When anyone asks me how I am these days, my most honest response is “I’m doing the best that I can”. It seems to cover the breadth of my rapidly changing moods and feelings that sweep in and out. Until recently, the story I’d been telling myself was that everyone is worn down by 2020 so writing about it won’t do much to turn the tide. Well, then I thought, what tide am I trying to turn?
As a therapist, I challenge clients regularly to examine their behaviors to understand motivation. Am I writing for external approval or am I writing because of what it offers me?
Waiting for grand gestures of impact and change will have us spend our time simply watching the world go by. I talk to people all day long about how clarity of intentions is critical to mindful self awareness.
I am a writer, which compels me to employ that outlet to process thoughts, work through feelings, share, connect, explore, and foster hopefulness. It is a conduit to knowing myself and yet for longer than I care to admit I expended considerable energy avoiding writing instead of giving myself permission to engage. In a sense, I’ve been hiding; mostly from myself.
Since I became a therapist I have always clearly and intentionally held the line that limits self disclosure so as not to muddy the waters of my work in my practice. When clients know too much about their therapist, the relationship boundaries can be blurred, and the objectivity and intentions can come into question.
It isn’t that clients know nothing about me, they do. I share things when and if I feel it may be relevant to their growth and healing. My responsibility privileges client care no matter how much something might touch me, trigger me, or speak to me personally. I don’t share things with clients for my benefit; I have my own therapist for that.
The reality is that my life is not limited to that one role, so finding comfort in using my voice publicly can be challenging.
2020 has heightened my awareness that we are all walking a shared path in places. Regardless of how many details of our lives are unique to us, so many similarities exist. As someone who sits with a wide cross section of people every day, I see the disservice in perpetuating unattainable expectations. There isn’t a “right” way to navigate a time like this. Regardless of outward appearance, no one is immune to the uncertainty that this year has presented to us.
We are bombarded by daily messaging of “us” and “them”, but it is most certainly a time of “we”. The focus of our nation today is top-heavy in the places of division. Politically, socially, spiritually; so much energy is expended around who and what is “right”. There will never be a neon sign directing us to one true path, it is ours to pave and it should be founded in our values. The sticky part will always be in how we handle places of difference.
We are weary, and that’s to be expected. I am actually grateful that many people are finding it harder and harder to maintain the Facebook facade of what our lives “should” look like. 2020 can offer us a platform to highlight the freedom and empowerment found in our own uncertainty. When we acknowledge our places of suffering, challenge, and doubt we give ourselves and others consent to experience the entirety of our lives instead of hiding and shaming ourselves for our own humanity.
Authenticity has us examine the difference between control and influence. I can’t control ugly politics, social unrest, or ending a global pandemic. I do have influence, even if it begins by exploring my own judgments and beliefs.
I hold the belief that courage can be contagious. Risking in any capacity is vulnerable. Allowing ourselves to be seen (safely) is the only way we can truly thrive and experience genuine connection. It isn’t a show of strength to hide the messy parts. Courage can’t exist without fear; courage is born in the face of fear!
We all have influence and we all have a voice. Yes, I can vote, I can peacefully protest, I can wear a mask to protect the vulnerable, I can offer kindness, I can write, I can advocate for those without my privilege.
I can also advocate for myself.
I can struggle, be confused, get sad and mad, screw up, and make mistakes.
Authenticity rarely appears in an impeccable outfit and perfect hair, it usually stumbles in as I run into people at Target after not showering, wearing a baseball hat and some remnant of food on my shirt. I rarely cross paths with anyone when I’m put together.
To me, being real means that I accept that my life can sometimes look like a sh#t-show, comedy of errors. I believe the occasional, or continued, chaos isn’t the measure of my worth and value. Reinforcing that belief requires regular attention because it isn’t always easy to embrace, but it allows me to find connection with others who are equally messy. That feels a lot better than trying to force feed the story of who we should be, but aren’t.
I don’t care who you are or what you do, we are all facing difficult decisions without clear cut answers. Do I send my child to school or do I keep them home? How is that an easy decision? We are meant to wrestle with hard things because these things matter. We are all experiencing places of confusion instead of confidence. It doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong or that someone else is doing it better.
Let’s find the blessing in the disarray, because the scary uncertainty of a global pandemic can be the catalyst to let go of the illusion of control that so many of us chase. These are trying times that will test all of us in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Don’t hide that. Don’t perpetuate the myth that perfection is attainable.
Our strength is not defined by the absence of fear, and confidence isn’t about certainty. Share your struggle, let people see the cracks - it’s where we find our most profound connection in knowing we aren’t alone. Adjust our aim away from how we think we should be doing to more accurately reflect how we are. I think we’re doing pretty well when we believe and strive to continue to simply do the best that we can.
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