Tag Archives: connection

Perception, Reality, Empathy

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I had a meeting with an administrator at school the other day. She said, “Perception is reality,” when we were speaking about my son and his experiences of late. She followed that up with, “which means to me that we have to reframe the way we think regarding him, and allow for him to have that reality.”

I said, “Ok, good! It’s heartening to hear you say that, because all along in this situation, he’s been made to feel as though he’s off-base and yet he has said to me, quite clearly and consistently, ‘this is how it feels to me…’ and so while I’m thrilled to hear him stand up for himself, I’ve secretly feared that The Big School Machine would see it differently… that he’d be compelled to fight for his perception. But your stance is quite empathetic, isn’t it? That is progress.”

She smiled. She got it. We were on the same track.

I smiled, inside and outside. Her actions, she assures me, are reflective of her appreciation of my son’s appeals.

I’ve been raising my boys to be candid, speak up for themselves, be real, be fair, be kind, but above all, to be strong. As like me, they are imperfect. We screw up, sometimes in an epic fashion. But we amend. We own it.

I’ve told them that not everyone, in fact most people, will be unwilling to agree with their perceptions, and that they also will likely not always agree with other peoples’ perceptions. That disagreement, however, needn’t look like war. That disagreement, is often a bridge to greater understanding and allowing of The Other, so long as we are willing to get out of our own way.

I have a yoga student who amazes me. She’s started a blog, at my suggestion, because she has a very clear voice and she is super energetic. She, like you and I and the guy down the street, is a unique individual. She has an amazing and humbling story, which she has cast aside as something she doesn’t want to focus on, but I see it differently. I’ve absolutely allowed her her own opinion, but her survival of a catastrophic car wreck and subsequent traumatic brain injury and recovery and now being a yoga devotee, has leveled me flat.

She has this thing though, as we all do, about aging and perfection and reality… and then the at-times Oprah-imposed thrust of gratitude for our ever-present abundance. She wrote about it here, “The Art of Perfectionism.” I read that post and as much as I wanted to say, “you’re awesome! let it go! don’t you see how incredible you are?!” I had to sit back, take a few breaths and say… “Ok.”

Enter: empathy. “Feeling with people.”

I’ve read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. I did a 30 Days of Brené Brown blog challenge. I’ve learned a lot about myself through that and other challenges, actual, life challenges.

Empathy, as Brown explains it, assures that we not necessarily have a personal first-hand experience with the situation. That’s impossible, anyway, as we are all wired differently and also have entirely discrete appreciations (i.e., “How do I know the blue you see is the same blue I see, man?”) which have shaped our perceptions.

Brené says quite clearly, “rarely can a response make something better; what can make something better, is a connection.”

What empathy does require, is the simple awareness that someone else is going through Something and that our appreciation of that other person’s Something is shared. Then, due to that awareness, right there!: a connection, no matter how ephemeral or even shallow, is made.

The Something needn’t be a “bad” Something! It can be an engagement or a divorce, a new job or a firing, or a lottery winning or a bankruptcy, or a book deal or a scandal.

Our appreciation can appear as simple as “Wow! That’s some news. I have no personal experience with that, but I can appreciate that it’s a lot to take in…”

And you’re DONE. Empathy accomplished. The other person is heard and their Something is Acknowledged — NOT EVEN VALIDATED, just acknowledged. Y’dig? (And if they need more from you on the matter, that’s on them… you don’t have to give more.)

That empathetic moment is quite simple — yet it’s one of the hardest things to perform.

Why? Why is it so hard? WHYYYYYY???

Because we have to get in the way.

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.

-Zig Ziegler

We have to be right.

We have to compare.

We have to fix.

We have to feel small inside.

We have to fight.

We have to prove otherwise.

We have to feel less-than or more-than.

We have to somehow, even though it’s a direct violation of empathy, find some form or relevance of that information, that Something, to fit into OUR LIVES or we risk feeling…

Irrelevant.

