The Power of ‘I See You’

IMG_2848I have a friend named Kristen who has a special practice for showing love- not just saying she loves, but showing that she does. I don’t think that she knows how special and unique it is nor do I believe she would call it a practice, but in doing this particular thing on several occasions over the years, it’s enough for me to believe that this thing that she does is love in action.

The first time she practiced this thing that she wouldn’t call a practice was when we were twenty-six (we’re a month apart in age). On this particular warm autumn evening, we headed out for a drink at the restaurant where we both worked, to relax and talk about life. As we sat on the patio sipping craft beer out of our fancy frosted goblets, she announced that she had something for me. It was a card that she had hand written and wanted to read aloud to me. From that card she read all the things she knew about me and appreciated about our friendship. She used words to tell me that she thought I was courageous; she thanked me for sharing with her words of wisdom during times of sadness; she told me that I was empathic even though I feared that I suffered from apathy. As she read these things to me, I recognized something- she had remembered the very things that our relationship was made of. I felt known, heard, and remembered. I felt seen.

Another time my friend practiced this practice that she wouldn’t call a practice was when I was preparing to be married. She handcrafted a letter made from cream card stock, bound the pages by wire, wrote words using different colors of ink and carved out misshapen hearts here and there throughout the pages. In this letter she shared with me other things she knew about me. She shared with me that she noticed how much time and effort I had put into reading books on self help, studying every religion I felt called to study, and coming to peace with my faith of origin. She shared with me that she was witness to the pain that I had experienced over the years and that every good change that I made in my life was a positive change in the lives of those I interacted with and a positive change in the world. She shared with me that the misshapen hearts represented life and how when painful things happen, our hearts change a little, but that that is what makes us beautiful and unique.

Now, I don’t mean to shine a light on myself by describing the details of these love letters that my friend wrote to me. I simply want to show the depth of her attention to her friend (fortunately this friend is me). My friend, this girl Kristen, has a special gift for really seeing people. I know this because I feel seen by her. I feel seen by her because she told me that she sees me. She told me she sees me by telling me what she sees. And what she sees is the things that I’ve shown her, and maybe even, a few things more.

The letter Kristen gave me before my wedding wasn’t the second time she practiced this practice, nor was it the last. She did it again and again, most times in conversation- she would repeat to me the things that I had shared with her in the past, almost as if she was reminding me of who I really was. In fact, that’s exactly what she was doing.

And so, all this to say, in life and in showing the ones we love that we love them, perhaps grand gestures or fancy gifts aren’t the only things that send the message. Perhaps sending a message that says, “I hear you and I see you,” is the best gift of all.

When You’re the Bad Guy

Head in Hands

So you’re the bad guy.

It happens. Whether the happenings were two years or two months ago, the sting of knowing that you were the one who did the dirty thing, really really sucks.

Now, unless you are a sociopath, you can probably think of a time when you hurt someone else, intentionally or not. And perhaps because coping with this fact is difficult, your coping strategies may look more like vices than honest to goodness ways of dealing. I’ve been there.

In this short piece today, I want to encourage you.

Do you find yourself with vices that help keep your guilt at bay? Smoking too much? Drinking more than usual? Binging late at night? Tolerating negative self-talk? I’ve been there too.

Now, if you’ve made it this far into the post, you might be thinking, “this isn’t my problem”. That. Is. Awesome. But, do you know anyone who it may be true for? If yes, they may be under the influence of the shame!!!

Shame has a funny way of overshadowing the healthier reaction of guilt. As described by Dr. Brene Brown, guilt is voice that says, “I made a mistake”, while shame is the voice that says, “I am a mistake.”

Being mentored by shame is a scary place to be. When we feel like we are a mistake or that we are inherently bad, we run the risk of missing the lessons that life is trying to teach us. To boot, feelings of shame are the birthplace of addiction, aggression, and feeling stuck (just to name a few).

Luckily, there is still our dear friend, guilt.

Guilt tells us that we’ve made a mistake. When we know that we’ve made a mistake, it’s easier to change the behavior, apologize and move on.

There is much more to read on this subject and if you haven’t heard of Dr. Brene Brown or her work, I encourage you to look her up and read one of her books, especially Daring Greatly, or check out one of her Ted talks (ted.com).

Reasons for making the mistakes aside, there’s no use in letting your mistakes become a part of your identity. You are worth so much more than that.

Until next time…

With lots of love,

Jenn

 

On Jealousy & Envy- Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

On_the_Beach_--_Two_Are_Company,_Three_Are_NoneI don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. And hell, neither am I!

I’m not talking about the kind of jelly that ya spread on toast, though. I’m talking about jealousy- the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Just writing the word jealousy makes my stomach jump. That’s probably because he’s paid me a visit a time or two, having strolled into my life unannounced only to solicit painful responses and induce copious amounts of regret. And embarrassment.

Now as I mentioned a moment ago, I am not ready to deal with jelly in a blog post- at least not just yet! But I’ll have you know that jealousy is not menacing my world these days, and so I would like to use this time of jelly-freeness to talk about jealousy’s less destructive and more informative cousin, envy.

