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Changing Directions

Direction

I’m sitting here in my favorite new writing spot – a newly remodeled Starbucks. I love the atmosphere here and the feeling of warmth as my latte hits my belly. I spent the afternoon with a pit in my stomach that has been occuring more often lately than I would like. I haven’t figured out yet where this feeling is coming from and decided some time spent writing about it may help me sort it out. I was talking to my coach a couple days ago and mentioned this uncomfortable feeling. She asked if it is more of a dread feeling or more of a feeling like I’m going to puke because I know something I am about to be involved in will be really big and impactful, and also scary at the same time. At the time I said that it is more of a feeling of dread, although I didn’t know exactly why I was dreading what was coming up. On this particular day, it was a meeting with my supervisor. I told myself I was going to practice being grounded and focus on that during my meeting so I could feel more confident. The meeting didn’t turn out so well.

My boss started out asking me a couple of questions to which I did not know the answers. Her reaction was judgmental and demeaning and that set the tone for the rest of our meeting. Practicing ground and center went right out the window and all I seemed able to focus on was how I once again didn’t know enough. I wish I could stay that I was able to use positive self-talk and quickly get myself back in a good space. Instead, I cried. I am not a fan of crying in front of other people, and especially when the other person is my boss. She asked me what the tears were about and I told her I don’t feel like I will ever be able to meet her expectations because I have no idea what they are. I also told her I have no idea when she is happy with my work, angry with me, disapointed in me, or pleased with me because I only see her a total of twice per month. One hour per month I meet with her alone and her comments are often ripe with criticism and void of praise, and then I see her one other time in a leadership meeting with about 15 other people. I have reported to her for 10 months now and don’t know her any better today than I did 10 months ago. The words she spoke said she was sorry for making me cry. The tone of her voice and the look on her face said she was in her glory and loving every minute of it.

I would love to tell you that I left work and that whole situation at work and went home and enjoyed the rest of my evening. That would be a lie. I went home and told my husband all about the meeting, cried some more, and basically let it ruin a perfectly good evening. The next morning I replayed the dialogue from the meeting repeatedly in my head and cried a little more. I went to work and felt sorry for myself and hopeless about my ability to make this situation any different.

I have also handled several situations at work lately with upset customers, two who ended up complaining to administration, which is then relayed back to my boss. Today was another of those situations. I talked to an angry customer right before I left work for the day and although I believe no wrong-doing was done on my part or by any of my employees, the call ended with the customer stating she is going to call the Better Business Bureau. I hung up the phone and immediately noticed the pit in my gut. It’s like that feeling that something is about to happen.

I spent a little quiet time thinking about all of this after work today and trying to sort out what it is I am dreading so often lately and what is going on when I start feeling that pit in my stomach. I realized that each of these situations are challenging me to prove that I have grown and learned that I am enough, just as I am. So what if I can’t live up to the unknown expectations of my boss? Do her expectations even matter in the grand scheme of life? What is more important to me is living up to my own expectations. I have to live with myself everyday, not my boss. The same is true of the situations lately with challenging customers. The resolution I have offered has not been enough to meet their expectations and I have let that mean that I am not enough.

How quickly I reverted to being a victim in challenging circumstances! How easily I went right back to that miserable place of feeling unworthy of simply being me. Yet, how quickly I have been able to get to the root of this feeling of dread too! And that means I can get right back to being responsible for my own choices. I chose to interview for the job I have and to accept it when it was offered to me – even though I had heard plenty of horror stories about my boss and the way she treats others. I chose to accept the responsibility of dealing with challenging customers as part of my job duties, with no guarantee that every situation would end on a positive note. I chose to let these situations temporarily define me as not enough.

Today I choose to toss out that definition – AGAIN – and do what I know is the next right thing instead of trying to please everyone around me. I choose to measure my worth by how well I am meeting my own expectations and by remembering who I am in God’s eyes. Today I choose to be true to myself and know that doing so in my job will involve some struggles with my boss because I choose not to be like her. From my experience with her, I choose to learn how I never want to treat other people. I also choose to look at her with compassion and curiosity. I wonder what she has experienced in her life that has caused her to find power in belittling other people? I can imagine that being in her skin and portraying that image to others may leave her feeling rather lonely and I can empathize with that because I have often felt uncomfortable in my own skin and kept a wall between me and other people and the result was a deep feeling of loneliness. One big lesson I have learned from this woman already is how I never want to treat other people.

