragement and interest: I actively sought it out.  There she was, a new teacher – Ms. B.. Again, this young, successful, friendly woman filled in the gap and gave me what I longed for so much.  But like any drug, the effects started to wear off and I needed more.  More acknowledgement, more time to talk, more emotional connection, more love.  It was hard to get it all because there was that all-important teacher/student boundary, but I took what I could get and I tried as hard as I could to make her need me in her life the way I needed her.

I had Ms. B. for a few years, but after moving to high school, the relationship became less satisfying because I wasn’t getting everything I needed…  I moved on to someone else… Ms. C., then TK, RJ, AW, and now K.  Some of these relationships overlapped and there were some years without  any meaningful interactions with these people.  Some of them have remained an important part of my life and some, I have no idea where they are or what they are doing today. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they have never really understood the dept of their role in my life.

In all honesty, I never even realized why exactly I needed these women in my life. I just knew that I did.  I would latch onto them because I needed them.  Most times I hated myself for doing it because I didn’t understand why I needed validation and recognition from these people in order to feel good about myself and my accomplishments.  Worst of all, I would need them in my life so badly that I was afraid to tell them how I felt or what I needed.  I was (and am) so afraid of rejection by these women that I would just take what I could get, no mater how small the interaction.  Recently, through counseling, I’ve come to realize the relationship between the lack of a positive female role model in my childhood, with the need I have to seek one out for myself.  What I can’t understand, however, is why I still do this to myself now… 15+ years later.

These relationships are often crippling for me because I choose people who are not always in the best position to give me exactly what I need: They are usually highly successful, busy, hard working women with little time to invest.  I choose people who I want to be my friends, who aren’t that much older than me, who I strive to be like in some way.  I want to please them so badly and I want them to approve of me so highly, that I am afraid of making a mistake.  I scrutinize every word of every conversation I have with these women, because I’m afraid they will find a reason to not like me.  When I don’t feel like a priority to them, I wonder what I’ve done wrong and why they don’t want to talk to me.  I know this is illogical, but emotionally, I can’t help myself.

I have placed these women on the highest of pedestals, and  failure in their eyes is my biggest fear.  Failing in their eyes brings me right back to that lonely girl with no attention from her parents.

So, I am desperate for a relationship that is meant to fill a gap that can never be filled.  I am looking for something that doesn’t exist and can never be exactly what I want it to be.  Until I can figure out how to fill that gap in a healthy, healing way, I will always be desperate.