Which we are… at that moment, because The Something isn’t about us. It seldom is and it likely won’t ever be about us, THANKFULLY (for we have enough going on in our lives, right? but we don’t want to think about our lives… we want to think about other peoples’ lives so we don’t have to think about our lives… i do it all the time…)!

It’s about the Owner of The Something.

All this act of … sharing requires is that We Hear and See The Other. That’s all. And maaaaaaybe… just maybe we can see ourselves –identify the need within ourselves to have Our Own Thing– in that other person? Just a smidge? Eeency weeny itty bitty bit? And what’s more: let them have Their Own Thing? That’s a connection right there. 

"we're all a little crazy," -my sage brother

“we’re all a little crazy,” -my sage brother.

I’m not asking you to see yourself in others; I’m asking you to see Others in yourself — let it be about them, not you, allow yourself to open…

So I was thrilled when the administrator said, “his perception is reality and we have to take that into consideration; just because we don’t have that experience, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t…”

And my heart sang. LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAAAA! Your blue might not be the same blue as my blue, but I trust that you know I have my own blue and I trust that your blue is great for you!

So remember: when The Other shares Something, you don’t have to go digging into your data vault of relevance to see if you’ve got something better, or similar, or worse or bigger or smaller.

You can just sit there and say, “Wow. That’s some news. I have no personal appreciation of that [BECAUSE I AM NOT YOU AND THAT NOT BEING YOU REQUIRES THAT I GET OUT OF MY OWN WAY TO SEE THAT YOU ARE SEPARATE, a’hem] but I can appreciate that it might [NOT “will”] take some time to adjust to that…”

Try it. And here’s a great thing: just being empathetic with that person doesn’t mean you’re on their bus. It doesn’t mean you’ve attached yourself or that you’ve taken a blood oath of permanence. It just means — AT THAT MOMENT — that you’re appreciating their situation.

So can you do that? Can you just… allow someone else to have Their Own Something?

Here’s the best video I’ve ever seen about this.

Thank you.

 

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 26: I feel like a football player on a hockey rink

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Welcome to Day 26 of “30 Days of Brené Brown!” — I’m starting to lose my mind!!

Here is today’s quote:

Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Is it me? Have I lost my mind?

I can’t help but feel that this is becoming the Department of Redundancy Department.

I wrote the other day about spirituality and connection when I was in the meditation circle in yoga and I couldn’t speak. My connection to everyone else was so strong I didn’t need words to express what I was feeling: safe.

So now, ‘staying vulnerable is a risk‘? Since when is Brown now speaking of vulnerability as a risk? I thought it was an asset. I thought it was courage. I thought it was laying it all out and letting our inner lights shine.

I’m all confused now. I feel like a football player on a hockey rink.

I’ve been at this Brené gig for almost 30 days straight. Granted, I’ve written some of these posts on top of each other for a couple days, and I’ve had to plan some of this, so maybe I’m more saturated than you guys are. I read her book over the summer and I was on board even before I read it.

Brown’s concepts were good and they were right and rich with redemption of our souls and spirits, but I have to agree with my friend who said she ends up putting down Brown’s books because she repeats herself so much.

It’s a lot lie Justin Bieber’s breakout song:

And I was like
Baby, baby, baby ooh
Like
Baby, baby, baby noo
Like
Baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)
Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like
Baby, baby, baby noo
Like
Baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

Are you feeling it too?

So if I’m going to be a good sport about this, I’ll go there: that I’m fighting staying here in this discussion because I’m tired of feeling vulnerable; and that’s a risk I’m willing to take. OK, I’ll own it: I’m tired of feeling vulnerable. Am I disconnected from you all if I decide to do that, unplug from vulnerability and be tough, hard, strong and aloof?

Yes.

I have to admit it’s a little nice though to not worry about Being Seen so much and to Just Be instead. It’s a little exhausting to make sure you’re letting everyone know your guard is down and how narcissistic is that?? Narcissistic. That’s funny.