I have a choice in every challenging situation. I can choose to let it drag me down or I can choose to explore each situation for any truths I can apply and move on. I still tend to choose the first option out of lifelong habit, but I also choose to not stay there for long and that is improvement. My bounce back time is shorter and that amazes me. I sometimes think about getting to a place where I am unaffected by the negativity of others and don’t need to bounce back from the effects of negative situations. I’m not sure if that is realistic, or if that would mean I am disconnected from my emotions. I certainly don’t want that. I spent too much of my life running and hiding from my emotions and not knowing how to even identify them and I certainly don’t want to go back to living that way.

Now that I know I was moving in the wrong direction and reacting in old, familiar ways, I can do an about-face and get on with my journey in a new direction – sometimes hesitantly, sometimes with a spring in my step, and always with the knowledge that the choice is mine.

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A Matter of Perspective

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When several important people in my life die in a relatively short amount of time, does it mean everyone I love will leave? When I don’t talk to my best friend for days, does it mean she’s mad at me or that I did something wrong? When my sister is diagnosed with leukemia, does it mean God doesn’t care? When my Dad wouldn’t spend time alone with me, did it mean he didn’t love me or think I was worth his time?

The answers to each of these questions, to all questions, all depends on perspective. Our perspective begins from a combination of our experiences and our environment. The really cool thing I have learned about perspective is that I can change mine any time I choose. The key lies in the awareness that everything I am telling myself, everything I believe, is just a story that I have made up about events and situations based on my interpretation of my experiences and my environment. Once I am aware of this and realize a story is not serving me, I am able to change the story to something that does serve me.

For years I was angry at my Dad. I was hurt and carried a lot of regret and resentment about him not loving me the way I thought I needed to be loved. I let that mean that my Dad didn’t love me at all and that there was obviously something wrong with me, both of which are completely untrue. Today, I choose to look from a new view and know that my Dad loved me the best he knew how, just as he was, and just as I was. He believed in me and wanted the best for me. When he did things like calling me names and criticizing my weight, he was reflecting his feelings about himself on me. Changing this story has opened my mind to memories of good times with my Dad that were blocked from my view for so long when I was focused on what I perceived I didn’t get from him instead of on what I did receive from him. I now have a different view of who he really was as a person and as my Dad.

One of my sisters was recently diagnosed with leukemia. I could have easily chosen the perspective that God doesn’t care. Four family members have died of various forms of cancer and three other family members previously had cancer. How much more does one family have to take? Only God knows, and my sister reminded me that we are called to do the possible and leave the impossible to God. He knows what he is doing and he sees the whole picture while we see only such a small part. Today I choose the perspective that God Uses all things for the good of those who love him, even though he may not heal my sister of cancer. Cancer is not good. What God can grow from a cancer diagnosis can be. For the first time in my life, I found the words to tell my sister she is important to me. Instead of rejecting me, she thanked me, and we can grow from here. Although I don’t know what lies ahead for my sister, I do know that God has a plan and she is already in the first stage of remission!

I once heard the statement, when the pain of where you are is greater than the fear of where you are going, you’ll go. Sometimes it takes a lot of pain or beating my head against a wall for me to recognize I am stuck in a story and I have the power to choose a different one. Sometimes I have the awareness and I am not ready to let go of a story, even when it is no longer serving me, perhaps because of fear of letting go or simply feeling safe in the comfort of what is familiar. Sometimes I need nudging from someone else to explore other stories that will help me move closer to my goals and serve me better.

What I am learning is that pain is a natural part of life, and suffering is optional. How long I hold onto stories that are holding me back from moving forward is my choice. I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to own my own power and change the stories that are no longer serving me in meeting my goals.