Until now I didn’t understand the distinction between jealousy and envy. They seem so similar and in some regard they are; but as it turns out envy can be much kinder company. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Envy is something that occurs between two people while jealousy occurs between three.

Envy is the uncomfortable experience of noticing that someone else has something that you want, like a dream job or the complexion of a newborn.

Jealousy on the other hand is the even more uncomfortable experience of fearing that you will lose something, or more likely someone, to an enviable rival. Fortunately, the feeling of jealousy isn’t something that we experience everyday because it’s not everyday that we’re threatened to lose something or someone we care about.

Feelings of envy on the other hand can be a bit more chronic with its roots embedded in comparison.

And so we continue with envy.

Earlier I mentioned that envy is better company than jealousy and what I mean by that is that envy, in spite of the discomfort it can create, is also a telling messenger.

I believe that envy can offer clues to help us discover what is missing in our lives. From this perspective then, feelings of envy can be embraced, explored and turned into something new.

So, the next time the feeling of envy emerges, ask the question, what is the envy trying to tell me? Try not to stuff it down or beat yourself up for feeling challenged by, let say, the flawless complexion of the barista at Starbucks, because you might discover what the envy is really trying to say, for instance, I want to work towards improving the health of my skin, please.

Do you feel me?

Once the message emerges from the muck, commit to taking action! This is one way to overcome the discomfort of envy and turn it into something beautiful, or more specifically, let it’s message inform choices that lead you to create the life and circumstances that your heart truly desires.

In other words, don’t shoot the messenger! I think he’s trying to tell you something.

P.S. I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and start a conversation about what your envy might be telling you! Or perhaps you’re not in a place of feeling envious. Good stuff! Would you share with us what some of your past feelings of envy have told you?

with love,

Jenn

Ruins

imgresOf the hundreds of times I sat on the couch across from my therapist in her office, a handful of moments would become life lessons.

It must have been a Saturday morning. The light outside was bright, illuminating the shrubs and trees that grew just outside her office. Instead of walls, two sides of the room stood tall with windows from floor to ceiling, creating the feeling of being in nature as we sorted through my tangled thoughts.

I sat there feeling dreadfully heavy, as though I just received the news that something I loved very much had gone away. And in a way, something had.

My face felt droopy, as though it would take two full-grown men to lift the corners of my mouth in order to fake a smile. I was emotionally spent, disappointed, broken hearted and afraid.

With a damp face from drying tears and a voice hardly louder than a whisper, I shared with Jody what I had just realized. I realized two things actually. But let me start with the first.

I was ruined.

Not my life circumstances or my relationships or my livelihood. Me. I was ruined. Like a pristine white gown sullied with burgundy two-buck-chuck from Trader Joe’s.

Up to that point in treatment, I had already been diagnosed with PTSD and to boot, struggled with depression. I felt ashamed and embarrassed about the condition of my mental health. The troubling thing about living with mental illness is that in order to get better, you need to make good choices. You need to practice good self-care, but the feelings of shame that often accompany mental illness aren’t exactly motivating.

And so I felt stuck. Desolate, even. I felt ruined. I felt like my life was stained by the past that I had no power to change and a present that was doomed on account of my diagnosis.

In the same moment that I put words to the way I was feeling (ruined), another thought waltzed into my mind.

I remembered, Sukhothai (pronounced Soo/kō/tī).

Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam (present day Thailand) and is regarded as the birthplace of Thai history. Although the kingdom of Sukhothai was short lived, its legacy is in its architecture, literature, bronze sculpture and ceramic art. You can still visit this historical province and marvel at the ancient palaces and temples by bicycle or foot. It really is a lovely place.

I visited Sukhothai when I was in college. I remember walking down the meandering paths throughout the park and climbing in and out of partially restored structures. Although no one had lived there for centuries, each year still thousands of visitors wandered its antiquated roads and buildings to explore not only the ruins of this city, but perhaps to explore something inside of themselves, also.

And that’s when it hit me- realization number two.

Sure, maybe I felt ruined, as though something un-take-back-able happened and marred my very existence- but in the end and in the now, what is ruined isn’t necessarily something to hide and become ashamed of.

Something ruined is something that can be restored. Something ruined and restored can become a place that one can visit, to remember what life was like back then or there; it can become something to explore and to learn from, something one might marvel over, like the ruins of an ancient city or the glued-together pieces of a once broken life.

………………………..

It’s been a few years since that day on the couch in my therapist’s office. I don’t feel ruined anymore. I feel restored in most ways, most of the time.

When I started to write this post, I did some research on Sukhothai to refresh my memory and came across something interesting on Wikipedia:

Sukhothai is from the Sanskrit word sukha (सुख ) meaning happiness and udaya (उदय) meaning rise or emergence, and thus, Sukhothai means, “dawn of happiness”.

So after all, perhaps a place of ruins is also a place where happiness may begin to emerge.

With lots of love,

Jenn

 

sources:

article- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhothai_(city)

photo- http://wikitravel.org/en/Sukhothai