“Hi everyone! It’s me… Bipsy. I just thought I’d let you all know that I’m feeling really empathetic and emotionally available today so if anyone wants to let me know about their fears or resentments or shame I’m here to listen and to be your buddy and to let you know you’re safe and whatever you want to talk about is totally cool. No judging. Promise.”

Crickets?

I mean, it’s a nice proposal and I can see some of you fidgeting in your seats and looking around the linoleum-tiled room. The fluorescent lights are on, one in the back is flickering near the window in the corner with the crack in it. The walls in the room are yellowing, could it be from the nicotine stains from all the Bingo nights here or is it just because this old building could use some love?

A dog runs past the windows on the east wall and a little boy in shorts scurries past yelling, “Buster! Come back!” as people make furtive glances at one another.

Bipsy is looking around the room, eyes open, but not expectant and she smiles gently at a couple souls. An older woman chews on her lower lip and starts to open her pocketbook.

“So, um … I’ll just be in the lower school library room if you need me; it’s the third door on the right opposite the restrooms….”

And she gets up to leave.

Bipsy has made the first move.

This is how it has to go sometimes. We need to be reminded why we are where we are when we’re together. Sometimes it’s so much easier to think as we stand in line at the coffee shop that everyone has a different purpose for being there when nothing could be further from the truth: coffee. We all go to a coffee shop because we want a cup of coffee or something else available at that destination.

It’s not that the coffee at home stinks, but we must allow the fact that there’s something about going into that place to see those people and smell that smell and smile at that person and hear that music and be in that space: connection.

Writing is lonely. It’s really nothing you can do with other people, no matter what people think. You can have workshops and critiques and editing sessions and read-alongs, but everything you do, when you write is ALONE.

These posts have been absolutely fulfilling in an academic and intellectual sense for me. They have even resonated with my spirit when I write them and after I am finished; but it’s terribly lonely. So when I get a comment, I’m so grateful for the interaction otherwise I feel like I’m in a cave, whispering nothings to myself and the bats.

Will I miss them? Will I miss writing these posts? Yes and no. The time is nearing when Ms. Brown and I will bid adieu and I will be a little sad. I went through a small depression after the Jung series, but it didn’t last long because I had to ramp up for the yoga retreat. And then I went to the beach. And then I came home. And then Mom died. So then all I could do was write about my grief. Then I started to feel self-conscious, embarrassed and ashamed that all I did was write about my sadness. So then I tried some funny stuff and it was ok, but it felt forced. So then I gave up a little. But I love to write, so I decided to write another series. This one.

So here I am… making myself connect with you all through my writing, which is terribly is isolating. Will I write more about my mom and my stuff? Will I write more about my kids or myself? I have no idea. Truth be told, I’m feeling a little lost again. I don’t know what to write about next; I feel like without a mission, I have no point in writing publicly on this blog at least. No one pays me, so I spend a lot of time in here on my laptop doing all this without any real return…

So Brown is totally right: the way for me to connect is through showing my vulnerability; I will absolutely admit that it works. I feel connected. Even if no one ever replies.

Crickets?

But this is the way of a writer who blogs on the internet. We are a dime a million. It’s a choice I make. Is it a risk? I guess so; it’s time I will never get back; but I enjoy it enough. It challenges me and it keeps me from doing laundry. I have yet to suffer any serious, growth-neutral or growth-negative repercussions, so that’s good.

Hmph! This post ended up being better than I thought it would. (For me anyhow.)

Was it good for you?

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 24: #truth #real #gifts #providence

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Welcome to Day 24 of “30 Days of Brené Brown”!!

MERRRRRRY CHRISTMAS!!! I hope you are reading this in a nice and cozy blanket. It’s a good one and it unwraps before our eyes.

As a gift to me and to you, I’m going to make this one brief. Here is the quote:

Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Yup. Here is an excerpt from my post yesterday, which explains this better than anything I feel like putting together right now because I will own this: I’m just not in it at the moment. I’ve been writing these posts days in advance (my today is the 21st) so that I can travel this weekend to see my cousins and visit Mom’s grave site.

It’s like the post I wrote last Saturday, about nostalgia and how I found my mother’s notebook and the comment in her handwriting, block letters in fact, about me being “a bad kid.” (Please click here for that post as context helps.)

I was looking for something totally different. I was looking for comments about me in a loving way; about something that showed I was more than a one-dimensional figure (which is how I felt a lot of the time) in her life; that I was more than a foe of her lifestyle and a dependent “ingrate” (which is something I was termed as well) who stood in the way between her and her peace.

What I got was something TOTALLY different. I know Mom would do her best to explain the notes. I know I would’t accept it. Because she is most definitely NOT here, I have to do that for myself. I have to grow up. I have to allow her to be real if I am going to allow myself to be real. Even if her “real” does not align with my “real.” Who am I to say what is right or wrong? Y’dig? (I think I finally do.) 

That’s right: I’ve hit a new desperate low by quoting myself.

What I mean by those last words, “I think I finally do” is that it hit me, at that moment when I wrote it, that I was probably quite wrong, when I felt all those years and decades and moments that my mom was not being real. That any affectations, air, pretense or defense mechanism was Quite Real — it was how she coped, and that just because her behavior didn’t align with conventional parenting, it didn’t make her any less real of a human being.

This is heavy and big for me. This is my gift to myself, several days early, but which you get to open, of Christmas.

We have no right.

We have no right to decide if someone is not being real. For years, I considered her a fake, and I even confronted her with it: “It’s hard to believe anything you say in moments like these; it feels like you’re just giving me what you think I want instead of what you’re really feeling! It’s soul stealing!” I would say, torn and riveted at the same time, my eyes and heart searching for something with friction to hold on to. I feel like she looked into my eyes to find it too.

Am I being cruel to her memory? Am I being unkind toward the dead? My mother? I can’t worry about that. She was a trained actress, she was an accomplished theater director, she knew intellectually how to drive a scene, position characters, create conflict, build a climax and how to blow minds. Sometimes she would weep during these moments of ours (boo! hoo! hoo! >look around, see if anyone is wondering< bew hew hew…) and it would sound so saccharine, it would feel so exploitative.

Because it was. But also, because it wasn’t. Who knows what was going on in her… I spent decades wondering. Perhaps her fear of being real WAS her Being Real.

We are all flawed, experience moments of insecurity, we might feel “damaged” or completely lost. Does that devalue our humanity? No. Doing so, walking in that air of devaluing others is judgment and it separates.

She was being real through all of it. It’s just that we didn’t like it. It made us feel less-than. It made us feel insignificant and puny. That’s when the claws came out.

This is big. It’s going to change my approach to my memoir in a profound way. I am so grateful for it. It means I can be fairer to us both; that even through my hurt and disappointment I can extend to her a baseline for her.

I feel like freakin’ Ebenezer Scrooge today. (And I’m still several days early!)

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”
― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

look closely at what's in the middle of that wreath.

look closely at what’s in the middle of that wreath.

She was not perfect. I need to get over that. I so SO need to let that expectation go. I don’t know when I will. She was my mother; as I’ve said before: hers was the first and most melodious voice I ever heard. The secrets I must’ve heard, the joys she shared with me and the woes, worries and anxieties… Good Lord, this puts it ALL in a totally new perspective.

Who are we?! This is what comes of opening up and following the feelings.

Give yourself the gift today of feeling that — that liberty of granting someone else no expectations and moving on with whatever bullshit you’ve put in your and their way. I need a few moments to process this.

So yeah, go connect.

Thank you.

ps – so much for not being “in it at the moment.” yikes. this stuff just comes out whenever it wants.